G.K. Chesterton's writing is simply taking my breath away. I'm reading an anthology of his Father Brown stories, taken from several books, and I'm reading it slowly over several months so that I can really take in what I'm reading.
' The thousand arms of the forest were grey, and its million fingers silver. In a sky of dark green-blue-like slate the stars were bleak and brilliant like splintered ice. All that thickly wooded and sparsely tenanted country-side was stiff with a brittle frost. The black hollows between the trunks of the trees looked like bottomless, black caverns of that heartless Scandinavian hell, a hell of incalculable cold. Even the square stone tower of the church looked northern to the point of heathenry, as if it were some barbaric tower among the sea rocks of Iceland. It was a queer night for anyone to explore a churchyard. But, on the other hand, perhaps it was worth exploring.'
This wonderfully atmospheric introduction comes from a short story called The Sign of the Broken Sword. Chesterton goes on to describe how Father Brown and an investigating friend, Flambeau, are taking a night-time walk, first to the church-yard to look at a war memorial and then on, through the forest, to the inn. And all the time Father Brown is relating the story of a local land-owning war-hero who had apparently distinguished himself at a particular battle in Brazil and, supposedly, died a hero. But gradually the priest reveals via various snippets of information in his own inimitable style and we realise that all is not as it seems and the truth of the matter is, in fact, truly horrible.
The story is available to read online here, along with the rest of the stories from The Innocence of Father Brown (my book actually only has seven stories from this anthology).
Chesterton does dark, brooding atmosphere very well and - a surprise to me - humour. Dry humour. I should've known this but didn't as I've never read any of his other novels and certainly not tried Father Brown, no matter how many people told me I should! I'm getting a lot better at heeding bookish advice these days - I was a fool to myself once upon a time and rarely took any notice. Not any more.
I can no longer state that I never win anything either. I'm not sure whether to be happy about this, or sad, as us Brits love to have something to mutter and moan about. ;-) But the fact is I've just won two free books! The first is The Book of Love by Sarah Bower and that comes courtesy of Elaine at Random Jottings and the book's publisher. The second is The Savage Garden by Mark Mills and this one is courtesy of Danielle at A Work in Progress and *that* book's publisher. Thank you both for holding the book draw, I'm thrilled to bits to have won something at last!
And I see that this week is Buy a Friend a Book Week. So I shall pass on some of my bookish luck and do just that. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. ;-P