Wednesday 2 July 2008

A short story

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


DesLily said...

hey! congrats on the win! Isn't it nice now and then to get something free?!!! (especially when it adds to the tbr pile! hahaha)

sounds like you are really enjoying that book... also a good thing. I think we enjoy most of what we read, but then ocassionally something comes along that is just outstanding. :o)

Ana S. said...

Atmosphere and dry humour? Sounds wonderful! I really look forward to reading this book.

Congratulations on the win :)

Anonymous said...

I love G.K. Chesterton. Everything of his that I've read has charmed me. You know he used to go round London in a cape with a sword stick? He had a sword stick!

(Neil Gaiman's Sandman features a G.K. Chesterton character!)

Danielle said...

It's nice winning something occasionally, isn't it?! The book is in the mail and hopefully you'll get it soon. I really need to read some G.K. Chesterton. I've heard so many good things about his books, but I've never come across him in the bookstore to buy. I'll have to go searching a bit. Perhaps I'll try some of his short stories, too.

Cath said...

Hi Pat. Yep, it's lovely to get something for free, especially when they're books you know you'll enjoy. I'm not too picky about books, I tend to like a lot of what I read although I also tend to choose carefully too. But how wonderful it is to find something outstanding - doesn't happen too often.

Thanks, Nymeth. I think you'll enjoy Father Brown... there's even a sort of creepiness to some of the stories. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not...

Hi Jenny. To tell the truth I feel a bit of fool for not having tried Chesterton's writing before now. But happy that I've now discovered him. :-) I haven't read Sandman... is that a graphic novel?

Hi Danielle. yes, it *is* nice to be one of the winners just occasionally. Really nice. :-)

You don't see G.K. Chesterton in bookstores in the UK either. Not fashionable I suspect, which is a real shame. Luckily, Amazon and eBay often come up trumps... whatever would we do without the internet! The Gutenberg site has quite a lot of his writing too, you could perhaps try a story or two there to see if you like them.