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The Wisdom of Father Brown by G. K.…

The Wisdom of Father Brown (1913)

by G. K. Chesterton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Father Brown (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Read on my Kindle, although I have a paperback edition too. Twelve short stories; not crime fiction, exactly, as the solution of most of the cases rely on local knowledge and insight. Instead they're character-based, featuring the delightful and unassuming Father Brown, a Catholic priest in the early part of the 20th century.

Long-winded at times, relying too much on politics and intrigue, but with believable conversations and clever plots. Father Brown is gifted with a great deal of intuition and logical deduction, and I enjoyed (on the whole) following his thought processes.

I would have rated this book with four stars, but I was shocked by chapter nine, which is on the topic of boxing (a subject I abhor) and - worse - peppered with racist language. Perhaps it wasn't considered offensive over a hundred years ago but I very much hope modern editions have modified or even removed this chapter.

Still, the other eleven chapters, if a bit wordy, are worth reading in odd moments if you like short stories of this genre. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Sep 7, 2018 |
It would have helped to have read this closer to the time of publication. For example, knowing what a French Nationalist is would probably make one of the stories much more clear. Still, I love these quick puzzles - the solution itself made sense in every story I did read. I think of them as a bit like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and [a:O Henry|4512953|O Henry|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-U-50x66.jpg]. Unfortunately, my copy has a big section missing, so not only did I not have access to two of the stories, I decided to skip some and wait to give a proper review to a full collection. I'm guessing this would get four stars, had I finished.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
I've only read one Father Brown short story before this, and was very much enjoying the others. And then I had to come abruptly into the racism in the story The God of the Gongs. If it hadn't been for that story I could have rated this a lot higher, rather than sitting and pondering the casual racism of the time - 1910 for this collection. The one story almost made me want to rate the whole as a one star - but to be fair, that's based on that one story, and how angry it made me. (I've been waffling between two and three stars for this, and it's completely hinging on my reaction to that one story.)

As an aside I should mention that it's not that I'm not used to racism in stories from this time, sadly. In fact I often wonder if, when some schools/parents raise issues about teaching Huckleberry Finn if the teachers shouldn't have students read some of the era's stories with overt and casual racism that have characters much less well developed than Jim. As much as I dislike it, I don't think we should refrain from making it clear that these thoughts/attitudes/stereotypes were in a lot of the literature. There are a a few authors I still enjoy despite their racism - Lovecraft for instance - but that doesn't mean I don't stop and cringe every time it comes up, even if I expect it. I just can't overlook this, even with the (poor) excuse of "that's the way everyone wrote/thought." When no, not everyone did. So there's the struggle - you can't exactly avoid it, but you - well, I - certainly can't enjoy it.

While several of the other stories have Italian or French characters that are stereotypical, the black characters of The God of the Gongs are much, much worse. It's not just the repeated use of the word nigger (or the fact that one character's name is Nigger Ned) - it's the way all the black characters are described.

(72% in) "...He was buttoned and buckled up to his bursting eyeballs in the most brilliant fashion. A tall black hat was tilted on his broad black head - a hat of the sort that the French wit has compared to eight mirrors. But somehow the black man was like the black hat. He also was black, and yet his glossy skin flung back the light at eight angles or more. It is needless to say that he wore white spats and a white slip inside his waistcoat. The red flower stood up in his button hole aggressively, as if it had suddenly grown there. And in the way he carried his cane in one hand and his cigar in the other there was a certain attitude - an attitude we must always remember when we talk of racial prejudices: something innocent and insolent - the cake walk.

"Sometimes," said Flambeau, looking after him, "I'm not surprised that they lynch them." "

If you can't understand why, after reading the quote, there were numerous things there that pissed me off - well, I can't help you. Besides the stereotypes in the description of dress there's the concept that you can wear clothes and walk in a way which supposedly everyone reads as insolent. And the line about lynching - just, no. Sorry, can't deal with the illogic and unfairness of this portrayal.

It doesn't make it any better that Father Brown is given a speech or two which I'm going to assume is supposed to preach tolerance:

(76% in) "...I dare say he has some Italians with him, but our amiable friends are not Italians. They are octoroons and African half-bloods of various shades, but I fear we English think all foreigners are much the same so long as they are dark and dirty. Also," he added, with a smile, "I fear the English decline to draw any fine distinction between the moral character produced by my religion and that which blooms out of Voodoo."

I get the attempted message here - but after the previous quote, plus more I've not quoted, it's not enough. The ugliness of "everyone thinks this way" blots out any message of tolerance. Especially when the end of the story has to do with all blacks in the UK being under suspicion of the law and the public because of the murders by a group. Trying to preach tolerance in this context makes Chesterton seem smug, self-satisfied and completely unaware of how much stronger the stereotypes are than the platitudes.

I enjoy the way Chesterton writes, but I'm not totally sold on the character of Brown (I got tired of the repeated descriptions of how "child-like" he is). Still if anything keeps me from finishing the rest of Chesterton (I have several more ebooks) it will be the bad impressions of this one story. It's going to take me a while to get those images out of my head. ( )
  bookishbat | Sep 25, 2013 |
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This second collection of Fr. Brown lacks the appeal of the first collection. I enjoyed some stories, but found many to be disappointing in that they were short of being actual mysteries in the sense that I had expected them to be. Sometimes crimes were not really even committed and Fr. Brown was presented with more of a puzzle or conundrum to solve. When there is a crime the story will finish with Brown's solution and the police or any legal justice is hardly called to hand, something I'm finding difficult to get used to with these stories from both volumes so far. These stories are incredibly less religious in nature than the first volume though they all do carry a religious moral ethic as that is the nature of Fr. Brown's sleuthing methods. I was disappointed that Flambeau was rarely seen in this collection as I had come to consider him Brown's sidekick in the first volume but at least the narration has settled it's tone from the first and is written purely in the third person throughout these stories. An acceptable and entertaining read but nowhere near as good as "The Innocence of Father Brown". Chesterton, in real life, had still not converted to Catholicism at the point when these stories were published and I am interested to see if there will be any noticeable difference in the next volume which was published four years after his conversion.

1. The Absence of Mr. Glass - What a fantastic story to start this collection! Not a mystery though by any means, more of a puzzle, a conundrum. Fr. Brown goes to a detective to enlist his services to help determine whether a young man is suitable to marry a young woman known to him. Her mother is dead-set against the marriage as the suitor has a bit of mystery surrounding him, yet everyone else concerned is happy for the young lovers. As the party descends upon young Mr. Todhunter's rooms, they have need to break down the door upon which they find him bound and gagged in the corner. The detective then takes the disarray of the room into account and tells the nefarious doings of the young man and the mystery of one Mr. Glass. When he is finished Fr. Brown laughs and from the clues tells all the truth of what has happened and whether Mr. Todhunter is a suitable suitor or not. Very clever and a delight to read! 5/5

2. The Paradise of Thieves - I don't have a lot to say on this one. I've been busy and couldn't get my mind onto it; whether it was me or the story I can't say for sure. However, it wasn't terribly entertaining and I never had a great sense of what was going on or cared for that matter. It involved a kidnapping. 3/5

3. The Duel of Dr. Hirsch - Another story that didn't quite satisfy, very political. Early on reference is made to another case which I ignored but repeated mention of this case made me google it to see if it was a true crime and indeed it was happening about 20 years prior to the publishing of this book. Perhaps if one were up on these current events at the time the story would have been more enjoyable? However, it wasn't pertinent to the case presented here in its outcome and I was rather disappointed to have figured out the twist before the end. This story does at least bring Flambeau back into the picture. Hoping the next story will be better. 2.5/5

4. The Man in the Passage - Finally, a proper mystery! Fr. Brown is in fine form in this story. He arrives backstage at the Apollo Theatre where the star actress has called him to attend to her. There he finds her in the company of four others: two suitors, her leading man and her male servant. Miss Rome is obviously anxious to speak to Fr. and uses her charms to clear the room. As she sees one man out of the building she is heard walking down the passage to watch his progress down the street then a scream and kerfuffle is heard and the two suitors are heard exclaiming about seeing a man in the passage. Poor Miss Rome is found dead, the leading man is obviously arrested as the killer but it is upon the witness stand that Fr. Brown unravels the simple events of that evening proclaiming whom both the man in the passage and the killer each were. I liked that the killer received their just rewards in this case, even if it was in a round about way. (4/5)

5. The Mistake of the Machine - Well this is a funny tale involving, in a round about way, a wealthy man who holds obscurely themed parties each year. Starting off with a police detective telling Fr. Brown of a murder the previous evening of a warden after a prisoner escaped and his subsequent arrest of the culprit, a shabbily dressed man running across a nearby field. His guilt is all but proven to the detective by the use of his highly prized "psychometric" machine which measures the variations in one's pulse and thus can tell if a person is under stress and agitated during questioning. Fr. Brown is quite witty with his observations about the machine vs its operator and quite blows apart the detective's story. Though the detective has indeed caught a criminal it is not the one he thinks he has and Fr. Brown solves both the identity of the apprehended man and the true perpetrator of the prison escape and murder of the warden. A clever tale with an ending that surprised me. (4/5)

6. The Head of Caesar - Not quite a proper mystery in the ordinary sense but a crime and a puzzle that Fr. Brown wittily solves again. I really enjoyed this story and it is unique in it's telling. Flambeau is present at the beginning and end but doesn't play a major role. Most of the story takes place in a pub as a woman confesses her entire story to Fr. while the rest plays out at the scene of the crime where Brown wraps up the final pieces. A story of its time but good. (5/5)

7. The Purple Wig - Another fine puzzle mystery though no actual crime is committed again. This time it's more of a moral conundrum and this case takes on the British aristocracy and class system of the early 1900s. A journalist happens upon a table outside a pub finding three men, a doctor, a priest and an otherwise respectable gentleman other than his purplish wig. Here they converse and the topic turns to the old tales and curse of the Dukes of Exmoor. I won't say more but a twist in the middle turns into a double twist at the end for a fun story. Though again, not really a mystery. (4/5)

8. The Perishing of the Pendragons - The last few stories have been following a similar format and this one is no different. Brown and Flambeau are on a small holiday for Brown's health; he is suffering depression. They are taking a river cruise to the Pendragon estates and regaled with the family's legend which includes the mysterious burning tower. Brown just happens to have a hose in hand when the tower really starts to burn and the Father unravels the legend of yore and the current use of the legend. Again not exactly what I consider a mystery (ie no crime to solve) but Fr. does stop a crime from being committed and solve another puzzle. Not as entertaining as others but ok. Finally some good Brown/Flambeau interaction which is sorely lacking in this collection. (3/5)

9. The God of the Gongs - I'm the last person to judge a story based on modern society's views on certain elements such as race and sexism and always view a story from within the time period it was written. However, I could find no redeeming value in this story. To begin with it was a less than entertaining mystery and blatantly racist against the "negro" race. The n-word was used frequently and flippantly. I admit my disgust with the racism and rampant blatant derogatory references made me hurry and get this one over with; I really could not find that it was even trying to be positive within the constraints of the time it was written. In my opinion, this is a racist story even for the time period in which it was written. (0/5)

10. The Salad of Colonel Cray - Finally a genuine mystery and a fun one at that! A burglary takes place and only condiments seem to have been stolen. But when someone is poisoned it is Fr. Brown who happens to have the simple remedy to the rare poison just in the nick of time. (4/5)

11. The Strange Crime of John Boulnois - Rumours of a woman having an affair with a man abound and when he is stabbed and publicly found with his dying breath accuses the scorned husband John Boulnois the crime appears to be fait au complete. However, the priest on hand, Fr. Brown, takes one look around and knows all is not as it appears. Clever tale; the motives are old-fashionably unbelievable but nonetheless a good story. (4/5)

12. The Fairy Tale of Father Brown - For the final tale in this book it is nice to have Flambeau return. But once again this is not really a crime or a mystery as one expects. As in a previous story we are presented with a mysterious death from the past. Flambeau recounts the details as they were given him by one of the investigating detectives at the time. A prince had been found dead with a bullet in his head and yet there had been no shot fired and only a bullet mark found upon his cravat. After hearing the details of the strange tale, Fr. Brown is able to tell his version of what most likely happened; who the guilty party was and who it wasn't are quite interesting to say the least. A good story to end the volume. (4/5) ( )
1 vote ElizaJane | Feb 20, 2013 |
One of the weaker Father Brown collections. But even weak Chesterton is at times strong liquor. Several stories which are otherwise disposable have descriptions -- of the weather, of natural surroundings -- that are indelible.

"I am never surprised by any work of hell" ( )
  ben_a | Oct 30, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chesterton, G. K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boffito Serra, BeatriceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bomans, GodfriedEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brongersma, EdwardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Noorbeek, AndréTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westendorp, FiepCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Lucian Oldershaw
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The consulting-rooms of Dr. Orion Hood, the eminent criminologist and specialist in certain moral disorders, lay along the sea-front at Scarborough, in a series of very large and well-lighted french windows, which showed the North Sea like one endless outer wall of blue-green marble. ("The Absence of Mr Glass")
The great Muscari, most original of the young Tuscan poets, walked swiftly into his favourite restaurant, which overlooked the Mediterranean, was covered by an awning and fenced by little lemon and orange trees. ("The Paradise of Thieves")
M. Maurice Brun and M. Armand Armagnac were crossing the sunlit Champs Elyseés with a kind of vivacious respectability. ("The Duel of Dr Hirsch")
Two men appeared simultaneously at the two ends of a sort of passage running along the side of the Apollo Theatre in the Adelphi. ("The Man in the Passage")
Flambeau and his friend the priest were sitting in the Temple Gardens about sunset; and their neighbourhood or some such accidental influence had turned their talk to matters of legal process. ("The Mistake of the Machine")
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140031189, Paperback)

From London to Cornwall, then to Italy and France, a short, shabby priest runs down bandits, traitors, and killers. Why is he so successful?After many years spent in the priesthood, Father Brown knows human nature and is not afraid of its dark side. Thus he understands criminal motivation and how to deal with it.The stories included are "The Paradise of Thieves," "The Duel of Dr. Hirsch," "The Man in the Passage," "The Mistakes of the Machine," "The Head of the Caesar," "The Purple Wig," "The Perishing of the Pendragons," "The God of the Gongs," "The Salad of the Colonel Cray," "The Strange Crime of John Boulnois" and "The Fairy Tale of Father Brown." Newly designed and typeset for easy reading by Boomer Books.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:13 -0400)

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CRIME & MYSTERY. This is the second volume of stories featuring the most unlikely detective in literature - now the basis for a major BBC TV adaptation starring Mark Williams. The ingenious amateur detective Father Brown is put to the test again in this second collection of stories, which sees him solve cases featuring bandits, traitors, voodoo and murder, wrong-footing his opponents at every turn with his characteristic blend of mischievous humour and uncanny understanding of human foibles. G. K. Chesterton was born in 1874. He attended the Slade School of Art, where he appears to have suffered a nervous breakdown, before turning his hand to journalism.… (more)

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