“Manalive” by G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton wrote several fiction works as well as his better known philosophical treatises such as Orthodoxy, Heretics, and What Is Wrong With The World.  My favourite of his fictions is the one mentioned in the title “Manalive”, which I know seems strange as a title, but it actually fits rather well once you read the book.  

This book is about a man, one Innocent Smith who seems anything but “innocent”.   For one thing he is a very rambunctious, rather childlike man with a small head compared to his very large body which he clads in green.  With this description one would think that perhaps he could, in fact, be innocent; but as the story unfolds we see him accused of attempted murder, theft, negligence (abandoning his wife and children), as well as a seducer of young women, their current whereabouts unknown.  

The location of this story is one Beacon House, a boarding house and therefore a resting place for the variety of people which must meet this man and either condemn him or prove him “innocent” in a strange sort of trial.  

Innocent Smith is an unusual man, and as his peculiarities come to light, his philosophy of life goes up against the philosophies of all those with whom he comes in contact.  Who IS this Innocent Smith, and how will he change the lives of those around him, regardless of whether he is “innocent” or not.  

I love how Chesterton reveals the varying beliefs of various types of people in this book.  It was an enlightening and interesting read.  It even has some romance. The place descriptions can be a little long, but other than that it is an excellently written book.  I hope you will take the time to enjoy it!

Have you even read this book?  What did you think of it? 


3 comments on ““Manalive” by G. K. Chesterton

  1. Zachariah says:

    After reading this book, I found I had a greater appreciation for the simple things in life, as I myself was challenged by Innocent Smith’s determination to live life and enjoy it. He went to extreme measures to make sure that things he appreciated/loved did not become routine and boring. I wouldn’t go to the same extremes as he did, but reading about his exploits helped me see my own life in a new perspective.

    • jaybin1984 says:

      So true, I love how Chesterton made a case for simplicity and “innocence” by showing that it makes more sense than the philosophies represented by all the other characters. Which was your favourite “crime’s” explanation?

      • Zachariah says:

        I liked the “crime” of breaking and entering. The thrill and excitement of sneaking into your own house, puts all of your belongings into a new perspective. Helps to appreciate how even your less “valuable” things can still have meaning to you. At the same time, possessions can be fleeting, so enjoy it while you have it… and everyone should delight in an actual door that swings on hinges, just like a kid would delight in a door on a doll house.

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