Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

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I’ve been in a short story mood lately. I picked up G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown (a collection of 18 of the 49 stories about Father Brown) when I saw it on a display at the library. I’d read somewhere, maybe on a book blog, that one should read Father Brown because it’s the definitive mystery short story, in the mode of Sherlock Holmes.

In fact, Chesterton himself loved Sherlock Holmes stories. I haven’t read Sherlock Holmes for years, but from my recollection, there are significant differences between the two characters. Father Brown is a priest who happens to be incredibly keen at interpreting human behavior. I seem to recall Sherlock Holmes stories to have a bit more action than Father Brown’s stories have.

I partially enjoyed reading these 17 stories. Some of them seemed unusually slow and hard to get into. One reason for that is Chesterton’s careful development and description of scenes. He wanted the reader to really imagine where the story is taking place. In some cases, this helped draw me in the setting, but other times it distracted me: I suppose I’m so used to fast-moving action in fiction that the slow-pace distracted me. The other reason for the feeling of slowness was Father Brown nature: he is a character-interpreter. Father Brown wants to discuss with the other characters why people do what they do. This gives the stories a feeling of “telling” rather than showing that sometimes seemed excessive.

On the other hand, these stories were clever. It always amazes me when I read a story or a novel in which human nature is such an imperative part of the plot. How did Chesterton so accurately interpret motives, especially in the stories dealing with murder? I found these stories intriguing.

If you read only one Father Brown story, I’d suggest reading “The Blue Cross.” Originally published in The Innocence of Father Brown, this was the first story Chesterton wrote about Father Brown. I felt it was by-far the most remarkable.

Have you read or reviewed any Father Brown stories? What did you think? Let me know what you think. Link to your review in a comment and I’ll add it below.


Reviewed on May 14, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • @Eva: Thanks for linking to your review; I added it to the post. It sounds like you enjoyed Chesterton’s style a bit more than I did. At the same time, I am glad I picked this up. They were refreshing.

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