Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton // Review

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of McKay’s bookstore. It’s this building in Chatanooga, Tennessee, that sits like a giant box beside the freeway.

When I say giant, I mean massive. It’s literally the largest bookstore I’ve ever been inside. Aisle after aisle of used books all jumbled together, and I think I could spend a good several hours in there and be perfectly happy with that scenario.

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I got a t-shirt!

We ended up there for the second time in my life last August, on our way to a convention in Kentucky. I can’t remember when the idea had come into my head, but I wanted to try and find something by G.K. Chesterton. I’d been hearing about him for a long time, I’d even read The Man Who Was Thursday, and I felt like reading more of his work.

I actually found some, too. I don’t remember there being any others, but sandwiched in between all the larger tomes I discovered a slim little volume of Father Brown Stories.

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Now, my mom has been reading aloud to us since before I can remember, and I’ve always been rather anxious to keep up the tradition. And for whatever odd reason I’ve become the book-finder of the family (oh, I don’t know, could it be because I follow about twelve hundred blogs?). But anyway, I told my mom she needed to read aloud the Father Brown Stories. And she did.

And about all I can say is, wow. Chesterton was one of those few authors who was truly genius. His descriptions alone make the books worth reading – the way he uses metaphor and paints with his words, not just a picture, but a feeling and atmosphere; and truly breathtaking prose besides.

I think it was on the back of the book (sadly I can’t find it now) that it said these stories were insights into human nature. And they really are. The main character is a little priest, who is far wiser to the uglier aspects of human character than you might imagine (after all, he does listen to confessions day after day). And he also possesses a striking logic. A lot of these are hardly mysteries in the proper sense, more like stories of Father Brown figuring things out. He’s one of the most lovable characters ever, simply because of his eccentricity – he’s not afraid to do the most odd, unusual things, although usually you’ll figure out that they have quite a definite purpose.

Although most of the stories are light, even a little whimsical, on the surface, there’s way more depth than what meets the eye. They deal with murder, corruption, and evil, and woven in where you almost have to look a second time to see it, there’s the profound wisdom of a great theologian and thinker. And yet, with all that, there’s still the little clergyman from Essex quite deliberately putting salt in the sugar bowl.

Have you read any of Chesterton’s books? Which are your favorites? Have you ever been to McKay’s Bookstore?

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18 thoughts on “Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton // Review

  1. I love Chesterton!! The first I read was a collection of stories, The Club of Queer Trades, for school a couple years back. It was so unique and hilarious and well-written I knew I need to read more of him! My sister bought me The Complete Father Brown Collection a year ago and with the busyness of life I’ve only read a few of the stories but loved them all. His metaphors and similes, turns of phrases–wow! And so out-of-the-box, yet traditional!
    McKays bookstore sounds like paradise for me!! 😀 I recently discovered my local ‘Meals on Wheels’-mart collection of 50-cent books, and I could hardly contain myself!

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  2. This was a neat post and a fun backstory, Katherine! We, too, have kept up the tradition of reading aloud together–the girls and I still love it. Back when my son was reading with us, I was always looking for books that could appeal to the whole crowd. We did find some great ones, and I think these would have been a good fit, too!

    I am pretty sure that I saw a billboard for McKay’s when we were on our way back from Orlando in 2014! I MAY have even pointed it out to Schuyler. 🙂 (Probably). I know we came through the amazing area of Chatanooga when it was still light!

    I definitely need to look these up!

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  3. I love Chesterton’s writing! I read a few of the Father Brown stories growing up and last summer I started reading The Man Who was Thursday. I haven’t finished it yet because school happened, but over all I really enjoy his writing style! He is so creative in his descriptions!

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  4. Ahhhh I live forty-five minutes from this store! All my best book hauls come from there. 😀 It’s my absolute faaavorite. I’ve never heard of this author, but I’ll definitely check him out now!

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      1. How hard it is might depend on how much else you’ve read that focuses on philosophy and apologetics. I didn’t find it very hard when I first read it, but I’d been reading Chesterton for years before that and was familiar with his style. I recommend reading Heretics first so you get the background. I’ve had very picky people tell me Orthodoxy is one of their favourite books. (And I think it’s pretty good myself.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, okay! Thanks for the suggestions! I have read some nonfiction/philosophical stuff before (Lewis and Schaeffer), so it shouldn’t be too hard, hopefully. =)

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  5. I read a collection of Father Brown stories once, and to be honest, I found them dry and not very enjoyable. Probably because I was comparing them to my favorite mystery writers like Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie — still, I can’t deny, Chesterton does probe deep depths.

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