Genre: mystery; classic
Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905. Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means… To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”
My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint. Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’. (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too. We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)
There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life. They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy. …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?
If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before. It’s harder than it at first seems. Of course, there would have to be a market for it. And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.
As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them. It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him. It makes for a curious read.
Although I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time. Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense. 🙂 Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter! Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story. And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time. But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle. It gives the brain a good exercise!
I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life? We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment. Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games. Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure. But what happened to living real life? Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.
You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.
If you liked this book, I also recommend…:
“The Great Impersonation”
“The Chronicles of Narnia”
“A Man Lay Dead”
“The Man Who Was Thursday”
“The Secret Adversary”