I read this 1912 novel after reading Michael Dirda’s somewhat tardy but glowing review of it 106 years later in the March 29 Washington Post (“G.K. Chesterton, our guardian angel of foolery and faith”). Dirda noted that April Fool’s Day and Easter fell on the same day this year, making it appropriate to write about Chesterton, “whose work embraces both holidays.”
I generally like Mr. Dirda, and he did not steer me wrong here — and I reread his review after reading the novel, and appreciated its deft description of Manalive even more. He is especially right insofar as he suggests that Chesterton is a one-man refutation of the notion that Christianity is a gloomy faith for gloomy people, and he could not have chosen a better book to demonstrate this point. The hero of the novel is rambunctious and joyful, and devotes his life to demonstrating to others that they should be joyful, too — grateful for the heady blessing that each of us is a woman or man alive.