By: Lori Smith|Published: September 20, 2007 4:01 PM
I've really been enjoying the Father Brown stories (and the book is now, ahem, overdue at the library). I've been reading them in the evening, and they're perfect because they're not so long that you have to stay up all night reading to find out what happened. They're incredibly creative, and the writing is wonderful.
There's something fairly typical about them in the terms of cozy mysteries, which is that Father Brown seems disheveled and unsophisticated, no one expects anything of him, but of course he's the one who always brilliantly figures out exactly what happened. A bit like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, I guess (though perhaps it's the other way around, since Chesterton came first).
One of the things that has struck me is Chesterton's certainty about his faith, which clearly comes through in the stories. Sometimes I think he writes in a way which would offend those outside the realm of faith. For example, in the story "The Secret Garden," [spoiler alert] the detective Valentin, an atheist, commits murder (and then suicide) rather than see incredibly rich Brayne donate his millions to the church. It does not seem entirely realistic, almost like Chesterton is writing to make a point about the depths to which atheism will push one.
Or, in "The Sins of Prince Saradine," where the Prince asks Father Brown if he believes in doom, and Brown replies, "No, I believe in Doomsday."
Brown, and Chesterton, are nothing if not certain. But I think it's a certainty many modern readers would find difficult to swallow.
As an artist, and a Christian, there's a constant balance between speaking truth and speaking it in such a way as to make it approachable and appealing. (I guess this is nothing different than what our churches struggle with.) Of course, the first goal -- speaking truth -- can't be compromised. And I'm not saying that Chesterton isn't appealing, but I think our writing today is necessarily a little softer.
I'm full of questions about this -- thoughts anyone?