The Little Book is the extraordinary tale of Wheeler Burden, California-exiled heir of the famous Boston banking Burdens, philosopher, student of history, legend's son, rock idol, writer, lover of women, recluse, half-Jew, and Harvard baseball hero. In 1988 he is 47, living in San Francisco. Suddenly he is - still his modern self - wandering in a city and time he knows mysteriously well: fin de siecle Vienna. It is 1897, precisely 91 years before his last memory and a half-century before his birth.
It's not long before Wheeler has acquired appropriate clothes, money, lodging, a group of young Viennese intellectuals as friends, a mentor in Sigmund Freud, a bitter rival, a powerful crush on a luminous young American woman, a passing acquaintance with local celebrity Mark Twain, and an incredible and surprising insight into the dashing young war-hero father he never knew.
But the truth at the center of Wheeler's dislocation in time remains a stubborn mystery that will take months of exploration and a lifetime of memories to unravel and that will, in the end, reveal nothing short of the eccentric Burden family's unrivaled impact on the very course of the coming century. The Little Book is a masterpiece of unequaled storytelling that announces Selden Edwards as one of the most dazzling, original, entertaining, and inventive novelists of our time.
©2008 Selden Edwards; (P)2008 Penguin
I've been puzzled by the one review from Jon saying the writing is the "worst." I found this book delightful, tightly written, with a little history, a little romance, and a delightful family saga. One of the best things is that the language is absolutely appropriate to the time/place. In Fin de Siecle Vienna the language reminds me of my grandmother who was 20 years old in the same era in Chicago. The language from the WWII years comes right from my parents who were 20-something then. And the language from 70's and 80's San Francisco, comes out of my own experience. What attention to detail! This is the first time that I have started a book over immediately after finishing it and am discovering the many clues to the conclusion throughout the book! Don't be discouraged by Jon's review.
Gift Subscription for my lovely wife.
This is a beautiful, lushly descriptive book in the European style of storytelling. There are twists and turns aplenty - unique enough to keep me absorbed until the end. The narrator seemed uninterested at first, but warms up to the story and characters as he reads, acting more as the story progresses. Characters have depth and the story is rich like full-fat ice cream. I very much enjoyed the story, characters and performance.
This book was recommended to me by several people whose judgement I trust. However, I found it to be alternately interesting and annoying. Interesting in the time travel concept and the historical setting; annoying because several aspects of the story simply don't ring true. The author goes on and on about how fascinating this teacher is, and how all his students worship him, but never shows why exactly the boys admire him so sincerely. And the main character is portrayed as a godlike character...he doesn't come across as remotely believable or human, he just appears to be there to serve the author's plot purposes.
Also, the narrator uses an oddly toned and stilted voice when reading lines from the female main character...kind of breathy and contrived. I wish he'd kept to a more normal voice rather than trying to sound "feminine".
If you like historical fiction, you might enjoy this more than I did.
As the child of Viennese parents, I enjoyed this playful story but I cringed every time the narrator slaughtered another Viennese German word. I can't believe he didn't even bother to look up the pronunciation of Wien! I found this recording almost unbearable to listen to.
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