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The Napoleon of Notting Hill

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,966 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is G. K. Chesterton's first novel. Published in 1904, it is set at the end of the twentieth century. London is still a city of gas lamps and horse-drawn vehicles, but democratic government has withered away, and a representative ordinary citizen is simply chosen for a list to be king.
Published November 7th 1993 by Penguin Classics (first published 1904)
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Dan Schwent
Dec 08, 2009 Dan Schwent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I once read an Amazon list titled "Chesterton is the Besterton." Now I understand why.

The Napoleon of Notting Hill is set in an alternate 1984, one that isn't much different than 1904. Technology stopped progressing and most people stopped caring about government. Democracy has given way to despotism, because one idiot's opinion is as good as the opinion of all of them, to paraphrase the text. All of this changes when Auberon Quin is randomly selected as the King of England.

Python-esque humor ab
Sep 30, 2009 Werner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want a read that's off the beaten track
Shelves: science-fiction
Broadly speaking, this 1904 imagining of the world of the late 20th century and beyond can be called science fiction, but it's strictly a speculation in the social, not the technological, sciences; Chesterton had little interest in technology, --and, indeed, posits a future with no new technology, its material culture unchanged, when the novel opens, from that of his own Edwardian world. It's also an imagining that, in some particulars, could almost be called surreal, and much of it is laced wit ...more
Let me start this review by stating how surprised I am to know that none of the people on my friends list here have read this book. I mean, this has to be one of the best debut novels ever written in the 20th century by a not-so-unknown English author & yet this book fails to make even the to-read list of so many people.

My acquaintance with Chesterton's works was made through the numerous stories featuring Father Brown I came across in detective story compilations. Though Father Brown isn't
D. J.
Jan 11, 2008 D. J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very strange book. I can honestly say that I've never read anything quite like it before and probably never will. It's a rather surreal story that is equal parts philosophical allegory, fantasy, dystopian fiction and satire. It's all of these things and nothing. Totally original in its genius; totally maniacal in its unfolding. This book is not at all typical. There is no basis for comparison, and I'm still reeling from what I've just read.

The story takes place in 1984, but London's technolog
Odd, odd book that has an alternative Victorian Britain reverting to a happy neo-medievalism in which the commonest of goods has become mysterious and beautiful.

This all comes to pass because the hereditary principle has come to an end and an eccentric civil servant is chosen by lot to become the new Monarch. His creative reinterpretation of London place names at a public lecture (for example Hammersmith becomes the place where the smiths beat the knights from Knightsbridge with their hammers) i
Jan 24, 2010 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Wikipedia article
Shelves: sf-fantasy
The first chapter of Notting Hill lays out the author’s theory about the “art of prophecy.” Prophets observe the fads and fallacies of their own eras and project their logical conclusions into the future. Thus, H.G. Wells envisions a secular, scientific utopia where religion and superstition are banished to histories. Or there’s Cecil Rhodes’ vision of a British empire, racially separate from its “dark children” but ruling benevolently over the world. In our own time, I think Chesterton might ha ...more
Paul Brogan
Jul 25, 2013 Paul Brogan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
With the world’s attention fixed—indeed, fixated—on the recent royal arrival, it was perhaps timely that I read Chesterton’s first novel. Not mine, I hasten to add—the Father Brown stories were a staple of my boyhood—but his, written in 1904 and telling of a world 80 years hence.

It is thought that George Orwell based his 1984 on this speculative attempt by Chesterton to paint a future dystopia, but where Orwell was tyrannous and dark and depressing, as well as prescient, Chesterton was humorous
Sep 24, 2009 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edwardian, humor, 1900s, london
The great library downtown has been overrun with mold, and nearly all British and American literature is in quarantine ... this could be a very long, slow autumn. But fortunately, last week I found a few stacks that escaped the infection, and on them I came across Chesterton's delightful first novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904), a metropolitan fairy tale for grown-ups, set in Peter Pan's own neighborhood.

Unlike Barrie, Chesterton doesn't sprinkle us with fairy dust and whisk us off to Ne
Douglas Wilson
I always enjoy Chesterton, although his fiction is usually too much of a jumble for me. At the same time, there are magnificent lines, pearls mixed in with the peas..
Diana Long
Feb 07, 2016 Diana Long rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what event occurred to inspire the author to write this work, and I don't know quite how to take it. Maybe he could see the future....he's laughing at us.

In a London of the future, the drudgery of capitalism and bureaucracy have worn the human spirit down to the point where it can barely stand. When a pint-sized clerk named Auberon Quinn is randomly selected as head of state, he decides to turn London into a medieval carnival for his own amusement. One man, Adam Wayne, take
Kevin de Ataíde
"This leadership and liberty of Notting Hill is a gift from your Majesty. And if it is taken from me, by God! it shall be taken in battle, and the noise of that battle shall be heard in the flats of Chelsea and in the studios of S. John's Wood..."

Absurd and priceless. Chestertonian satire is full of wit, dry humour and flagrant prose.
Jose Kilbride
This is a story about a joke. It is also a story about belief, and the conflict that arises because of that belief. It is a story about how a joke and belief can change a world by changing the minds and spirits of those who inhabit it.

A man becomes King, and treats this responsibility as a joke, capering and buffooning his way through life, realising that in the coming together of great nations a stilted seriousness has long since stifled humour.

In his humour he conceives a grand joke, and enfor
Dave/Maggie Bean
Yeah, I like Chesterton. And I love this novel. Written at the beginning of his career, The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a multi-layered allegory and philosophical statement, rolled into one. Published in 1904, …Napoleon… is, as the synopsis states, "a futurist fantasy… set in 1984." Opening with a good humored (but stinging) broadside at futurists and ersatz prophets in general, Chesterton goes on to set the stage: an anemic UK in which the public’s world-weariness and cynicism actually render i ...more
Ayu Palar
Jul 29, 2009 Ayu Palar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though there are only 129 pages of The Napoleon of Notting Hill, this first novel of Mr. Chesterton contains lots of things worth-contemplating. First published in 1904, it’s set 80 years in the future, which means in 1984 (a year so much explored by authors!). However, different from the visions of Orwell and Wells, Chesterton imagined London in 1984 is similar to the city in 1904. There isn’t any Big Brother or high technology.

One thing has changed though, people do not believe any more
Reading Chesterton is so damn invigorating.
Started with delight, read with pleasure, finished with exhilaration.
I know of no one else who can raise such a word-tide of vigorous, evangelical zeal.

One of the few books which has actually made me laugh aloud.
Why in the Lord's good name is this man not more appreciated??
May 07, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if it was because I was reading this late at night, or the fact that I was crashing from the high of finishing writing my own book, or what, but... I never thought Chesterton could bore me. And he did. Between the rambling speeches or 'jokes' that went nowhere, the nonsense-spouter becoming King and implementing a lot more nonsense, the lack of any solid plot (that I could see, at any rate), and the time jumps, the first half was trudge work. I skimmed the second half. Read the last ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Jayme rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More like 3.5 stars, to be honest.

This book is...odd. But I loved it? The last few chapter I was riveted and befuddled, trying to figure out what Chesterton was GETTING at. I'm still not completely sure.

Basically, in a benign dystopian future, where people just sort of go along to get along, and nothing either very good or very bad is happening, Britain has a system in which they arbitrarily (by lot or number) select a King, and he rules as a benevolent tyrant, approving public works measures a
Oct 05, 2014 LaViejaPiragua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“El género humano, al que muchos de mis lectores pertenecen…”, así empieza esta novela, la primera de Chesterton, marcando ya desde el principio el tono de este libro. Una historia enloquecida que se desarrolla en un Londres del futuro donde los reyes son elegidos por sorteo, al parecer con el mismo porcentaje de éxitos y fracasos que los hereditarios, hasta que le toca la corona a un ciudadano con un particular sentido del humor. La combinación de un rey bromista y un preboste, el de Notting Hi ...more
Don Incognito
Jun 01, 2013 Don Incognito rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: conservatives, Romantics
Recommended to Don Incognito by: Thomas Fleming
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is one of the best books you've probably never read. Even for some literature majors and heavy readers, probably; it was never required reading for me. Conservative intellectuals are familiar with it. That's how I heard of it--a reference from paleoconservative critic Thomas Fleming.

(view spoiler)
Apryl Anderson
(24.12.1993), A very strange read, similar to the Man who was Thursday. It was weird, surreal, fighting in the dark, etc. Fortunately, Chesterton makes his point at the end— what is reality? And is life funny? Well, he didn’t impress me with this one. Yes, our common, dull existence is ironic. We forget what we’re living for (some don’t even know). Is it worth dying over your own claimed territory? Is the patriot a hero or a madman?
The most impressive statement in the tale was in regards to Cru
Jul 04, 2012 Annette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of the "Emberverse" series as an alternate take on similar themes
The London of the "next century" has defied all the prognosticators by being precisely the same as the current London, only more so. That is, more atheistic, evolutionary, capitalistic, a-romantic, and basically dreary than ever - even as it remains populated by hackney cabs, gas lights, and horse-drawn omnibuses. Furthermore, having dispensed also with the foolishness of a hereditary monarchy, the king is now selected by pure lottery. Oh, and by the by, war has been eliminated! One Auberon Quin ...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 17, 2015 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in October 2003.

In some respects, Chesterton's first novel seems almost contemporary in outlook; in others, it is stuck in its time, now almost a century in the past. One of the great problems of our age (at least in the West), according to politicians, is political apathy; that is a link between today and the Britain of 1904. The Napoleon of Notting Hill is set in 1984, a famous year in science fiction, and the consequence of that apathy has been to turn pol
Lorenzo Berardi

Unusual and engrossing "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" kept me company amidst the chaos of Terminal 3 in Heathrow while waiting to embark on the first long distance flight of my life.

My impression is that Mr Chesterton was too much far ahead for his times but didn't care a bit having a good sport in poking fun at defying literary conventions.

This odd little novel could be read in many ways: as a satire of British politics and the frail concept of modern democracy, as a dystopian entertainment o
Aug 03, 2009 F.R. rated it really liked it
Chesterton's 'The Man Who Was Thursday' is - whilst heartily recommended - one of the most peculiar novels I have ever read. Having just read 'The Napoleon of Notting Hill', I can say it's just as odd but much funnier.

This is the author's take on science fiction, or perhaps a kind of anti-science fiction. Having taken time to dismiss such prophets as H.G.Wells in the opening paragraphs, Chesterton portrays a late 20th century where things are much the same as the early twentiesth century. There
Jul 29, 2014 Roachkin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am far too drunk to be writing this. I read this book while stationed on the USS George Washington. The only memory that really rings true, is the one where the main character (first half) talks to the main character (second half) and the main characters (second half) says 'The last honest War was the Crusades'. Chesterton wasn't a Catholic when he wrote this book but in that sentence is basically his declaration to the Orthodoxy.

The entirety of this book is a plea to people to recognize the i
Abe Goolsby
May 10, 2016 Abe Goolsby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
Chesterton imagines a futuristic London in which, contra the H. G. Wellses and Jules Vernes of his own time, virtually nothing of significance has changed since the turn of the twentieth century. Nothing of significance that is, until a capricious king comes along who, for the sake of what amounts to nothing more than a monumental gag, decrees a grand turning back of the clock in favor of antiquated customs, costumes, and a radically-localized sense of patriotic devotion. Most shockingly and por ...more
Alex Stroshine
Jul 29, 2014 Alex Stroshine rated it liked it
"The Napoleon of Notting Hill", Chesterton's first novel, has a fantastic storyline. In 1984, the boroughs and suburbs of London have been turned into their own little realms, swearing fealty to a mad king, Auberon Quin. Only Adam Wayne, a zealous champion, takes the idea seriously and he finds himself pitted against rival provosts who want to build a road through Notting Hill, which Wayne refuses to let them do. Trademark GKC themes, such as the romance of medievalism and tradition and the para ...more
Ea Solinas
Apr 28, 2015 Ea Solinas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a 1984 London where society has frozen at turn-of-the-century levels, a King is randomly selected from the populace, and nobody really takes politics seriously.

Of course, it only takes one wise, weird little man to turn all of that on its head. G.K. Chesterton's magnificently absurd comic novel explores a common theme in his books -- a person who entertains himself with an absurdly serious world -- in an increasingly heated situation where the little boroughs of London have become warrin
Joe Foley
Mar 12, 2014 Joe Foley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The morning was wintry and dim, not misty, but darkened with that shadow of cloud or snow which steeps everything in a green or copper twilight. The light there is on such a day seems not so much to come from the clear heavens as to be a phosphorescence clinging to the shapes themselves. The load of heaven and the clouds is like a load of waters, and the men move like fishes, feeling that they are on the floor of a sea. Everything in a London street completes the fantasy; the carriages and cabs ...more
Christopher Palmer
I'm typing up this review on a personal computer. Few people can appreciate how strange and wondrous this machine, which is at heart a glorified abacus, really is. This machine founded on math and mechanical logic has today a very wide range of applications, from simple clocks and calculators to video games set in highly detailed depictions of real locations. It's probably the most astounding of the many amazing inventions of the last century.

However, simulating natural intelligence using this m
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
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“There is a law written in the darkest of the Books of Life, and it is this: If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.” 79 likes
“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.” 27 likes
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