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4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  2,015 Ratings  ·  200 Reviews
Perhaps the most light-hearted of all Chesterton's "serious" works, Manalive pits a group of disillusioned young people against Mr. Innocent Smith, a bubbly, high-spirited gentleman who literally falls into their midst. Later accused of murder and denounced for philandering everywhere he goes, Smith prompts his newfound acquaintances to recognize an important idea in most ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 27th 2000 by Dover Publications (first published 1912)
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Itch by Geoffrey  WoodThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. LewisGrimrack by Geoffrey  WoodCuriolio by Geoffrey  WoodPurgatorio by Geoffrey  Wood
True Catholic (Christian) Fiction
45th out of 187 books — 97 voters
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. ChestertonOrthodoxy by G.K. ChestertonThe Complete Father Brown by G.K. ChestertonThe Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. ChestertonThe Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
Best of G.K. Chesterton
11th out of 26 books — 18 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jessica Snell
Oct 25, 2011 Jessica Snell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian, romance
The first time I picked up this book, I was working in a library. I flipped it open and found this conversation:

". . . But the cold fact remains: imprudent marriages do lead to long unhappiness and disappointment - you've got used to your drinks and things - I shan't be pretty much longer-"

"Imprudent marriages!" roared Michael. "And pray where in earth or heaven are there any prudent marriages? Might as well talk about prudent suicides ... Unhappy! of course you'll be unhappy. Who the devil are
Douglas Wilson
Dec 18, 2015 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I prefer Chesterton's non-fiction to his fiction, but this was still fun. His fiction tends to be more scattered that it needs to be, but it was still worthwhile reading. His pithy way of putting things is always present, and the plot/conceit was great. He just needed an editor who 1. understood him; 2. had great moral authority; 3. had strong editorial chops, and 4. who was a lot of fun himself. Alas, Chestertonian editors are as rare as Chestertonian writers.
Mar 13, 2009 Claire rated it it was amazing
This is quite possibly my favorite book. The "message," storyline, characters, and even simply the choices of descriptive phrasing and wording all champion Chesterton's favorite topic- the complete enjoyment of the "experiment of being."

This is probably not the best choice for an introduction to Chesterton- the book is more enjoyable if you already know Chesterton's opinions and worldview. It felt like he wrote it not to prove anything or make a great earth-shattering statement, but to celebrat
Becca Jane
Jul 21, 2008 Becca Jane rated it it was amazing
Chesterton is definitely my favorite author - he has brought life to my Christian walk. He has a fantastic understanding of the abundance of life that is present in creation, does a great job pointing out the falsity of modern nihilist thought, and is a genius as he uses paradox to illustrate many of his points. Stick it out through the first few chapters, and you will be grateful you read this book.
Jan 29, 2013 Corey rated it it was amazing
G.K. Chesterton really outdoes himself in this book.
"I must be sent down,' Smith said, 'and the people must not be told the truth.'
"'And why not?' asked the other.
"Because I mean to follow your advice,' answered the massive youth, 'I mean to keep the remaining shots for people in the shameful state you and I were in last night-I wish we could even plead drunkenness. I mean to keep those bullets for pessimists-pills for pale people. And in this way I want to walk the world like a wonderful surpri
Nov 27, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, high-drama
Absolutely brilliant. MANALIVE manages to be touching, heartfelt, and incredibly life-affirming without resorting--not even for an instant--to saccharinity or melodrama. Of all Chesterton's works, this book perhaps best encapsulates his personal outlook on life, and the amount of wit required for writing a novel like this is mind-boggling. MANALIVE is utterly jam-packed with the sort of delicious paradoxes and unconventionally conventional wisdom I've come to expect from Chesterton, but this is ...more
Feb 14, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
I want to live in the world of G. K. Chesterton stories, where everyone sits around in awkward predicaments discussing the human condition. In Manalive, we get to talk about morality and mortality--when is a thief, a bigamist, a murderer, and a deserter of wives none of those things and yet all? In a G. K. Chesterton book, that's where. There's also this giddy delight in being a man, alive, with two legs, which is a pretty good thing to be, all things considered. If the last chapter is a little ...more
Rachel Heffington
Aug 05, 2013 Rachel Heffington rated it really liked it
Another strange but funny and (at moments) poignant allegory. I loved Innocent Smith and the havoc he wreaked simply by being an optimist in a pessimistic world. :D
Karl El-Koura
Jun 25, 2011 Karl El-Koura rated it it was amazing
G. K. Chesterton was a man who discovered the secret to a happy life—I doubt one can read much of his work without coming to that conclusion. The most natural reaction to his body of work, I think, is amazement: to wonder what secret this man discovered that allowed him to take so much delight in a sheet of brown paper, for example, or where he found the energy to defend his faith in a land growing faithless with so much gusto and wit.

In Manalive, a short novel full of events as improbable as th
Jesse Broussard
Mar 19, 2011 Jesse Broussard rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans
Recommended to Jesse by: N.D. Wilson commanded, and it was obeyed.
Shelves: excellent, chesterton
Similar to Thursday, but very excellent. So queer and living a man.

#3). I have to say, I really am fully convinced that Chesterton was married to a redhead. There's no other reason for all of his heroines to have red hair. I would also like to take this opportunity to laugh at Brooke--if Chesterton married a redhead, then redheads are obviously superior to every other hair colour.

This book is vintage Chesterton: characters that you meet every day with one that no one but he could dream up. The m
Aaron Heinly
May 15, 2013 Aaron Heinly rated it it was amazing
There is a fine line between genius and insanity. GK Chesterton likes to play hopscotch down that line. Manalive is about a VERY eccentric person named Innocent Smith who acts something like a mix of Willie Wonka and Buddy from the movie Elf. He is happy and playful and energetic - like a giant hyperactive kid. But he is smart and philosophical and likes to point his gun at folk. He comes into town like a cool and wild breeze and turns everyone's lives upside down. Love and passion is stirred ...more
Feb 28, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-list
I keep thinking I need to read more Chesterton, and especially his fiction. And then I read a book like this and I think, “I’m not smart enough to read Chesterton.” The premise behind this book is one that seems normal, and maybe even dull, on the surface. Carried out through the novel, though, it was for me first confusing and then intriguing.

What if we didn’t live as though we were happy? What if we were really happy? What if every day was new and the joy in life was not in finding the new but
Dan Ward
Nov 23, 2007 Dan Ward rated it it was amazing
Oh yes. I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite of GKC's novels, but this one is definitely in the top two (Napoleon of Notting Hill being the other). It's a wonderful, confusing, topsy-turvy and surprising story about a man named Innocent Smith, who is accused of (among other things) polygamy, murder and burglary. And of course, he's innocent of it all, even though he actually did do just about everything he's accused of...

Read the book to understand (whoa, that's a deep statement).
Brittany Petruzzi
Apr 08, 2013 Brittany Petruzzi rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, classics
This goes on my need-to-re-read list. I loved it the first time around, when I read it far too quickly. I'll never forget the idea of traveling around the world for the express purpose of coming home again.

Re-read March 2013 and its even better than I remember. Soul-stirring and inspiring.
Feb 17, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Robert Moore-Jumonville
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2013 Samara rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Title: Manalive

Author: GK Chesterton [You didn't think I could leave him out of this, did you?]

Published: 1912

Year I read it: 2011

One sentence summary: The odd and enthusiastic Innocent Smith arrives at a London boarding house full of disillusioned modernists; but after the stir he causes in the cause to improve his fellow tenants, he is arrested and charged with burglary, polygamy, and attempted murder, turning the boarding house into the trial of Innocent.

Interesting fact: Chesterton was frien
Jeff Miller
Feb 17, 2011 Jeff Miller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
As a Chesterton fan Manalive is one of my all time favorite novels of his and really one of my all time favorite novels. This story Innocent Smith seems to me to often be the story of G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton was a man deeply thankful for all things and would go beyond stopping and smelling the roses, but stopping and noticing he had two legs. This novel also reminds me of some aspects of his The Napoleon of Notting Hill in the court that occurs in the house. His idea of neighborhoods ...more
Very, very tricky book so far. It's like a story version of Orthodoxy. It's sort of the opposite of the Iliad, which I just finished: The Iliad is dense and long, but not that hard to understand (I think), while Manalive is short and snappy, but it feels like there are layers and layers of meaning behind everything. I like it, but it feels really complicated.

Chesterton has a little thing for alliterations, which is kind of cute.


It was good, but I liked Orthodoxy better. This seemed less ce
Apr 16, 2015 Anna added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: goodreads, chesterton
Shelves: humoresque
“Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

“I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

This farcical fairy-tale tells the adventures of Innocent Smith and the cast of characters
The otherworldy Smith is described in this way: "He
Apr 28, 2016 Paige rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-30-books
Noticed some things that I might disagree with on this read through... And part of me loves it all the better for it. This book is ultimately a cheerful book. I suppose if you had to give it a genre it'd be a legal drama, the joke is that legal drama's are romances.

I first read this book 3 years ago, all in one sitting. (A leather couch, and it was hot out). This time I read it slower, but the magic was still there, how I remembered it. There's still a lot to learn in here. I should read it aga
David Shane
Apr 24, 2011 David Shane rated it liked it
Quite the ridiculous book, and intentionally so. I'd personally recommend reading Orthodoxy first - I felt like a lot of the same ideas were being expressed, but less clearly here. (But then I generally prefer nonfiction to fiction.) Stick with it - it gets better as you go along (I almost quit about 20 pages in, thinking it boring), and the ending is especially fun.
Jan 09, 2013 Kathryn rated it liked it
At first I did not like this book. But I kept a thought in the back of my mind from the Introduction that it may be a difficult book if this is your first Chesterton novel, It was but I persevered. When I finished it and understood what is was all about, I started reading it again. I'm glad I did. It is a magical tale & to enjoy it, you have to pay attention to it's subtle messages. .
Jan 24, 2013 Carrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I really liked this book. Usually when I read something by Chesterton, I really want to like it, and then after I finish, I say "What just happened?" and feel super confused.

However, this was wonderful. More later. Maybe.
Sep 01, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing
Finished this one a while ago but haven't marked it as read. Incredibly good. Totally recommend, a must read at least once in your life. Challenges and yet readable and fun.
Scott Lake
Oct 21, 2012 Scott Lake rated it did not like it
I must have missed something. This is one of the most disjointed books I have bothered to finish. I am a gkc fan but I cannot recommend this book if one is looking for a well told tale.
Emma Christmas
Jan 30, 2015 Emma Christmas rated it it was amazing
Once you tune in to his languid linguistic style this book is an absolute joy to read and should be a guide to life.
Alasdair Peterson
Excellent, GKC again challenges his readers to remember how amazing the world we live in really is.
Oct 05, 2016 Barry rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A little bit odd, but fun. It is easier to appreciate if you are already familiar with GKC's ideas, otherwise it might just seem weird.
Alisha Trenalone
Jun 12, 2015 Alisha Trenalone rated it liked it
This book is CRACKERS.
Like, I wasn't sure early on if I was going to finish it because it just seemed so peculiar. I did a lot of skimming. But there was enough humor to keep me going. The problem for me was that the humor was alternated with some passages of what felt like pretty heavy prose, and the tone felt very uneven.
I give you a sample of the hilarity, because when it was funny, it was very, very funny:

"Is that Dr. Warner?" cried Rosamund, bounding forward in a burst of memory, amusement
Jan 11, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: dunredalready
I finished this book in the midst of a wikkid bad pissy spell, so I think my overall impressions of this book were somewhat mottled by my erstwhile emotional shenaniganzerie.

The story is brilliantly arcane, but I honestly wish I had stopped reading about 10 pages short of the end. Maybe it was the mood I was in, but the tidy resolution of the inconceivable complexities presented in the beginning and middle of the book let me down a little bit. In the end (don't worry, I won't spoil it), I had ho
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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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“I don't deny," he said, "that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.” 60 likes
“Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.” 22 likes
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