Vicki's Reviews > The Little Book

The Little Book by Selden Edwards
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's review
Aug 21, 2012

it was amazing
Read in August, 2012

The last male of the Bostonian Burdens, Frank Standish Burden III finds himself walking the broad highway surrounding the culturally rich and beautiful city of Vienna in 1897. The perplexing dilemma he faces is that his last memory is of San Francisco in 1988. He vaguely remembers a traumatic event associated with San Francisco, but realizes he must take steps quickly to fit in and find his way in Vienna, a city he knows much about, but has never visited.

His connection to this time and place comes from a favorite teacher from his prep school days in Boston. Arnauld Esterhazy had a profound influence on Wheeler Burden as well as a couple of generations of St. Gregory Prep School boys, including Wheeler's dad, Frank Standish Burden II, also known as Dilly.

Arnauld Esterhazy (The Haze) was a favorite history teacher, impressing on his students the prevailing attitudes of the intellectual and artistic Vienna youth as the Austrian Empire confidently but naively faced the turn of the 19th century. He had been one of those youths himself in 1897. Dilly Burden grew up in Boston and was an outstanding student and athlete at both St. Greg's and Harvard. He was a war hero in WWII, serving with the French Resistance and was killed by the Gestapo as the War wound down. Wheeler had been a toddler when his father died.

Wheeler is now in his late 40s, but has made a name for himself in athletics at both St. Greg's and Harvard before becoming a musical sensation as part of a rock band, leaving that world behind to edit and publish the accumulated notes of The Haze himself. Because of that immersion in Esterhazy's written thoughts and musings over the last 10 years, he is well prepared to make his way in this world. He realizes he must be very careful not to reveal the future to anyone, but at the same time, try to figure out a purpose and a plan for what to do now that he is here.

Wheeler keeps a detailed journal of his thoughts and conversations with the people he meets. In fact one of the first people he thinks to look up is Sigmund Freud, who he knows will come to meet both his grandmother and his mother in the years to come. He believes his story will intrigue Dr. Freud and perhaps convince him to provide some money and a place to stay in exchange for the fantastic but true story he is prepared to share with the famous psychologist.

Wheeler's resolve to keep a distance between himself and others he might unduly influence is challenged when he meets a beautiful young American woman who also seems attracted to him. Against his better judgement, he begins to spend more and more time with her, even after discovering her true identity. In spite of the age difference, he has met the love of his life.

He also begins to challenge Dr. Freud's theories of psychology, perhaps suggesting some ideas that may affect his developing theories of human behavior.

But perhaps the most shocking meeting occurs when he realizes that a young American man he has met in the coffee shop is actually his father, Dilly Burden himself! The last thing Dilly remembers before arriving in Vienna is the elaborate vision he had constructed for himself to avoid the pain of Nazi torture. But it wasn't a plan to meet the Haze in his native land; Dill's plan now that he is in Vienna is to find the 8 year old child who will become Adolph Hitler and kill him before he has a chance to grow up.

Wheeler's story is ostensibly told by his 90 year old mother, who is writing it in 2005, based on the journal that Wheeler kept while he was in Vienna. This plot is amazing in it's intricacy. It involves historical characters interacting with the fictional characters in plausible ways, and is a fascinating take on time travel and how it could affect the future (and/or the past) in untold ways. The author Selden Edwards is a gifted writer, creating characters with depth and charisma that will keep the reader thinking about them long after the book is finished.

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