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The Napoleon of Notting Hill

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,567 ratings  ·  240 reviews
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, takes the new order of things seriously, organizing a N ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published July 30th 2008 by Waking Lion Press (first published 1904)
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3.87  · 
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Odd, strange, fantastical 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 about a re-enchantment of the world, I think Chesterton prefigures Max Weber in suggesting a solution before the latter had argued that disenchantment was a consequence of modernity.

Chesterton dances around having fun in a story that allows 'modern Britain' to revert, indeed in fact be reverted to Merrie Englan
Dan Schwent
Oct 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
D. J.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A rather clever book and from which I may not have gleaned all that I might.

Seemed to me to be written on two levels and therefore subject to two interpretations: sheer nonsense on one hand and political philosophy on the other.

It is set in London some time in the future when democracy has “advanced”. The monarch is no longer hereditary but selected at random. The choice falls on a minor government official who is so eccentric it is hard not to believe there isn't some blue blood coursing throug
Laurel Hicks
Wise and zany—it must be GKC.

Truly a parable for our time. A madcap king is taken seriously by lunatic functionary. Chaos ensues.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Some fascinating quotes and an interesting writing style. While I loved the beginning and ending, I felt it just got to be a bit boring and outdated in the middle .
Paul Brogan
Jul 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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 hu
Sep 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, london, 1900s, edwardian
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
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
Kevin de Ataíde
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
"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.
Andrew Orange
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Greatly underrated, visionary dystopia.
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..
Manuel Alfonseca
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
ENGLISH: I read this book in a Spanish translation years ago and didn't like it much. I've given it a new opportunity, but this time in the original English. My reading experience has improved, but I'm still not happy about it.

In "The ball & the cross" Chesterton presents us with a perpetual disputation between two honest people: an atheist and a believer. In "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" the situation is similar, but the two antagonists are the joker and the fanatic.

The problem is I don't
Tyler Jones
Five stars for the brilliant mind behind it, but huge deductions for the idea that there is something glamorous and romantic about war. I am told that when the First World War broke out most European nations greeted the news as something to cheer about, and this has always puzzled me. Reading this book has given me a better understanding of how the 1905 concept of war is so much different than the concept we have of it today.
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
Aug 21, 2008 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
Aug 02, 2016 rated it liked it
THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL. (1904). G. K. Chesterton. ***.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this short novel from Chesterton. My previous experience with his works included his ‘Father Brown’ short stories, and the novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday.” Both of those prior experiences were excellent ones. In this tale, Chesterton takes up about the first one-quarter of the book setting up the scene. It seems as if he wanted to create an alternate universe for the City of London where severa
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Perhaps some people will be surprised to learn that George Orwell was not the first author to write a book set in the future in which the action takes place in the year 1984. Over 40 years earlier, G K Chesterton was also describing events taking place in that year in his first novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

Naturally Chesterton’s vision of the future was very different from that of Orwell. In fact, the England of 80 years hence is almost identical to the England of Chesterton’s time, but w
Diana Long
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Paula Vince
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This book caught my eye at the second-hand shop, and I thought it'd be a good choice for the 'Classic by a New-To-You author in the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. I'd heard of G.K. Chesterton, but knew next to nothing about him. If this first novel and his Wiki page is any indication, he was a pretty colourful character and man about town. The title alone should have given me some indication that this story would be a weird ride, but it still had me shaking my head several times. Not in a ...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??
Chesterton is obviously very witty and clever and uses a lot of literary "tricks" like allegory, metaphors, forshadowing, dramatic irony, etc. But there are times when it seems like he's trying so hard to be clever that I feel like saying what Shakespeare said in "Hamlet" "Less Art; more matter".

In my humble opinion and for the penny it's worth.

Sincerely, Laura-Lee (Rahn)
Hezekiah Brown
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rhetoric, fiction
This is an interesting exploration of what makes people passionate about things, and what keeps life from getting dull. Namely, love and laughter. Written in Chesterton's iconic humor this is a good light book for anyone looking for good material in a fun package.
Nate Hansen
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Chesterton is always at his best when he has a slightly ludicrous cast doing slightly ludicrous things. In the Napoleon of Notting Hill, he's created a story and a dramatis personae that are really very hard to beat, and used them to such effect that this book is a rare treat. Five stars - definitely worth a read.
Don Incognito
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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)
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
What an absurd, distressing little book.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
“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.” 94 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.” 31 likes
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