The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown

Book cover: 'The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown'
G.K. Chesterton
Martin Gardner (notes)
Dover Publications
Number of pages: 
320 pages
Grade / Age level: 

As an avid Chestertonian, I am frequently asked which G.K. Chesterton title I recommend for young people to read. The best and by far the most understandable "first" book of Chesterton's would be The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown.In this book of the first twelve Father Brown mystery stories, editor Martin Gardner has looked up all the obscure references, which Chesterton frequently threw into his stories - mentions of people popular at the time whom we're no longer familiar with, use of obscure of obsolete English words from 100 years ago, slang expressions from 100 years ago - these are explained to the reader's satisfaction in the numerous footnotes by the helpful Mr. Gardner.By reading the annotated version of the story, the Father Brown mysteries come alive for young people. And I must note that since several mysteries in the series refer to murders, even a decapitation, I would recommend this book for ages 13 and up.The Father Brown mysteries are some of Chesterton's most enduring work. In general, people may not remember that Chesterton wrote such classics as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. However, they may recall him as the author of the Father Brown Mysteries, and so it is appropriate to start reading these mysteries first. These mysteries first appeared serialized in various magazines of the times in England. This in part explains the obscure references to people of that day. The other part of the explanation is that Chesterton considered himself a journalist, mainly writing words for newspapers, which would be thrown away shortly after reading. Never did Chesterton imagine that his work would be known and loved 100 years later.If you are interested in introducing your teenager to the works of G.K. Chesterton; or if youare looking for some good fiction for your teen; or if you wanted to start reading Chesterton yourself and didn't know where to begin, I recommend this book.

Additional notes: 

originally appeared in Heart and Mind Magazine, Spring 2005 - used with permission

Review Date: