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Summary

This classic novel by the brilliant G. K. Chesterton tells the rollicking tale of Innocent Smith, a man who may be crazy - or possibly the most sane man of all. Arriving at a dreary London boarding house accompanied by a windstorm, Smith is an exuberant, eccentric, and sweet-natured man. Smith has a positive effect on the house - he creates his own court, brings a few couples together, and falls in love with a paid companion next door. All seems to be well with the world.

Then the unexpected happens: Smith shoots at one of the tenants, and two doctors arrive to arrest him, claiming that he's a bigamist, an attempted murderer, and a thief. But cynical writer Moon insists that the case be tried there - and they explore Smith's past history, revealing startling truths about what he does. Is he the wickedest man in Britain, or is he "blameless as a buttercup"?

Beautifully written, mixing the ridiculous with the profound, full of hilarious dialogue, and lushly detailed writing, Chesterton's main character Innocent Smith somehow manages to restore joy to all the dull and cynical lives around him. In this delightfully strange mystery, Chesterton demonstrates why life is worth living, and that sometimes we need a little madness just to know we are alive.

©1912; 2011 John Lane Company, NY; Ignatius Press (P)2010 Ignatius Press

What listeners say about Manalive

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  • TS
  • 23-09-18

Mixed feelings on reading performance

For at least the first half hour of listening I was downright annoyed the way the reader was reading. To me it sounded too childish like he was reading to a kindergartner. Either I eventually got used to it or he toned it down because I didn't mind as much after a while. He did a very good job doing the voices of the characters though.

The story was classic Chesterton - fun, enjoyable, paradoxical, and intellectually stimulating. Worth the listen. However, unless you are a seasoned reader your likely to be confused about what's going on for the first chapter or two.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Grace Krause
  • 22-03-18

Brilliant!

Brilliant and delightful! G K Chesterton’s mind is wonderfully unique and imminently practical. “Apostle of Common Sense”, indeed!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Gabriel Chaney
  • 08-06-18

Mind blowing. Paradoxical. Witty.

My first Chesterton book and it was amazing. Witty, loving, but hard hitting challenge to a pretentious age. Love the meta letter reading towards the end. Narrator was excellent doing an Irish accent, about 6 English accents, and one or two American accents.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Matt Zainea
  • 15-01-19

A hidden gem brought to new light

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve been waiting for it to come in a good dramatic audio version. This exceeded my expectations. Excellent reader. If you’ve never experienced Chesterton take the plunge here. It’s a great ride.

1 person found this helpful

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  • S. Loveland
  • 17-05-21

A Must Read, Brilliant Performance!

It is a shame that such an amazing book has gone so underappreciated, it is a good thing, then, that this – one of the few audio versions I could find – is easily available on Audible and read by an excellent narrator.
As with so many of G. K. Chesterton‘s books, Manalive is wildly entertaining and challenges me to a better understanding of life. I hope that this book will reach many more people like the enlivening gale that tore into the lives of the book’s characters. I think that now I, like Smith in the story, have been found alive with two legs.

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  • Todd A Sorensen
  • 30-03-21

Pure Chesterton, pure agony

A shrill, screeching rendition of a work of pure delight and levity. Man Alive glows with its own charm and playfulness, a manly version of Mary Poppins. Seek out a different narrator or just read it yourself.

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  • DavidJ
  • 25-02-21

To Miss This Book Would Be A Profound Tragedy

Few books writ
And few words read
Deserve to crest
A human’s head
But to the end
As from its start
This book deserves
Your head and heart.

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  • SSJ33
  • 07-12-20

Great Book!

A modern day (1900) fairytale by one of my favorite authors. Chesterton’s ability to write parables and allegories is amazing!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-10-20

Wonderful

Fun to listen to, a story with a beautiful moral
Would recommend to anyone!

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  • justkeepswimming
  • 31-08-20

Beautiful story

This is a lovely little book which reminds those weary of life why they aren’t dead yet. The sentences are beautifully written and meaning profound. Chesterton is sometimes difficult to follow because his stories couch philosophies within characters’ dialogue and actions. In this case, the meaning is carefully summed up at the end which leaves the reader or listener with a clear statement of meaning. The narrator preformed the story well. It was a listening pleasure.