Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: The Little Book

By Sandy Amazeen Jul 3, 2009, 3:09 GMT

Book Review: The Little Book

Thirty years in the writing, Selden Edwards’s dazzling first novel is an irresistible triumph of the imagination. Wheeler Burden—banking heir, philosopher, student of history, legend’s son, rock idol, writer, lover, recluse, half-Jew, and Harvard baseball hero—one day finds himself wandering not in his hometown of San Francisco in 1988 but in a city and time he knows mysteriously well: Vienna, 1897. Before long, Wheeler acquires a mentor in Sigmund Freud, ...more

Thirty years in the creating, this engaging, frequently confusing tale spanning three generations of the Burden family uses time travel as a means of exploring the changing political and social attitudes during the turn of the twentieth century. After a physical attack, famous American baseball player, Stan Wheeler Burden suddenly finds himself in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century. It is a vibrant time, the is city filled with brilliant artists and thinkers like Klimt and Freud but Wheeler must first attend to the basics of survival.

His petty theft of clothing and money launches a complex chain of events that play out over the course of a hundred years. With an unusual twist to the Oedipus complex, Edwards raises the difficult issue of incest when Wheeler falls madly in love with Boston author Eleanor Putnam who happens to be his grandmother. The story moves from 1897 Vienna to 1988 San Francisco with finely drawn characters that confront the issues of anti-Semitism, cultural upheavals, the emerging science of psychoanalysis to name a few.

Below the surface of this time travel adventure lays a tale of great expectations, shattered hopes and a certain loss of innocence that was all a part of the early twentieth century. The characters are frequently larger then life as they come off as just a bit too talented and influential but Edwards might be forgiven as a story this ambitious requires compelling figures. This is an inventive, thought provoking stroll through a dynamic period of world history.

 



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