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The Little Book: A Novel Paperback – May 26, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295513
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The subtitle of Edwards's Twain-indebted debut, written over the course of 30 years, might be "A California Yankee in Doctor Freud's Court." Following a physical assault, Stan "Wheeler" Burden is precipitated into the past-1897 Vienna, to be exact-from 1988 San Francisco. Wheeler has been a teenage baseball star and famed rock 'n' roller, but he's dreamed of Vienna since his prep school days, where his teacher, Arnauld Esterhazy, instilled a love of the city's gilded paradoxes. Vienna of 1897 is indeed hopping: Freud is discovering the Oedipus complex, Mahler is conducting his symphonies, and the mayor, Karl Lueger, is inventing modern, populist anti-Semitism-which the young Hitler will soon internalize. Making this a true oedipal drama, Wheeler's father and grandparents come to town, too, all at different ages, and with very different agendas. Edwards has great fun with time travel paradoxes and anachronisms, but the real romance in this book is with the period, topped by nostalgia for the old-school American elite, as represented by the we-all-went-to-the-same-prep-school Burdens. This novel ends up a sweet, wistful elegy to the fantastic promise and failed hopes of the 20th century.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Wheeler Burden one day finds himself mysteriously transported from 1988 San Francisco to the Ringstrasse of 1897 Vienna. This strange occurrence begins a tale that sprawls over 91 years, two continents, two world wars, and a century of intense intellectual, cultural, and political change. Readers also get a great saga about Boston Brahmins, wealthy yet with a morass of tacky little secrets. The author adds to this tasty little ragout cameo appearances by Freud, Mahler, Schoenberg, Wickstein, Mark Twain, Buddy Holly, and Winston Churchill. A leisurely tale, the plot unfolds slowly through a complex structure of multiple viewpoints and narrators. It’s very talky, but the dialogue usually drives the plot forward and is often leavened by touches of ironic humor. Readers may find the overabundance of coincidences maddening, but that won’t keep them from reading on to the shocking climax and the thoroughly satisfying and elegant resolution. Myriad readers will enjoy this book—especially historical-fiction buffs and family-saga devotees—so stock up. --Ellen Loughran --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

An entertaining read that kept me turning pages to see what would happen next.
Tracy Shawn
An absolutly wonderful book, great story, wonderful characters and told in something like a short history lesson.
Wandering boy
I am all for writing about your dreams, but as the main character of a novel I found it too unbelievable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Westley on August 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a self-admitted book-a-holic, and for a book to keep me up and guessing - that's saying a lot. For a book to completely surprise me - that is saying even more. For a book to challenge me intellectually and make me laugh out loud in parts - to be cerebral and totally cool at the same time - sheer delight! How did Selden Edwards pull THAT off? This book makes me want to sit down with the writer and ask a hundred questions about the obvious craft of turning such an outrageous idea (and it is that) into a cohesive story. I didn't want the book to end, and I miss the characters already. My book club is reading it, and I can hardly wait to hear everyone's favorite passage/character/scene/line. It's clearly my favorite book of the summer, and I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't a terrific movie in a summer to come; it plays (and stays) in the mind like the best kind of film.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Karen on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Little Book is impossible to describe and impossible to forget. The characters that Edwards creates- and the insights about different cultures and eras- are nothing short of remarkable. Just like Pat Conroy says on the cover, it forever changes you. I finished it and immediately began re-reading- and was still sad when it was over. It is a perfect book club choice, vacation read, or book to recommend to a friend. You won't be able to put it down!
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. E. Wyllys on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was led to acquire "The Little Book" by a laudatory review that emphasized its setting in fin-de-siècle Vienna, a long-standing interest of mine. Having read the book, I can report two disjunct reactions to it:

1. "The Little Book" offers an intriguingly convoluted time-travel story, centered on 1897 Vienna but jumping repeatedly into and out of the twentieth century. The plotting is ingenious, but the characters are simplistically exaggerated and, hence, less interesting than they might have been.

2. The fin-de-siècle Viennese setting is described only superficially. There is a Kaffeehaus circle of young intellectuals unhappy with their city and its culture; Sigmund Freud plays a major role, and Gustav Mahler, a minor one; the city's Mayor in 1897, Karl Lueger, has a background presence that emphasizes his anti-Semitism; and a bloody street demonstration in November 1897 is witnessed by some of the novel's characters.

Unfortunately, the unfamiliarity of the author (and, apparently, also the editor) with Austrian culture and history is revealed by some atrocious typographical errors.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Time travel is a tricky theme for writers to tackle. It's difficult to make the events and reactions feel real and natural, and to tie up all the loose ends of the plot. It's even harder to do all this and still explore other ideas in the story, giving the fantastic aspects a foundation and relatability. First-time novelist Selden Edwards's tale, THE LITTLE BOOK, presents readers with the story of an amazing family, two members of whom have become dislodged from linear time.

Beyond the incredible lives of three generations of the Burden family, Edwards paints a picture of Europe on the brink of a new age. In 1897 Vienna holds all the promise of a fully realized and splendid civilization. But, as history has shown, collapse and violence were on the horizon.

Wheeler Burden --- famous American college baseballl player, rock star and author --- suddenly finds himself in Vienna. It is the end of the 19th century, and the city is full of artists, philosophers and musicians. It is the time of Mahler, Klimt and Freud, and the youth of the city are part of a social, artistic and intellectual revolution. Because of his prep school mentor, Arnauld Esterhazy (known as The Haze), whose memoir he edited and published, Wheeler knows all about Vienna. He steals some clothes and money and sets off to see the city. But that theft leads to an incredible chain of events that plays out over almost the next 100 years and then circles in on itself starting all over again.

In Vienna, Wheeler comes to meet his war-hero father who died when he was just a small boy. The two, Wheeler and Dilly Burden, agree not to interfere in history (as Dilly has time traveled to Vienna as well), but Wheeler falls in love with the beautiful Bostonian writer Eleanor Putnam.
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59 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Matt Boisen on October 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a historical novel junkie, especially ones that include time travel (see Allen Appel, Jack Finney, etc.). I have visited Vienna, my grandfather was Austrian, and I dig Secessionism and anything having to do with fin de siecle Europe. That said, I was very disappointed with this book, especially when reading how it took 35 years to write. Oh, what a tangled, stilted, unintentionally funny story! The characters are wooden at best, they bob along like the marionettes at Schönbrunn Palace from one chapter to another. Despite all the Freudian discussions (yawn) of the Oedipus complex and sex, which provides the outline of the story, the actual intimate encounters are only coyly suggested by "sudden releases" and much clothing adjustment, as if the author was afraid his grandmother might pick up the book and read it. The narrative is confusing; ostensibly it is done by Wheeler's mother, but it contains many conversations, thoughts and details that no one, not even Proust, would have included in a journal. Edwards' encyclopedic (or shall we say Wikipedic?) references to 1897 Vienna are dropped in like sticky notes, and rarely fit the context of the story. And for Pete's sake, what's with the Frisbee??? Frisbees were the darling of postwar, flying saucer hyped America when baby boomers and play time were in great abundance. What happens when Wheeler discovers the grieving Empress in the Imperial Art Museum? He mumbles apologies about the death of her son and then solemnly gives her his wooden Frisbee! Why? So she can kick back, forget her troubles, grab a bottle of Boone's Farm and throw a few to old Franz Joseph in the Wienerwald? The Wham-O corporation should thank Edwards for the endorsement.Read more ›
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