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The Little Book Hardcover – August 14, 2008
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
Seldon Edward's novel is an exquisite time machine that feeds itself events which provide the impulse for later events, and earlier ones, too.
A case for the interrelatedness between persons and epochs alike.
The main trunk to this story, with significant secondary branches, follows '70s hippy rocker Wheeler Burden on a time-travel trip through the fin de siecle Vienna of Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gustav Mahler.
Edwards brings to life the intellectual ferment that powered the Austrian capital's rise to prominence in the worlds of music, philosophy, painting, and psychiatry of the time, without being so smart as to turn off those who've come simply to savor a fine tale.
For texture and plot-thickening, the author takes advantage of his time-travel meme to visit the stuffy and WASPy world of a New England prep school, and the more open-aired environment of the Sacramento Valley.
While dabbling in matters both deep and cosmetic, mixing Frisbees with Austrian empresses, and '70s rock with the rise of anti-Semitic thought in Europe, this complex novel sustains a comfortable readability throughout.
The author is masterful in his handling of deep and important subjects in a most entertaining way.
The main character in the story, Wheeler, has traveled back into time and landed right in the middle of 1897 Vienna. It's an interesting time in history and also an interesting time for Wheeler who uses everything at his disposal- his knowledge of history, his knowledge of his past, and his knowledge of his family's past to blend in and survive. Along the way he meets folks who have touched his life or the lives of those close to him in one way or another, in one time and place or another. If this all seems confusing, it's not, Edwards does as a fantastic job of making things crystal clear to the reader and at the same time keeping the reader on her toes.
This book is a triumph as a mystery, a thriller, a romance, and strictly on its literary merits, don't miss it.
Most recent customer reviews
Not what I expected. Not bad though.
This book had so much to love: great characters, time travel,Gustav...Read more