The setting for the story is however, a long way from Moscow. It is a bleak London guesthouse where a range of long term tenants are collectively miserable and directionless. A man, who is identified as one Innocent Smith appears in the garden, accompanied by a great wind. Within pages of his entry, he has induced declarations of love between other tenants, set up an autonomous High Court to deal with the business of the house and arranged to elope with the young companion of one of the house’s inmates. Happiness appears to explode over the house and the jaded and misanthropic feelings of the past are no more. Needless, to say, the story does not end there. Before long two doctors arrive with accusations against “Innocent” Smith that would make anyone raise an eye. Burglary; Desertion of Wife; Bigamy; Attempted murder: the man’s crimes appear to be legion. Is he mad or is he dangerous or is there a mysterious method in his history?
This was not the easiest of book club books to get into. It is a little heavy going due to the language and it is not always simple to work out who is speaking at any one time. It is however, quite funny and deals surprisingly and with a certain surrealistic sanity with the human need for happiness and contentment. What is even better, it can be read online here.
Although it was not a favourite read, the ruminations of one of its female characters on what makes the ideal man spawned a classic book club discussion. It seemed to us that GKC’s message was that to be happy one ought to choose a man with a hobby (however strange, and goodness me, you will find that Innocent Smith’s are strange) so that he isn’t forever hanging around the house. Encouraging.
I spot of googling has uncovered the exciting additional news that there is a film adaptation in postproduction. The latest is here. From the Business School Wives Book Club, goodbye for now.