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The Little Book
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The Little Book

4.0 42
by Selden Edwards

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Thirty years in the writing, Selden Edwards' 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


Thirty years in the writing, Selden Edwards' 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, a bitter rival, a powerful crush on a luminous young woman, and encounters everyone from an eight-year-old Adolf Hitler to Mark Twain as well as the young members of his own family. Solving the riddle of Wheeler's dislocation in time will ultimately reveal nothing short of one eccentric family's unrivaled impact upon the course of human history.

Edwards, author of The Lost Prince, brilliantly weaves romance, art, history, and culture in this unforgettable and dazzling debut novel. 

Editorial Reviews

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. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

It is 1988, and 47-year-old Wheeler Burden, minding his own business in San Francisco, suddenly finds himself walking along a Viennese street-in 1897. Historical figures including Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, and Gustav Klimt each play roles in Edwards's debut novel, but the main characters are Wheeler's own relatives, strangely collected in a magical time and space. The stellar, low-key narration by Jeff Woodman (An Ideal Husband) helps move along this story, in which fantasy and history combine to create a beautiful snapshot of the beginning of the modern age. Recommended for medium-sized and large fiction collections. [Audio clip available through us.penguingroup.com; the Dutton hc received a starred review, LJ8/08.-Ed.]
—Janet Martin

Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel of oversized ambitions written by a former school headmaster. Edwards plainly dreams no small dreams. He explains in the acknowledgments that this novel has taken him some 30 years to write, though it seems to have its genesis even earlier, in the anything-goes '60s. Or at least that is the setting in which protagonist Wheeler Burden establishes himself as something extraordinary: first as a college baseball pitcher, then as a rock star-veteran of Woodstock, survivor of Altamont, buddy of Buddy Holly, composer of the most famous feel-good anthem of his generation. Yet Burden has walked away (literally) from both the diamond and the bandstand to write a book based on the notebook of his beloved prep-school teacher, followed by a tour that results in Burden's assassination (shades of John Lennon). Somehow (don't ask) death transports Burden to turn-of-the-century Vienna, where most of this novel transpires. Here he encounters his war-hero father, the late Dilly Burden, who attended the same prep school and had the same beloved teacher as Wheeler. Not so coincidentally, that teacher is coming of age in that same 19th-century city. They also meet the notorious anti-Semite who will become Dilly's father and the irresistible woman who will marry him (and with whom Wheeler engages in what is perhaps an incestuous relationship). Wheeler's tale provides fodder for the theories of his analyst, Sigmund Freud, as the plot additionally features cameos by Mark Twain, Gustav Mahler and a very young Adolf Hitler. The burden for the Burdens is to discover whether they have any choice but to let history play itself out as they know it will, a combination of diary and prophecy that Wheelerrecords in the "little book" of the title. That book provides the source material from which his Jewish, pacifist mother crafts this narrative, following instructions that "all of our lives weave together in a fatal and continuous and repeating loop, one not easy to comprehend."Those who demand comprehension will be exasperated, but others willing to suspend disbelief might be enchanted.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 - 14 Years


What People are Saying About This

Richard Ford
Selden Edwards's impressive debut novel is richly inventive, woven tightly with incident, and fully engaging. It is also superbly humane and readable
Pat Conroy
Selden Edwards's The Little Book is a wonderful novel and I think it has a chance to become a famous one. I've never read a novel like it. And I felt like my life was changing forever as I savored its many delights and mysteries.
From the Publisher
"A soaring thing of joy whose only purpose-and I mean this as a compliment-is to delight and entertain."
-Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

"Delightfully mad. . .a thrilling adventure."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"The product of a writer in full command of his gifts."
-Louisville Courier-Journal

"A wide-ranging novel of grand ideas. . .a graceful waltz of a book, spinning at times at dizzying speed, but leaving behind a haunting, unforgettable melody."
-New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Back to the Future for the intellectual set."
-Entertainment Weekly

"Inventive, bracing, poignant and well written. . . it should be at the top of everyone's summer reading list."
-Tucson Citizen

"It's hard not to be thoroughly taken with such an approach to both the real and imagined past."
-New York Daily News

"Required reading."
-New York Post

Meet the Author

Selden Edwards began writing The Little Book as a young English teacher in 1974, and continued to layer and refine the manuscript until its completion in 2007. He most recently authored The Lost Prince. He spent his career as headmaster at several independent schools across the country, and for over forty years has been secretary of his class at Princeton, where he also played basketball. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Little Book 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
MikeS More than 1 year ago
For a historical fiction fan this is a good book. Its placement in late 19th Century Vienna with descriptions of life and morals is interesting and escapist. For that it should get five stars. The time travel aspect supports that rating. The plot is at times hard to pin down, straining comprehension, at times beyond the limits of good fiction, and merits only three to four stars. The characters were, for the most part, stereotyped, like an Austrian melodrama, and rate only a three rating at best. Overall the book was fun, but at times incredulous. It is not for the analytical, more for the escapist. What started out for me as compelling became at times tenuous. The whole seemed to be better than the sum of its parts, but not to the degree to make this a great work. A decent read, yes, a top notch one, not for me.
Alt_Vox More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book because it contained elements of history, an interesting plot and some great characters. Probably not for everyone due to the fantastic premise of time travel but a great book club choice as it would prompt any number of discussions. I would reccomend it to anyone who enjoyed The Life of Pi.
michaelsean More than 1 year ago
Do you ever see a book and just know that you are going to enjoy it? Well The Little Book by Selden Edwards was like that for me. I picked up the book as the cover looked intriguing to me (Yes! I was judging a book by its cover!). I knew I was probably in good hands when the two author endorsements were from Richard Ford and Pat Conroy. Both gentlemen are among my all time favorite writers. After quickly reading the inside of the dust jacket, I was sold. I was not to be disappointed. The book is set during the turn of the 19th century in Vienna. Mr. Edwards weaves in some amazing cameos of people who play a role in the story (Sigmund Freud is a pivotal figure). Whilst I don't want to give the plot away, be ready to explore several time periods from 1897 to 1988. There are some shocking moments in the book that make sense, will still surprise you. The tome wraps up with a flourish that will leave you smiling. If you have an interest in 19th century Europe, prep school, and larger than life heroes, this is the book for you. Although written over a period of 30 years, the prose and dialogue are seamless. Cheers to Selden Smith for a book well-done!
plennander More than 1 year ago
This book was an incredible journey. There were so many twists and turns you never knew what was coming. The backstory of the author is great as well. I can't wait until his next book is published.
Dianne13 More than 1 year ago
This book is fascinating. It has an air of mystery and absolutely charming. It is just The Best Little Book! I highly recommend it. A very relaxing read. I have just finished this book and could not put it down. My only hope is that it does not take Selden Edwards thirty years to bring back Wheeler Burden. A wonderful book. Outstanding. Reminds me of A Winter's Tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book brought me such pleasure with its finely drawn characters and evocation of times and places past. There were twists and turns to keep you reading. But more than that there was joy and romance and history brought together beautifully. Time travel is a hard subject to do well, but Edwards has done magnificently. This book speaks to your heart. It is the author's lifelong project and he has given us a book to cherish for a lifetime. I loved Jack Finney's Time and Again and From Time To Time and now I have found something to compare. Bravo!
Mouser More than 1 year ago
This time travel was a little easier to follow than some. Enjoyed the idea that the characters cross in different time frames. Was a little let down with the ending, but overall and absorbing story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story of one family's ability to time travel is a great read! The men of the family find themselves crossing paths with other family members in some random pattern of mixing up the past with the present...and the future! Two years after having read Mr. Edwards' wonderful story I still think about it, that being the reason I bought the book...so that I can loan it to friends whom I can't wait to dicuss it with! Highly Recommended!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this complex time travel took me on a journey filled with love,life,and adventure.
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Carole Bowen More than 1 year ago
Great fun to read. Reccimended it to others and they all enjoyed it too.
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