The Little Book: A Novel – Selden Edwards


An irresistible triumph of the imagination more than thirty years in the making, The Little Book is a breathtaking love story that spans generations, ranging from fin de siècle Vienna through the pivotal moments of the twentieth century.

The Little Book is the extraordinary tale of Wheeler Burden, California-exiled heir of the famous Boston banking Burdens, philosopher, student of history, legend’s son, rock idol, writer, lover of women, recluse, half-Jew, and Harvard baseball hero. In 1988 he is forty-seven, living in San Francisco. Suddenly he is still his modern self wandering in a city and time he knows mysteriously well: fin de siècle Vienna. It is 1897, precisely ninety-one years before his last memory and a half-century before his birth.

It’s not long before Wheeler has acquired appropriate clothes, money, lodging, a group of young Viennese intellectuals as friends, a mentor in Sigmund Freud, a bitter rival, a powerful crush on a luminous young American woman, a passing acquaintance with local celebrity Mark Twain, and an incredible and surprising insight into the dashing young war-hero father he never knew.

But the truth at the center of Wheeler’s dislocation in time remains a stubborn mystery that will take months of exploration and a lifetime of memories to unravel and that will, in the end, reveal nothing short of the eccentric Burden family’s unrivaled impact on the very course of the coming century. The Little Book is a masterpiece of unequaled storytelling that announces Selden Edwards as one of the most dazzling, original, entertaining, and inventive novelists of our time.


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