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.
The Little Book is not really little, but it’s about the making of a “little book” about Vienna and the focal point of this circuitous tale about family, psychology and history. Edwards upends our notions about all three. He creates and recreates a cast of interesting characters – the domineering father, the heroic son and the rebellious grandson. Cameos by historical figures like Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and a young Adolf Hitler provide interesting but neccessary diversions. Time itself is almost a character in the novel and Edwards moves back and forth between time periods with ease. This is a fascinating story not to be raced through, but contemplated. It’s not your average time-travel book and that’s part of the joy of this novel. Edwards like his character, Wheeler Burden, never does what you might expect him to do.