I'm not sure I've heard a less appealing title for a book - but what can you do? Pudd'nhead IS one of our main characters - an underutilized lawyer living in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi with a penchant for fingerprints and palmistry. At the heart of our story, though, is a case of switched identity - that of an infant light-colored slave and the infant son of his master. What different paths each life is then set upon!
It's an engaging story. I appreciated the intelligence of Twain's way with words - the text is full of good, sarcastic zingers and irony galore. The characters feel a little one dimensional to me now (especially the "bad" ones) but I'm only really bothered by it after the fact. I liked it as I read (and sometimes struggled through the slave dialect) and enough intriguing and horrible things happened to keep me interested. There is race conflict, of course, Italian twins and even a mystery to be solved.
For such a short tale, there is much to think about - how much does our own perception of who we are influence our character? What would you do to avoid your child being "sold down the river?" How much of a person's behavior do we use to judge their character and what flaws do we unconsciously overlook in those we adore? I think we'll have plenty to discuss at book club. Thanks again, Twain.
book 4 of 5 for the 2010 Classics Challenge