Thursday, January 10, 2019


Ivanhoe. Walter Scott. 1819. 544 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.

Premise/plot: Wilfred of Ivanhoe is the hero of Walter Scott's historical adventure novel. He has returned from the Crusades but not to a warm, happy welcome from his family. His father, a stubborn Saxon named Cedric, will have none of him. Some of Cedric's servants remain loyal, however, as does his one true love, Rowena. Cedric is determined that Rowena will wed Athelstane and that union will strengthen the Saxon cause. Most everyone else appears to have given up the idea of Saxons uniting and conquering the Norman invaders. But Cedric is the very definition of hard-headed.

When Ivanhoe is injured at a tournament he is rescued by Isaac of York and his daughter, Rebecca--both Jews. Rebecca is a healer with a heart of gold. They are in the act of transporting him when they are deserted by their escorts. They happen to join up with another party--among that party Cedric and Rowena. All--or almost all--are taken captive by a group of Norman villains. Notably among them, Maurice de Bracy who would have Rowena for his wife and Brian de Bois-Guilbert who fancies Rebecca.

Not all of their party are captured and they are able to find support to rescue everyone....

If the novel has a heroine it is Rebecca and not Rowena. So much of the novel's tension focuses on the fate of Rebecca...

This adventure novel features ROBIN HOOD and KING RICHARD I. There is plenty of dashing, daring adventure. Also quite a bit rambling. If you expect ACTION and DRAMA to be equally intense on every page, you'd be disappointed. It's undeniably there, but you have to take it as it comes--on its own terms.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE the movie starring Anthony Andrews as Ivanhoe. I still do. This movie was my motivation in seeking out the novel. I am glad I finally read it.

Honestly I'm not sure if I "love" Ivanhoe--the novel--or if I love, love, love it. There were certainly chapters that I LOVED and found to be wonderfully exciting. Reading those passages, those scenes, you could see WHY so many people have been drawn into the story and wanted it brought to life on the screen. But there were also plenty of chapters that dragged a bit. The pacing was quite naturally uneven. It's packed with details and description.

Would I read it again? Probably yes. It may be another year or two, but I'm sure I'll read it again. 

"We shall meet again, I trust," said the Templar, casting a resentful glance at his antagonist; "and where there are none to separate us."
"If we do not," said the Disinherited Knight, "the fault shall not be mine. On foot or horseback, with spear, with axe, or with sword, I am alike ready to encounter thee." (106)
In finding herself once more by the side of Ivanhoe, Rebecca was astonished at the keen sensation of pleasure which she experienced, even at a time when all around them both was danger, if not despair. (284)
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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