Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

I ran across this book at work. Our ninth grade honors English teacher had his students reading it and it seemed interesting to me (not so much to the students LOL). I decided to download the audiobook and am glad I did.

This story follows a group of people through the return of King Richard the Lionheart to England. There are several main characters: Cedric, Wamba, Gurth, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Rowena, Rebecca, Isaac the Jew of York, the Black Knight of the Fetterlock, Prince John, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Locksley, and the clerk of Clopmanhurst. There are many other characters that are followed as well, but these are the main people. With the title of Ivanhoe I thought the book would primarily follow Wilfred of Ivanhoe, but it mostly follows the Black Knight. The story is pretty much divided evenly amongst the main characters, but he receives a little more attention, probably because he helps the story move between characters.

You begin with Cedric and Brian de Bois-Guilbert. At Cedric’s castle, you also meet Rowena, Isaac the Jew, Wamba, and Gurth (who are actually the first characters you meet, but it is only in passing). You follow these characters to a tournament at Ashby where Bois-Guilbert and several other nights are meeting challengers in a tournament. At the tournament, you are introduced to the rest of the characters. After the tournament, some of the characters are kidnapped. The rest of the story is how Ivanhoe, Locksley, and the Black Knight save the captives. Not all survive, like any of the old classics. The book ends with Richard returning to England and restoring order to the attempted coup being set up by his brother John.

I am very glad I listened to the book because I struggle with French names and this book is full of them. The audiobook lets you not get distracted by the odd spellings and long names. The language in the book is just short of old English in my opinion. They have long interesting words and the unique phrasing that was common to the period it is written for. I love the old language style, but even I had a tiny bit of trouble in parts following the unfamiliar words and style. Most of the time it was easy enough to follow if you paid attention. It is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding read. It gives you the basis for all of the Robin Hood stories and some of the more modern stories of the return of Richard. It was nice to have a more detailed background of what times were like.

The book also gives a great historical perspective as well that is often lost in the more romanticized versions of Robin Hood and King Richard. The book brazenly demonstrates the persecution of the Jews in England, which I myself had not been aware of. Furthermore, the prejudices between the Saxon English and the Norman French is discussed in depth, particularly since Cedric is Saxon and Brian de Bois-Guilbert is Norman. The dissension between the crown and the Knights Templar also begins to surface near the end of the book. It also points out that at the time of King Richard, the English empire actually stretched across the sea and had possession of parts of France, particularly Normandy. People often forget that the empire was not confined to just the British island at the time. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is very in to classical reading. Also, anyone interested in Robin Hood or King Richard would enjoy the book. It would also interest anyone who enjoys medieval history with a slightly romanticized story line. I enjoyed the book, but I probably won’t be picking it up again for a few years. The story line is memorable and interesting, but it will take a while for me to want to focus on the story long enough to take pleasure in the language and phrasing.

My rating:

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