Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

IvanhoeThis was not necessarily a book I was looking forward to.  I feared the language would prove distracting (it was not) and the swashbuckling tiresome (it was exhilarating).

Set in late 12th century England, the Saxons and Normans are in constant battle during  the absence of King Richard I who left to fight the Crusades and failed to return.  There is trickery, thievery, and battles galore.  An assorted cast of characters keeps the tale moving, albeit a bit confusing at times, due to their sheer volume.

The book’s namesake, Ivanhoe, disowned by his Saxon father, Cedric for following King Richard I, a Norman, returns disguised seeking his love, Rowena, a ward to Cedric.  Ivanhoe is a man’s man and a lady’s dream; brave, honest, and chivalrous.  An easy man to cheer on.

Lady Rowena, is thrilled with Ivanhoe’s return, however, Cedric attempts to marry her off to Athelstane, a Saxon in the hopes of maintaining the royal Saxon line.  Rowena is a kind and decent woman, but she puts her foot down and refuses the advances of Athelstane defying her guardian and showing  fortitude.

Rebecca, the beautiful Jewess is a tragic heroine.  She falls in love with Ivanhoe as she nurses him back to health yet disguises her true feelings knowing a relationship is not realistic due to their religious differences.  She is accused of sorcery and put on trial and could be sentenced to death, but for the appearance of…Ivanhoe, who duly returns her favor for saving his life.


A moment of peril is often also a moment of open-hearted kindness and affection.  We are thrown off our guard by the general agitation of our feelings, and betray the intensity of those, which, at more tranquil moments, our prudence at least conceals if it cannot altogether suppress them.  

I’d love to ask Sir Walter how he found the time to produce such works while working, raising a family and being politically active.  Perhaps he’d share tidbits of his early fascination with tales and how he developed his writing so prodigiously.

My rating for Ivanhoe is an 8 out of 10.

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Next up, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s RainbowGravity's Rainbow


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