Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm Reading Ivanhoe

I read a little bit each night before going to sleep. Sometime last month, as I walked through the house toward my bedroom, I realized I'd finished whatever book I'd been reading, and I had nothing to help me doze off. As I walked by a little bookcase, I picked up the first book that came to hand. It was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.
Ivanhoe is no book I had ever planned to read.  As we all know, it's a "boy book," and thus to be avoided by girls. Plus, it's an old, 19th century boy book, which means it's full of endless, descriptive paragraphs leading nowhere. Even my husband looked at me with surprise and declared it "boring."
I disagree.  I'm enjoying Ivanhoe. I like the characters, and I particularly enjoy the time period: 12th century England. This is a familiar time to me: the Crusades are going on, Richard the Lion-hearted is secretly returning to England, and his brother has tried to usurp the throne. These are the sons of Henry II, who had Thomas a Becket murdered in his own cathedral. Great literature is set in this time. There are jousts and castles and kidnappings in the forest.  Goodness -- even Robinhood is there, with his merry men!
I read just a bit each night, never more than I want to. If I get tired after two paragraphs, I close the book. If I'm still enjoying it after two chapters, I keep reading. No obligation, no pressure. For too many years, while I got a BA in English, and then a Masters, I was under quite a bit of compulsion to read classics, lots of classics. I burned out on them, and have avoided them quite well for many years. But I find I enjoy them just fine, if I don't feel compelled. So I nibble away at them, while I nibble on a piece of Hershey's chocolate. Sometimes I don't want chocolate. Sometimes I want three pieces. It's the one time of the day when I let myself do exactly as I want to do.
I'd like to see a movie of Ivanhoe. Apparently Elizabeth Taylor did one, no surprise there. I bet she played the dark-eyed Jewish girl, Rebecca. Roger Moore also played in one version. I suppose he was Ivanhoe himself, who seems unusually absent during much of the story, even though it's named for him. I'm hoping the hero reappears toward the end of the book, because I'm beginning to despair of him altogether.
When was the last time someone recommended Ivanhoe to you? Sir Walter seems to be fading from the public eye and losing popularity. If you like stories of daring-do, consider a trip to the lists for a good joust among the Saxons and Normans. Consider Ivanhoe.


  1. I LOVED Ivanhoe. When I was expecting my fourth baby, I had had enough of what I called "how to be a better Christian" books. Of the new sort of books (and I hadn't started homeschooling yet) I read Ivanhoe first, and I don't remember why. Oh, did I love it! I went on to read many of the Leatherstocking Tales and Dickens and lots of classics I hadn't read ever, even though they had been on a list we got in high school of "books to read before you go to college."
    I was terribly disappointed in the movie. It seemed so Hollywood compared to Scott's depth. I guess there's no surprise there.

  2. I loved the movie (don't remember if I read the book, but I probably did because I read everything!).Thanks for the comment on my post - I definitely have a story brewing, and I sure hope you do get to read it someday!

  3. You are a brave girl. Frankly no one has ever recommended Ivanhoe to me. But truthfully, you've *almost* got me convinced (and the comment from GretchenJoanna pretty much sealed the deal!).

  4. I think I loved the movie because the people were all so beautiful in it! And all those princessy-clothes. When I was little, I loved just about everything Olde English - kinda still do!

  5. I love all the cover pictures! When I was in 9th grade we ahd to read Ivanhoe and we didn't want to. We grumbled about it to each other, read as little as we could so we wouldn't sound totally stupid in class. Mary Kaufmann was our teacher and I think she knew she was pulling teeth. One day we were griping about it in the library before school started and Dave Malone was sleeping on the floor between bookshelves. We all thought he was a sloth and he didn't give us much reason to think otherwise. He sat up and said, "You talking about Ivanhoe? Best book I ever read" and went back to under his parka. Well... THAT put us in our place!

  6. I read Ivanhoe on the train from Paris to London.

  7. I read Ivanhoe in high school, can't remember why - but not as required reading, probably while I was on my Scottish kick after watching a 2 week mini-series of Kidnapped on TBS. I loved it. (You can see I'm behind on reading your blog. Life's been crazily busy all May. Happy belated birthday, by the way. Hope you like your lemon plate.)


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