Friday, 23 July 2010

It's Friday, and that means books...

On this week’s Friday Book Review we have Sir Walter Scott and his works Ivanhoe and The Monastery.

Ivanhoe details the political and cultural enmity between the subjugated Saxons and their Norman-French overlords during the reign of Richard the Lionheart in the twelfth century. Wilfred of Ivanhoe, a brave Saxon knight, returns from the crusades to assist King Richard in recovering his throne from this usurping brother Prince John.”

The three central confrontations are: “the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche, the siege of Torquilstone Castle, and the rescuing of the heroine Rebecca from Templestowe, the seat of the Knights templar.”

The gothic romance finds its way woven between the action scenes, and is every bit as epic, and chivalry is admired above all.

In his tale Scott subtly critiques warfare through the spectrum of his own sight and opinions of the time. The book “pioneered the genre of the historical novel, the literary form most often used to express it.”

This is a delightful read and I do recommend it. It was eons ago I admit when I read Scott’s novels but I do believe they would hold up today in the atmosphere of Twilight and Prince of Persia.

Lifespan: b. 1771 (Scotland), d. 1832
First Published: 1820
First Published by: A. Constable & Co. (Edinburgh)
Full Title: Ivanhoe; or, the Jew and his Daughter

The Monastery

Lifespan: b. 1771 (Scotland), d. 1832
First Published: 1820
First Published by: A. Constable & Co. (Edinburgh)
Original language: English

“Set in the lawless terrain of the Scottish Borders between the years 1550 and 1575, The Monastery records the fate of the isolated Catholic monastery of Kennaquhair as it comes into conflict with the competing doctrines of radical Protestant Reform.

The ruins of Melrose Abbey fired the imagination of Scott, which was close to his home at Abbotsford. He could see there a testament “to the religious and political struggles of Scotland’s past”.

In the book he plays out the ideological conflicts “in the narrative through a range of intense relationships: between the Catholic Sub-Prior Eustace and his one-time school friend the Protestant preacher Henry Warden, between a lover and his beloved, between one brother and the next.”

His sympathies are expressed firmly on the side of Protestant views. “Scott’s decidedly gothic penchant in The Monastery for terror, supernatural suspense, and muted forms of anti-Catholicism is carefully counterbalanced by the comic elements generated through the linguistic idiosyncrasies of Sir Piercie Shafton” (and copied by politicians since!).

“Scott’s romance is at once an account of his native Scottish past, and an anticipation of a national, political, and religious future.” He continues these themes in his sequel The Abbot.

I read Scott when I was an impressionable teenager and remember well being caught up in his passions of the tale. I recommend both these reads.

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