Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ivanhoe Book Review

June's category for the Monthly Classics Challenge was a British classic. Clearly, I'm rather behind on reviewing it, but I can assure you that I did read it within the month of June, and maybe I'll even write a prompt review of July's choice to compensate. ;)


Goodreads Synopsis: IVANHOE (1819) was the first of Scott's novels to adopt a purely English subject and was also his first attempt to combine history and romance, which later influenced Victorian medievalism. Set at the time of the Norman Conquest, Ivanhoe returns from the Crusades to claim his inheritance and the love of Rowena and becomes involved in the struggle between Richard Coeur de Lion and his Norman brother John. The gripping narrative is structured by a series of conflicts: Saxon versus Norman, Christian versus Jew, men versus women, played out against Scott's unflinching moral realism.

You can see the many themes, plots, and characters running about between the pages, and for that I respect Walter Scott. However... I wasn't overly impressed.


You may have heard that the character development(or lack thereof) is Ivanhoe's weakest point. And yes, it was pretty poor. Rebecca was awesome. Wamba was funny. All the Robin Hood people were epic, but everyone else was fairly one-dimensional, even Ivanhoe.

Why was it named after him, by the way? That'd be like naming A Tale of Two Cities Sydney Carton. ;)


Ivanhoe is unique in that a couple conflicts threaded through the entire novel, while others unfolded in a chain of rather disconnected problems. Do you know what I mean?

I prefer books with a single, main conflict that nags from beginning to resolution without resolving itself only to reincarnate as a fresh inconvenience. But that's just my style.


Had the writing been lighter and much more focused, I think I would have enjoyed it twice as more. Beware if you are a slow reader like me. :)


Minus a few gripping scenes, and some laughs at the expense of the Friar, there wasn't much in the way of entertainment. But that's partly just me being a slow, easily distracted reader.


So there it is. I did like it better than this review probably suggests. It was most likely the heavy, wandering writing that ruined the otherwise intriguing story for me.

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Have you read Ivanhoe? What did you think? 

Are there any good movie versions you'd recommend? 


  1. I haven't read Ivanhoe or seen the movie, so thanks for the intriguing review. I just wanted to say that A Tale of Two Cities should totally be named Sydney Carton. Because he's amazing. ;D

    1. Hehe, well... it should be, in a way, but don't you think that'd be giving away the ending? :)

      But yes, he is amazing. :D

  2. I read it back when I was in college, and loved it. The TV miniseries from the '80s with Anthony Andrews and Sam Neill is really good!

    1. I've heard of that one! My library system has it, so I'd like to watch it sometime. :)


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