Ivanhoe Read-Along: Week 1 Recap

Ivanhoe

Today ends the first week of the Ivanhoe read-along.  It’s also the last day to sign up!  If you’d like to participate, create a blog post, and then sign up through the linky below before 11:55pm, or comment with your Tweet or Facebook post.  We’ve read chapters 1 – 7, but if you’re a little behind, that’s OK!  I’ll mark any spoilers so you can come back after you’re caught up.  Below is the chapter break down:

  • Mon. 24th Nov. – Sun. 30th Nov.: Chapters 1 – 7
  • Mon. 1st Dec. – Sun. 7th Dec.: Chapters 8 – 16
  • Mon. 8th Dec. – Sun. 14th Dec.: Chapters 17 – 25
  • Mon. 15th Dec. – Sun. 21st Dec.: Chapters 26 – 31
  • Mon. 22nd Dec. – Sun. 28th Dec.: Chapters 32 – 38
  • Mon. 29th Dec. – Sun. 4th Jan.: Chapters 39 – 44

Ivanhoe was the final novel of five that Sir Walter Scott wrote in the space of two and a half years!  Can you imagine writing FIVE novels in that short amount of time?!  Ivanhoe is also the 10th “Waverley” novel, but it’s unlike any of the others in that it’s set in England instead of Scotland, and takes its origins from other books instead of living experience.  Even though the book is not considered to be one of Scott’s best by critics, it is his most popular one.  In fact, it was so popular that Thackeray wrote what amounts to fanfic, a “sequel” titled Rebecca and Rowena.

Even though it might seem like seven chapters is a lot to read in one week, the chapters are fairly short and Ivanhoe is just a bit longer than the average novel.  The first seven chapters barely scratch the surface of the story, but they introduce quite a few characters as well as the setting.  We find ourselves in an England populated by Anglo-Saxons who have been conquered by the Normans.  King Richard’s whereabouts are unknown, and Prince John, his younger brother, is running the show while he’s away.

[SPOILERS]  The story begins with Norman knights and prelates seeking the hospitality of Cedric. They are guided there by a palmer, who recently returned from the Holy Land. Also seeking refuge is Isaac, a Jew.  Following the night’s meal, the palmer overhears Brian de Bois-Guilbert issue an order to his Saracen soldiers to follow Isaac after he leaves Rotherwood, capture him, and take him to a noble’s castle.  The palmer warns Issac and helps him escape. The swineherd, Gurth, refuses to open the gates until the palmer whispers something in his ear.  Gurth suddenly turns helpful, and allows them to leave Rotherwood.  Isaac offers to repay his debt to the palmer by offering armor and a horse to participate in the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. He makes the offer after discovering that the palmer is really a knight.  The palmer is surprised but accepts the offer.   [SPOILERS]

So far, I’m enjoying the story, as well as the character descriptions.  This is a more difficult read, since the writing often contains words that had very different meanings during Scott’s time.  Also, it’s very easy to get confused if you’re not paying attention.  I’ve been doing some Googling to refresh my memory on the time period and the historical events that are mentioned.  All of this amounts to Ivanhoe being exactly what I needed to end my reading slump.  I wanted to continue reading past this week’s chapters, but I stopped myself so that I wouldn’t accidentally include anything in this week’s post that shouldn’t be discussed until next week.

How are you enjoying the book so far?  What are your thoughts on the story, characters, setting, etc?  Please mark any spoilers.

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