by Sir Walter Scott
First sentence: “In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and vallies which lie between Sheffield and that pleasant tow of Doncaster.”
Oh, Ivanhoe. How I wanted to like you. I like historical fiction, generally speaking, and I wanted, so very much, to enjoy the book that basically defined it as a genre. I love Robin Hood and the legend surrounding him, and I don’t mind the whole Prince John/Prince Richard, early England thing. In fact, I adore Renaissance festivals. So, it’s not the subject matter.
No, it was the language. The best word I can think of was “stuffy”. And I don’t know why that was: I don’t mind, usually, books written in the early 1800s. I can wade through long, complex sentences. But with you, Ivanhoe, I felt like I was looking at the words, reading them, and then they would just slide right out of my brain. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even tell you half of the main characters, let alone the plot. At one point, I was thinking that maybe I had a bad translation, and if I just found a different one, everything would be okay… then I remembered that Scott was English.
I’m sure you’re a fun adventure story, full of jousts, knights, antisemitism, and silly jesters, but honestly? I’m not sure I care enough to wade through the book again to find out.
I know it’s me, though, and not you.