Ivanhoe is the fourth of my Classics Challenge novels and one I was looking forward to. In this particular case, I wish I had chosen to read the written version as opposed to listening to it as an audio book. I'm afraid I didn't care for the narrator. I think had it been better read, it would have been a fantastic book. As it was, I listened to parts of it on the faster setting, just so I didn't have to spend more time than necessary listening to the narrator. Often he made the characters sound like bad robots instead of actually infusing emotion into the reading as I'm sure was intended. This is just my opinion, mind. I know there are people out there who liked the narrator, so it's a question of personal taste.
The story is brilliant. There's intrigue, murder and bloodshed enough to keep just about anyone interested. It ought to be a must in schools to get children interested in the classics. Even though it is fiction, it still paints a fairly accurate picture of history and how life must have been at the time, although certain aspects may have been exaggerated or romanticised in order to make the story more palatable.
One of the less pleasing aspects of the novel is Scott's portrayal of the Jews and their treatment by the English people. It was all quite shocking to read. Most people wouldn't dare publicly profess such opinions of any race/creed these days, but in that era, it was quite common and this is a good reminder of that, and also of how far we have come in that respect. I thought Scott did this well, even if it did shock me. he didn't use the opportunity to "preach" to the reader, nor did he heavy handedly portray the Jew and his daughter as innocent victims while completely vilifying the Christians. Not all of the Jew's actions were commendable and not all of the Christian's reprehensive. That kept the narrative believable and prevented it from becoming ridiculous.
Scott himself billets the novel as a romance, and it is, but not quite in the manner we think of romances today. He uses the desired liasons as catalysts for the rest of the story, when in reality, much of it has to do with politics and power, as is usually the case when more than one man with a sword is present, or even when there is only one man and a sword. That is to say that more fighting and less love making take place as the story unfolds.
I particularly liked the ingenious way that Scott integrated the popular story of the honourable Robin Hood into the action. It was intriguing to hear all of the references to come up as the did and to try and guess what would happen next based on the knowledge of the Robin Hood tales. It made it all the more interesting.
This was another good book that I can recommend to anyone who likes a little action in their classics.