It’s taken me about three months to get through Ivanhoe. Partly because it is fairly long (my penguin edition is around 500 pages) but also parts of it require quite a bit of concentration.
Anyways it’s a story about Ivanhoe – a knight who has come back from the crusades, but at first no one knows who he is. Which, as you keep reading, becomes a bit of a theme in this book. There’s quite a few characters who keep their true identity hidden at first. Although often you can see through it straight away. But back to Ivanhoe. He wants to marry Rowena who he has known from childhood. The problem is his father does not want Ivanhoe to marry Rowena because Rowena is a Saxon princess and he wants her to marry Athelstane, heir to the Saxon throne, so that they can put a Saxon back on the throne of England. So Ivanhoe ends up getting banished because he won’t stop wanting to marry Rowena.
Which is the Saxon part of the story.
The Norman part is about Richard the Lion Heart and Prince John and also Robin Hood. So basically the whole story is about who should be King of England.
The whole thing about Saxons and Normans made the start of the book a bit hard to get through. But at the start you meet two of the best characters, Gurth and Wamba, who are both at the bottom of the food chain but are brilliant and probably braver than some of the knights. Gurth – another one who hides his identity for part of the story – runs off to follow Ivanhoe and although later gets in trouble for it ends up saving the lives of Ivanhoe’s father. And Wamba isn’t far behind him when it comes to heroic rescues.
Along with Gurth and Wamba you have some characters that are supposed to be serious but come off as hilarious. Brian de Bois-Guilbert needs to make up his mind about whether he is good or bad, and ultimately about what he wants. Athelstane, probably not meant to be serious, but all he is about is food and drinking and at first I wasn’t a fan of him, but he comes good in the end.
Robin Hood also features, but not as much as I thought he would. While everyone else is charging around on their horses he is keeping an eye on things and making sure he is always handy with his bow and arrows when needed.
Oh and Ivanhoe spends most of the book wounded and out of action. Yet makes at least two people fall in love with him.
For all that I did enjoy reading it. Scott makes you love or hate the characters he creates and the story is exciting. I just wouldn’t take his novel as historical fact or anything like it.