AusReading Month 2014


What  a wonderful  Australian reading  month 2014 in November  at Brons’s Books!


  • Last year I discovered Nevil Shute
  • He is often forgotten and that is a shame.
  • If you are looking for a book I could suggest A Town like Alice ( 1950), On the Beach (1957) or Trustee from the Toolroom ( 1960).


  • This year I am happy that Brona kindkly suggested reading a book I can add to my Classic Book List 2014: The Harp of the South by Ruth Park.
  • The book has been translated in to 37 languages and has never gone out of print,.
  • It sounds like a great book about post WW II growing up in a gritty Irish slum in Sydney Australia.
  • Controversial with some members of the public at the time due to its candour, it won the best novel award in a writer’s competition sponsored by the Sydney Morning Herald in 1946.
  • It was later published in 1948.


Put the Foster’s beer on ice, fire up the barbie because  I’m  ready to join the

AusReading Month 2014 at Brona’s Books!

Top 50 Australian Books To Read Before You Die !





Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Uncategorized


Five Women Who Loved Love


  • Author: Saikaku,  Ihara (1641 – 93), novelist and poet
  • Cover: Japanese Gallery, London. It was impossible to discover who painted this image.
  • Genre:  books of the floating world :  type of popular fiction written between the 1680s and the 1770s (ukiyo-zoshi)
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
  • Published: original  1685  (paperback 1989)
  • Table of contents: 5 stories covering 188 pages. The book  contains a 2 pg forward, 13 pg introduction, critical essay by Richard Lane of Colombia University 17 pg and 31 pg of illustrations.
  • Illustrated by: Yoshida Hambei ( 17th C)
  • Translated by: Wm Theodore de Bary in 1956
  • Dedication: to Fanny
  • Theme:    Obligation to the wishes of the family,  all consuming desire (…as a lifestyle), sin never goes unpunished
  • Setting: Japan
  • Trivia: Saikaku was one of the most popular writers of the entire  Tokugawa period ( 1603 – 1868) . At the time his work was never considered “high” literature.
  • Trivia: Once  considered as vulgar, Saikaku is acclaimed as a  great realist, largely because of his minute and accurate descriptions of characters, customs, abnormal passions of his day.

 Tokugawa period:  (1603 – 1868)  

  • Social order, based on inherited position rather than personal merits, was rigid and highly formalized
  • Individual had no legal rights in Tokugawa Japan
  • Family was the smallest legal entity
  • Maintenance of family status and privileges was of great importance


  • In Five Women Who Loved Love  Saikaku’s characters often fall in love in ways that violate social law and custom.
  • They meet “justice” ultimately on the execution ground.
  • What interested me was that time and time again, the women in his stories had complete control over the men.
  • Men seem to have their  souls drawn out of them by their women.
  • Domination is not achieved just by the fact that they are women, but also by their intense beauty.
  • I have chosen to look deeper into the first story….and will let you discover the other 4 during your own reading!.

Number 7 : 

  • First story refers to  7 entertainers (pg 57) , 7 people in a boat ( pg 62) , Onatu did not eat for 7 days (pg 67)
  • Second story begins on the 7th day of autumn ( pg 76) – silk clothes piled 7 high ( pg 76) – There are 7 mysterious things in the Temma section of Osaka (pg 82) – in 7 days these women are out looking for other husbands (pg 106 )

The Story of Seijuro in Himeji  (pg 41 – 72)

Strong points:

Theme: obligation

  • pg 68  An oracle reveals the basic theme to Onatsu in a dream:
  • “..if you had taken a husband in accordance with the wishes of your parents, you would not have had anything to worry you…


  • pg 69 Saikaku used the literary  device ‘pathos’ to bring the narrative and character of Seijuro  closer to real life.
  • 700 gold pieces believed to have been stolen by Seijuro were found.
  • Unfortunately Seijuro was already executed for the crime.

Color to express emotions:

  • pg 45  Minikawa wears garments of white  ….as she is ready to die
  • pg 56  young ladies wear garments of red….as they are about to enjoy a picnic in the woods
  • pg 71  Onatsu  wears garments of black….as she is ready to  “die emotionally” yet remain living  in piety in  a convent

Images: ( often used in Haiku poetry)

  • pg 42  Seijuro puts a sign on his door “Treasure of the Floating World’ ( urban lifestyle, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects)
  • pg 69  People witnessing Seijuro’s execution  think ” …that is the way of the Fleeting World’ ( life passing quickly)
  • Saikaku  illustrates  that Seijuro has passed from the sensuous, erotic world to the world of reality and death.


  • pg 45: Seijuro is speechless with delight  to find his lover is fatihful after all
  • Irony:  Minakawa has to  threaten to kill herself to prove her fidelity to him


  • Sensual is the best word I can think of.
  • These aren’t racy, graphically sexually oriented stories where the men are simply out to sleep with the women, but stories that emphasize and highlight the amazing beauty of women.
  • We also read about the  the cruelty and pain that often accompanies that beauty.
  • Saikaku appears to approve of the harsh penalties of the Tokugawa code.
  • Yet at the same time he describes the illicit love affair with such gusto that no reader can believe he is absolutely condemning his lovers.
  • Saikaku examines his society while at the same time amusing it.
  • Last thoughts: If you read the stories without researching  Saikaku, his backround and life….then you will miss so many facets of his writing. Be prepared to do some work!

Score: 3






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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Paul Veyne: Souvenirs ‘Et dans l’éternité…’


  • Author: Paul Veyne (1930)
  • Title: Et dan l’éternité, je ne m’ennuierai pas  ( And in eternity,  I wil not be  bored)
  • Cover: Photo of Paul Veyne
  • Genre:  Memoires
  • Publisher: Albin Michel
  • Published: 2014
  • Table of contents: 15 chapters,  260 pages
  • Dedication: Valérie Sandoz, en gage  de respect et de reconnaissance
  • Trivia: Honorary Professor at the College de France, Paul Veyne was  born in 1930. He is  one of the greatest literary historians of ancient Rome.
  • Trivia:  He lives in  Bédoin in the Vaucluse (SE France) at the foot on Mont Ventoux enjoying his golden years in peace and quiet.


  1. Veyne was a disappoint for his ‘social climbing mother. “…c’est que tu aimes lire, mais que tu n’est pas intelligent.”
  2. You like to read but you’re not intelligent.  (pg 16).
  3. Veyne begins his memoirs with these words: All that I will tell you is true, I was married 3 times, like Cicero, Caesar and Ovide.
  4. J’ai achète le bouquin motivé par la curiosité de l’histoire de cet homme.”
  5. Paul Veyne is ‘la rentrée littéraire’! His souvenirs are my first new book.
  6. Veyne admits his only ambition was ‘ d’être une personne cultivée”.
  7. Why and how he succeeds is a fascinating story!

Strong point:

  • Veyne´s writing style is accessible and very  personal.
  • He introduces us to his Virgil, René Char, Michel Foucault ( both students à l’Ecole normale de Paris)
  • His thoughts about  his commitments, his job, his conception of death, faith and love will surely linger in my mind
  • I was deeply moved by his  friendship with Georges Ville (1927 – 1967) )  Cela  m’a beaucoup marquée.
  • Veyne  makes  the comparision of this friendship with Ville  to the one between Montaigne et La Boetie: “…Parce que c’ était lui, parce que c’ était moi”
  • This was very touching to read and really left its mark.

Weak point:  membership in the Communist Party

  • As a member of the Communist Party during his student years ( pg 43 – 129) , he was sending a signal that  he did not want to be just another ‘member of the right’
  • The chapters concerning his membership were not very interesting.
  • Veyne decided to destroy is Communist Party card when the Russians invaded Hungry in 1956.
  • In short Veyne was outraged by this action and decided his time in the Party was just misplaced altruism, (the concern for the needs of others)

Voice of Paul Veyne:

His favorite church in Rome:    Église Sainte-Marie-Majeure

  •  “Une église gothique est une institution, Sainte-Marie-Majeure (Rome)  est une personne
  • …Car je l’aimais” (pg 128)

His favorite poet:   René Char

Veyne is a great admirer of the poet René Char. Paul felt after meeting him that  he had truly received a ray of sunshine in his life. (see quote)

  • “Et Rene Char aura été la seul personnalité charismatique que j’aie rencontrée de ma vie.
  • Je sortis de chez lui avec le sentiment physique d’avoir reçu un coup de soleil. “(pg 112)

WW II:      Resistance:

  • On page 54 and 134 Veyne repeats a question that continually haunts him:
  • `si j´avais été d´ âge d´adulte, aurais-je eu le courage de faire de la résistance?`
  • If I were old enough woud I have had the courage to join the French Resistance during W II?


  • This poem by Jean de Sponde  has haunted Veyne  for 53 years.
  • He is not afraid of death but regrets the  ´tristesse´  of the end of life.
  • I have not read much poetry but am inspired to learn this poem by heart…..
  • The poem was published in 1588 by  Jean de Sponde (1557 – 1595).
  • Sponde develops the theme of death especially the `the instability of life, its fragility´.
  • The presence of death in the midst of man’s life inspires man to seek eternity and to reach out to god.

Mais si faut-il mourir
Mais si faut-il mourir, et la vie orgueilleuse,
Qui brave de la mort, sentira ses fureurs,
Les Soleils hâleront ces journalières fleurs,
Et le temps crèvera cette ampoule venteuse.

Ce beau flambeau qui lance une flamme fumeuse,
Sur le vert de la cire éteindra ses ardeurs,
L’huile de ce Tableau ternira ses couleurs,
Et les flots se rompront à la rive écumeuse.

J’ai vu ces clairs éclairs passer devant mes yeux,
Et le tonnerre encor qui gronde dans les Cieux,
Où d’une ou d’autre part éclatera l’orage,

J’ai vu fondre la neige et ses torrents tarir,
Ces lions rugissants je les ai vu sans rage,
Vivez, hommes, vivez, mais si faut-il mourir.


  1. There are a few  words to describe Paul Veyne: erudite, sassy yet  very reflective.
  2. Reflective suggests careful analytical deliberation, as in reappraising past experiences.
  3. This resulted in a wonderful combination of scholarly thoughts about  his speciality, the study of Ancient Rome  and   his ´je  m`en fiche` attitude about life, love, politics and religion.
  4. One thing Veyne revealed in very personal terms was the concept of death.
  5. His son committed suicide when he was 29. This has scarred Veyne´s life.
  6. There are so many facets to discover about this  ´gem of a man´.
  7. This book was only a short introduction.
  8. I felt a close connection to this author just by the way he wrote and his  amère lucidité  (bitter  clearsightedness).
  9. I would recommend reading any book by Paul Veyne.
  10. Last thought: I am so blessed that I  can read his works in French.

Score:  5

EXCLUSIF : "La Grande Librairie" a Versailles, sur France 5


Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


Fall Vacation !



It has been a busy reading  year and it is time to take some  vacation!

I read  57 books and 22 of them in French.

I will be back soon……!!



Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


Dans l´ombre de la lumière




  • This is my first review in French. I hope I have not made too many mistakes!
  • Translation is at the end of the review.


Ecrivan: Claude Pujade-Renaud
Genre: roman à clef
Personnages principals : Elissa, Augustinus, Adeodatus, et la mère d’Augustinus, Monica.
Endroit: Carthage, 410 AD

Edition: 2013

Trivia: Prix du Roman Historique, Les Rendez-vous de l´histoire – Blois


Dans l’ombre de la lumière est un roman à clef qui touche personnellement un ou plusieurs individus, leur prêtant des actions, des propos, des comportements, entourés d’un parfum de l’amour interdit.

Elissa est une femme rejetée par Augustinus. Elle avait compris dès le début qu’ils ne se marieraient jamais. Ce bouquin, Dans l´ombre de la lumière, s’agit du récit de leur amour, la naissance de leur fils, Adeodatus, et de la tristesse infinie.

Dans ce journal intime, on peux capter amplement les pensées d´une femme qui acceptait de rester en coulisses de la vie d’Augustinus. Elisse exposait ses péripéties, ses émotions et ses états d´âmes.

Le style est très intime.

Ce que m´a conquis était que l´écrivan, Pujade- Remaud, ne se nous prive pas des pensées chaleureuses d´une femme façonnée par l´amour, une femme indifférente aux dieux et maîtres.

Elissa reste une ombre aspirante qui entourait Augustinus.

Enfin, ce livre est de bonne qualité. Un régal!



  • In the shadow of the light is a roman a clef that personally affects one or more individuals, lending their actions, remarks, behaviors, surrounded by the scent of forbidden love.
  • Elissa is a woman rejected by Augustinus. It was understood from the beginning that they would never marry.
  • This book, In the shadow of light, is the story of their love, the birth of their son, Adeodatus, and infinite sadness.
  • In this diary, we can fully capture the thoughts of a woman who agreed to stay behind the scenes of the life of Augustinus.
  • Elisse exposed her adventures, her emotions and her moods.
  • The style is very personal.
  • What won me over was that the author, Pujade- Remaud, does not deprive us of the warm thoughts of a woman shaped by love, a woman indifferent to the gods and masters.
  • Ellissa remains a hopeful shadow surrounding Augustinus.
  • Finally, this book is of good quality. A real treat!



Posted by on September 7, 2014 in Uncategorized


La Terre



  • Author:   Emile Zola
  • Genre:   novel
  • Title:      La Terre
  • Published: 1887
  • Table of Contents:  5 parts, 553 pages
  • Book: Published by  Le Livre de Poche
  • Cover: Gil Blas
  • Setting:  Beauce area North of France between Seine – Loire rivers; village of Rognes
  • Themes:   greed, inheritance, individual’s appetite for land
  • Trivia: Le Gil Blas was a Parisian literary periodical. It is named for Alain-René’s novel  Gil Blas. It serialized many  famous novels such as Zola’s Germinal, L’Oeuvre and Lourdes before they appeared in book form.
  • Trivia:  Published  in 1887  Zola yet again causes a scandal  because La Terre  gives the  reader a glimpse into the raw, shocking and brutal life of « les paysans ».
  • Trivia: Zola was critcized by  ‘Le Manifeste des Cinq’ .
  • Five young naturalist writers accused him of  being bogged down in the ‘vulgar’ and motivated  solely by monetary gain.

Structure:  5 parts

  1. Jean Macquart:  29 yrs, returned from The Second Italian War of Independence 1859,
  2. Illegitimate birth of Jules: =  Marriage  Lise – Buteau
  3. Buteau agrees to share the Fouan inheritance =  family conflicts,
  4. Family squabbles, violence, abuseMarriage Jean- Françoise
  5. More abuse, violence and deaths ( murder or accident?)  =   I see no happy ending here!


  • This is a working-class novel describing the hardships and brutality of rural life in the late 19th C.
  • Jean Macquart arrives in the peasant community of Rognes in the area called  Beauce.
  • Jean  finds himself involved in the corrupt affairs of the local Fouan family.
  • Old Man Fouan has decided to divide his land between his three children.
  • But in a community where land is everything, sibling rivalry quickly turns to brutal hatred as Buteau declares himself unsatisfied with his lot.


  • There are there are more than 100 different characters in the book !
  • The action revolves mainly around:

Jean Macquart: 

  • 29 yrs, born in Plassans,  brother of Lise Quenu [Le Ventre de Paris ]  and Gervaise Coupeau  [ L' Assommoir ]
  • He settles in Rognes after leaving the armyBefriends Lise and Françoise Fouan ( cousins of Fanny, Hyacinthe Fouan) and marries Françoise.
  • He has no interest in possessing the land. He just wants to be a farm worker.


  • 14  yrs at the beginning of the book, is honest and hardworking. She is devoted to her sister but feelings change once Lise marries Buteau.
  • She demands her share of the inheritance after her father dies.
  • Unfortunately she is physically abused by Buteau on several occasions.
  • Françoise esapes her situation and marries Jean Macquart.
  • Yet he cannot save her from her violent death.

Buteau Foran:

  • He is married to Lise.
  • Violent and stubborn  he is obsessed with owning the farmland.
  • He is capable of using his ‘killer instincts’  and is responsible for three deaths in order to get what he wants.
  • His wife pales in comparison to her violent husband, but she is an accomplice in two of the murders

The Fouan family:

  • Parents Fouan, eldest son, Hyacinthe (aka Jesus-Christ), daughter Fanny married to Delhomme and the second son Buteau.
  • Fouan’s have worked the lands for years and want to divide the inheritance among the children.
  • This is where the problems and family conflicts begin.
  • Fouan is disgusted with his son-in-law, Buteau.
  • Hyacinthe is a simple fool, perpetually drunk and dabbles in small time theft, poaching and gambling. He has no wish to continue to work the bevloved land of his father.
  • Delhomme and Fanny lead a honest life and are a hardworking couple.
  • Fanny cares for her father but rations and rules everything in his life ( food, drink, tabacco). She is a penny-pinching daughter with insatiable desire for wealth (greedy).
  • She  falls out with her father and they never reconcile their differences..

Strong point:  Zola’s extensive  research

  • Zola lived  on  a farm for a month. He listend to the local stories, observerd  the daily peasent life. He was interested in  the morals of the village, the rituals of births, marriages, deaths  and the accidents.
  • The death of the old Fouan is based on the story of an old farmer who was killed by his family because it cost too much to feed him!
  • Zola did his homework by reading : L’Histoire des paysans  by  Eugène Bonnemère ( 3  huge volumes )  and les Pensées by l’abbé Joseph Roux.
  • These books  gave Zola a basic knowledge of country life.
  • The former  revealed the individual’s appetite for land and the latter the theft of the land by ground rents and taxes.
  • Both topics became themes in the book.

Strong point:   camera like  descriptions

  • The ‘paysage’ (envrionment) is one of the main characters in the book.
  • Zola can describe the land as a panoramic shot or zoom in to the left or right or even give us a close up of the characters to  reveal their thoughts ( exressions).
  • As in many books Zola uses shadows, light and colors to ‘paint’ with  words.
  • Buteau can recognize the variety of grains in the fields by their colors  “le vert jaune du blé, le vert bleu de l’avoine, le vert gris du seigle ” (pg 222)

Weak point:

I could not enjoy ONE of the characters…..NOT ONE!

Sharp contrasts:

  • Characters:  Zola describes humans as machine-like, the faceless farmers  working synchronized in the fields or the rythmn of a blacksmith. (pg 304)
  • La Terre:  Zola describes  ‘La Terre’  as human. Buteau looks at ‘la terre’ as a lover contemplates his mistress “il la desire  [...] sa jeunesse…” ( pg 222-223)
  • Beginning of the book:   Jean is sowing seeds  in the field for growth, regeneration.
  • End of the book:   Jean is leaving Rognes and watches the labourers once again scattering the seeds in the fields, giving the book a ‘full circle’ feeling.

Connecting the dots:

  • The novel is connected to the other novels in the series by the character  Jean Macquart, His  childhood was described in La Fortune des Rougon.
  • La Terre begins and ends with a scene in the fields while a farmers scatters the seed. This  ‘full-cricle’ feeling is also seen in the beginning and end of:
  • Nana. (starts in an empty theater  – ends in an empty bedroom),
  • Le Ventre de Paris ( Florent returns from Devil’s Island – at the end he is deported back to ‘au bagne’).
  • La Faute de l’abbé Mouret ( Serge suffers from and excessive religious fervour – at the end of the book he has  sunk even deeper in this frenzied faith)
  • There  are strong  ties between the  La Terre and  King Lear  (Shakespeare). The father decides to share his wealth among his children.
  • I cannot  spend  time investigating this interesing connection. It would involve much more work, study and another blogpost!
  • It is a ‘nice to know’  element about the book.

Irony:  None!


  • This was NOT a  pleasure to read.  
  • It is a portrait of a struggling and very , dysfunctional  family  community.
  • << C’est le pire livre de Zola que j’aie jamais lu! >> 
  • The  worst Zola book I have ever read!
  • I agree with  ‘Le Manifeste des Cinq’  that Zola goes  ‘over the top’  with vulgarity, rape, abuse, violence and murder.
  • Last thoughts: I had to read it to finish the series but would never recommend the book!
  • Score was almost 1...but he is a classic writer, that is the only thing that kept the book on score 2.
  • Bah!

Score:  2





Posted by on August 31, 2014 in Uncategorized




  • Author: Sir Walter Scott  (1771 – 1832)
  • TtileWhy did Scott name the book Ivanhoe ?
  • The great Lords of Hampden  offered  King Edward III three rich estates to smooth over an argument: Tring, Wing, and Ivanhoe.
  • Scott thought the name “Ivanhoe” had a certain ring to it.   It’s not easy selecting a title!
  • Cover: detail 15th C manuscript showing a tournament, ( see end of my review)  I choose a portrait of a ´good knight´  because it looks so ‘chivalresque‘!
  • Genre:   Novel (historical romance)
  • PublisherPenguin Classics
  • Published:  1820
  • Table of contents: 44 chapters, 401 pages, introduction, chronology of Walter Scott, historical and explanatory notes.
  • Dedication: to Rev Dr. Dryasdust,  Read this keeping in mind that Scott = L. Templeton and perhaps he is using this dedication to express his opnion  if the book is a history or a romance,. I don’t know what to make of this epistle but did notice the name of the reverend….Dry-as-dust !
  • Quotation:`Now fitted the halter, now traversed the cart, and often took leave….but seemed loath to depart. 
  • The motto alludes to the Author returning to the stage repeatedly after having taken leave. (Prior)
  • ThemeSaxons vs Normans,  disguise vs revelation, chivalry, prejudice against the Jew in medieval times
  • Setting: England:  Ashby, Torquilstone, and Templestowe (The book Ivanhoe describes the events in England  during the crusades.)
  • Timeline:  1194
  • Trivia: (personal)  Why do I want to read Ivanhoe? Hélène Grandjean, in Page d’ Amour  finds Ivanhoe boring and lets the book fall to the ground. I want to see if I agree with her!  After reading the book….Hélène Grandjean was probably not a lover of great books as  I am.
  • Trivia: Four of Scott’s novels involved crusades and crusaders.


I was pleased to read a classic plot without  streaming consciousness ( Bolano´s 2666 )  or dreams ( Bronte´s Villette) ! I must admit that there are flashbacks (not on the chart).


  • Wilfred of Ivanhoe is one of the few Saxon families in England that is dominiated by the  Norman conquerors.
  • Ivanhoe has fallen in love with Lady Rowena who is under the protection of his father.
  • Because of  Ivanhoe´s allegiance to the Norman King Richard the Lionheart (fights in 3rd Crusade along side King Richard) he is banished from his father´s court.
  • Ivanhoe returns to England and uses many means of disguise  to conceal his true idenity.
  • (as a pilgrim, in the tournament as El Desdishado, Ivanhoe covers face often wth his hood).
  • Gallantly Ivanhoe takes part in the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche for the hand of Lady Rowena.
  • King Richard returns from captivity and is disguised as  a knight errant (the Black Knight).
  • Sir Walter Scott admits that this historical fact is presented in fictional form. In truth King Richard returned without any attempts to conceal his identity.
  • There are many more action packed incidents in the book:

Character list:   (overview… a quick guide)

  • Fictional characters participate in actual historical events  with historical figures  (Third Crusade, Norman invasion of England, King Richard and Prince John)
  • Hero: Ivanhoe,  melancholy
  • Heroine: Rowena, unworthy of Ivanhoe, and unworthy of her place as heroine, icy, faultless, prim. She never forgave Rebecca her beauty, nor her flirtation with Wilfrid.
  • Heroine: Rebecca, jewess who is admirable, tender, heroic
  • Dishonorable knights: Front-de-Boeuf, De Bois-Guilbert, De Bracy  and Prince John (King Richard´s scheming brother)
  • Patriarchs:  Cederic is Ivanhoe´s father and  Isaac of York is (Jewish moneylender) is Rebecca´s  father
  • Outlaw:   Robin Hood (of Locksley)  —  a lot of the action takes place in Sherwood forest so of course we run into him.
  • Backstory:  Gurth and Wamba are servants who provide information about the political situation in England. I still had to check Wikipedia regularly to understand what was going on.
  • Ex machina: King Richard comes to Ivanhoe´s  rescue  (pg 114) as well as the Saxon nobility in general.


  • The dialogue is filled with thee and thou, hath and hath not and leaveth but it was not irritatiing once you get used to it.
  • Flashbacks were used to give you an idea what  another character was doing during the present action. A sort of ´ meanwhile back at the ranch´ idea. Be prepared.
  • Strong descriptions of main characers. I especially like the one of  “an athletic figure [...]burned almost into Negro blackness by constant exposure to the tropical sun” .(pg 24). We do not know who it is but Scott lets the reader think….could it be a Templar returning from the Holy Land Crusades?
  • Scott  uses the literary techniqe ‘direct address’. For example:   “It is necessary to keep these inconsistancies of John’s character in view, that the reader may understand his conduct during the present evening. ” (pg 126)

Best chapters:  ( just to name a few…)

  • Chapter 8 and 12:  1st and 2nd days of jousting  tournament  Ivanhoe ( Disinherited Knight)  vs Brian de Bois Guilbert ( Templar )   exciting!
  • Chapter 16 and 20:  Friar Tuck meets  the Black Knight ( incognito King Richard the Lionheart) – hilarious!

Best character:  Rebecca

  1. Never adopts any form of disguise
  2. Good judgement of people and situations;
  3. Expresses her love for Ivanhoe as he sleeps because their relationship is doomed from the start ( Christian-Jewess)
  4. ‘The other woman’, if times had allowed she should have married Ivanhoe. The tension between Ivanhoe and Rebecca is palpable. You just have to love her!

Worst character: Lucas de Beaumanoir,

  • He is the he most frightening, and hateful figure in the novel .
  • Lucas de Beaumanoir is the Grand Master, grim interrogator,  the head of the religious soldiers the Knights Templars.
  • He delighted in tormenting Jews,
  • When Isaac approaches Beaumanoird, The Grand Master reacts, “ ‘Back, dog!’ said the Grand Master; ‘I touch not misbelievers, save with the sword. (pg 309)
  • The most historically accurate account of  the Grand Master’s  attempt to have Rebecca burned at the stake and her choice of ‘trial by combat’


  1. One of the great novels about England
  2. Irony:  written  by a Scotsman.
  3. Rebecca: gifted student, teacher with extraordinary talents.
  4. Irony: these wonderful talents will almost cost her her life when seen as magical, the work of a witch.
  5. Rebecca:  tells Ivanhoe she belongs here in England. “I am of England [...] and speak the English tongue, although my dress and lineage belong to another climate”.
  6. Irony: in the last chapter she admits her exclusion as a Jew in England and must leave.  Such is no safe abode for the children of my people.” (pg 399)
  7. Isaac:  is scorned as a moneylending Jew“…those of thy tribe give nothing for nothing…” (pg 65). Isaac lends Ivanhoe  a horse and equipment for the tournament.
  8. Irony:  there is NOT ONE incident of moneylending in the book!
  9. Scott praises the original ideals of the crusaders.
  10. Irony: later Scott criticizes their real behaviour: “… dissolute (corrupt) crusaders, or hypocritical ( professing virtues they do not have) pilgrims… (pg 39)


Strong point:    Characterization of   Rebecca: 

  • This book introduced me to one of the most famous female characters in the Victorian novel, Rebecca
  • She was quiet, subtle yet there was the ever present inner conflict between her jewishness and her love for the christian Ivanhoe.
  • She is the most clearsighted character in the book because she  learned   so much from years of anti-semitism leading her to be very wise and wary.
  • Scott creates  the most  tension in the book  because you know Rebecca and Ivanhoe may never be together, yet you keep wishing and hoping it will happen.

Strong pointScott’s extensive research:

  • Medieval times: He was writing a book about another time and place ( 1194 AD).
  • It includes chivalric code, tournaments, racial attitudes ( Jews), speech patterns, the feeling of occupation (Normans vs Saxons) 150 years after the Battle of Hastings.
  • Language plays an important role in the book. (pg 41) Cederic, Prior Aymer and the Templar (Bois-Guilbert) are not in agreement .
  • Which language shall they use, the one of the victors or the vanquished.
  • Clothes, armor, manners, interiors of great houses as Cederic’s Rotherwood all come to live in  Ivanhoe. It was a pleasure to read.

Strong point:  Scott’s  moral convictions:

  • Scott was an accomplished historian and perfectly aware of the wave of anti-semitism that the preaching of the First Crusade in 1095.
  • I  was surprised to see this side of Scott. I only related him to  all that is chivalrous and not discrimination  of the Jews.
  • Scott introduces Isaac the moneylender in chapter five with words from The Merchant of Venice:Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?”  Powerful !
  • This is another reason to read the book and become aware of the plight of the Jews in medieval England.

Last thoughts;

  • This was a wonderful book and I am so happy I got around to reading it.
  • Scott’s book was filled  ‘to the brim’  with so many references..( historical, philosphical, mythological, legendery, literary, biblical.  There are also references to many  saints and places.
  • This is proof of Scott’s great knowledge.  I love to look up  latin phrases,  references to Shakespeare, mythology etc.
  • I enjoyed  learning  new words in MY OWN LANGUAGE  instead of French ( see list) for a change.
  • Do not be hesitant to put this on a  “to read Classics List”. The character Rebecca  will linger in your mind, proud,unchanging and inflexible.
  • Scott basically invented the historical romance novel and his influence on fiction of the 19th century is impossible to overestimate.
  • Scott’s  writing style can feel dated, theatrical or at times  even  bombastic, but  it is still surprisingly a great classic read.

Score: 5

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation   photo(29)








Words: ( just a few examples…….)

  • cudgel – heavy stick
  • subaltern – in lower rank
  • gramercy – many thanks
  • te beseen – to appreciate
  • raiment – clothing
  • to shew – to show
  • to fain – to  be obliged, required
  • to ween – to think
  • sirrah – contemptuous term for a fellow, mister
  • kirtle – long dress with tapering sleeves
  • chamfrom – armour plate for a horse head
  • farrier – one who shoes horses
  • to contemn – to view with contempt
  • to caracol – to execute a half turn to the right or left on a horse
  • to requite – to avenge













Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Uncategorized


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