I have two very conflicting thoughts toward this book. Number 1: IT IS FANTASTIC!!!!! Number 2: It's kind of anti-Catholic, I hate it.
So let's begin with number 1. There are a multitude of good points about this book. For starters, Sir Walter Scott is a FANTASTIC writer! The description in this book is fabulous! I could really envision the characters as though they were standing right in front of me. But, Scott doesn't stop at giving the reader a peerless description of the characters' outward appearance, rather, he goes on to develop their personalities to perfection! Each character is so fully himself. I have never read a book with better description (and I've read a lot of books).
I can definitely understand why this book is on a list of 100 Books Every Woman Should Read. The two women are by far the best characters in the book (though Wamba is quite epic as well). Each has her own personality, most noticable in Rowena's demure nature versus Rebecca's forthrightness, but they are equally strong women.
Finally, this book is HILARIOUS!!!! Wamba, the jester, absolutely makes the book!
Now for the bad news. The book started out slow but picked up speed and got me hooked. I was absolutely loving it! But then I began to encounter ignorant statements about the Catholic faith. I at first attributed them merely to, as I said, ignorance. But by the end of the book they were becoming blatantly purposeful misstatements. Particularly egregious was the brazen mischaracterization of the sacrament of confession. In addition, not a single clergyman or religious was portrayed as being faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Jewish Rebecca was oftentimes a better Catholic than the Catholics in the book.
The author of Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott, was a member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland and lived during a time when anti-Catholicism was expected and applauded. He, himself, had been raised in a very religious Episcopalian household which he grew to resent. However, Roman Christendom has an interesting take on the author's attitude toward Catholicism.
Ultimately, I feel that I cannot recommend this book because the subtle mischaracterizations of the Church and Church teachings are so rampant that they could easily lead a person to misunderstandings of essential Church doctrine. In the words of the great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen "There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church." I can't encourage you to read something that perpetuates lies about the Catholic Church.
The good quotes from the book are listed below:
- "The knights are dust, And their swords are rust, Their souls are with the saints we trust"
- "My strength thou mayest indeed overpower, for God made women weak, and trusted their defence to man's generosity."
- "'What if the youth perish! - if he die in our custody, shall we not be held guilty of his blood, and be torn to pieces by the multitude?' 'He will not die, my father,' said Rebecca, gently extricating herself from the grasp of Isaac - 'he will not die, unless we abandon him, and if so, we are indeed answerable for his blood to God and to man.'"
- "But thy conduct was wrong, as he that would stop a runaway steed, and seizing by the stirrup instead of the bridle, receiveth injury himself, instead of accomplishing his purpose."
- "I am a maiden unskilled to dispute for my religion, but I can die for it, if it be God's will."
- "no one will risk to break a lance for the innocent"
- "I were undeserving his grace did I not peril it for his good."
- "and they loved each other the more, from the recollection of the obstacles which had impeded their union"