Saturday, 30 August 2014

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

The title of this work has not been chosen without the grave and solid deliberation which matters of importance demand from the prudent. 

What this is really saying is that this is going to be a long book, so you better have lots of extra time reading about things that don't really have anything to do with the story that I will or will not tell all in good time. So begins chapter 1 entitled: Introductory. But it's really more like a preface.

Chapter 2:

It is, then, sixty years since Edward Waverley, the hero of the following pages, took leave of his family, to join the regiment of dragoons in which he had lately obtained a commission. 

So this is where the story starts. We have a character and a change of circumstances that may or may not be for the worse. We may assume there will be lots of conflict with Waverley joining a regiment. What follows are thick paragraphs of back story and history and lots of telling that makes Madame Bovary look like a children's picture book.

First thing said:

"'Woe, woe, for Scotland, not a whit for me!'

This comes in chapter 4 after pages and pages of dense narrative text. It sounds campy to today's ear. I blame Ed Wood and Monty Python for my inability to appreciate this.

Verdict: Fail

I suspect this was written in a time when people didn't need to be coerced into reading something by being hooked.

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. Waverley comes in at the 84th greatest novel of all time.

Theodore Moracht

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