Sir Walter Scott’s The Talisman came up for me in The Classics Club Spin, and I must admit that my heart sank as I know that it’s one of the few books which I’ve given up on. On the plus side that was way back when I was about 12 years old and Christy at A Good Stopping Point commented that she had enjoyed it, so I lived in hope.
I read it on my Kindle because my copy of this book is already packed away in anticipation of a house move which is just not happening at the moment. I couldn’t remember anything about The Talisman as it is over 40 years since I first had a go at it but it wasn’t long before I knew why it was I had given up on it. At the beginning there is a really unappealing bit about cooked severed heads being served up to the people who had come to try to secure the freedom of the owners of the heads – nasty but I struggled on this time.
Scott’s writing style does take some getting used to, this one is written in a particularly archaic way and I could have been doing with less in the way of thee-ing and thou-ing. At around about the 20% mark I was just about losing the will to live. At 50% I was beginning to appreciate it a bit more, there are quite a few humorous moments to brighten the way. By the time I got to 70% I realised that I was really quite enjoying it! The experience was good for the soul, I think. Mind you, I don’t know why it’s War and Peace that people always think of as being a tough nut to crack, it’s an absolute promenade de gateau compared with The Talisman – in my humble opinion.
First published in 1825 this is a story which is set in the Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart is very ill and it looks like he isn’t going to recover, but help comes in the shape of Sir Kenneth, a Scottish knight who after some conflict ended up striking up a friendship with a Saracen who uses a talisman to heal Richard. The Saracen is none other than Saladin of course.
Apparently there was a BBC mini-series of The Talisman in 1980 but I don’t recall ever seeing it. It’s the 1970s Ivanhoe series which I remember loving. And speaking of Ivanhoe, I’ll be reading that throughout January for Read Scotland 2014 challenge. You’re welcome to join in too – if you feel brave enough!