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Are Walter Scott’s books still readable?


I am pleased to see the Daily Telegraph writing that Walter Scott’s books are still relevant and readable. My daughter and I read an abridged version of Ivanhoe at bedtime last year and we enjoyed it very much.

The Telegraph asks if the Twitter Generation can handle Scott.

Scott, we are told, is not read. He is too wordy. His descriptions are too long, as are his paragraphs and the speeches his characters make. The narrative flow is choked by verbiage. It won’t do for our time. Our attention span is too short and, worse still, it is getting shorter. We no longer settle in an armchair or curl up in bed with a novel, but sit in front of a screen and flit to and fro. How can anyone be expected to engage with Scott now that the favoured mode of communication is the 140-character Tweet? He makes excessive demands on our time and ability to concentrate.

But he can tell a rattling good story. Ivanhoe is all about the fusion of the Normans and Saxons. I had to explain English history to my daughter so she could understand the novel’s plot and many conflicts. I would argue that understanding history is a good thing (even if the novelist takes plenty of liberties). In December, our bedtime reading was The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff – a fine adventure book that describes the final days of the Romans in Britain as the Saxons prepare to take over the reins. Our earlier discussions about the Saxons and Normans in Ivanhoe were put into perspective by The Silver Branch, which is set 700 years earlier. I fear that my family is alone in working our way through the classic stories.

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Richard Davies

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