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Joint Review: Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore

Tasha and I decided to team up and read a classic together for Classics Month in March. We chose Lorna Doone when we realized I had it and she could get it easily out of the library. This is the first part of our joint review, head on over to Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books for the second half!

First, though, a summary:

John Ridd is a young mischievous school boy faced with the abrupt reality of his father’s death, reportedly by the Doones of Exmoor, a band of high-born outlaws who constantly terrorize the area around his home town. On a fishing trip after his return home to care for his mother and sisters, John accidentally enters Doone territory and meets young Lorna Doone, who is something of a queen to them. John can’t help but fall immediately in love with her, but his struggle to win her from the Doones will be long-lasting and dangerous for both of them.

Heidenkind: Love or hate? :)

Meghan: I think I have to go with hate!! Actually, my feelings aren’t quite as strong as that. I mostly just feel a mild dislike. I know you disagree though. =)

Heidenkind: Yeah, I actually liked it a lot. I love the A&E miniseries based on the book, and I think the actual novel is a lot better. It’s very romantic, no? :)

So, in the introduction in my copy, the person compared Lorna Doone to Jane Eyre and bemoaned the fact that it’s not as popular as Jane Eyre even though it’s just as good–if not not better–and has similar themes. What do you think–is LD the forgotten Jane Eyre?


Definitely not! I love Jane Eyre and I think it’s vastly better. For one thing, I don’t think it suffers nearly so much from the same long-windedness. I love a well-crafted sentence as well as the next former English major but I think there are definitely extremes. Charlotte Bronte does it well, but R.D. Blackmore not so much. I can’t really forgive any book pages on nature – maybe it’s for others, but not for me.

Also I have to admit that Mr Rochester is a far more dashing hero than John ever could be. I think of John as big and strong but rather boring. At least Mr Rochester has a bit of a scandalous history to make him more interesting and I can’t help but imagine him as a very attractive man. I also much prefer the romance in Jane Eyre, obviously, even if it is initially bigamy.

What do you think?

Heidenkind:  Even though I enjoyed Lorna, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to Jane Eyre, and I can’t see any modern high schooler picking up LD and just falling in love with it the way I did with JE. For one thing, there’s too much pointless stuff in the book. And for another, the writing is just impenetrable, especially in the first part. A Victorian trying to do 17-th-century speak is just not good–and don’t even get me started on the accents. Ugh! Every time that John Fry guy started to speak, I just skipped it. My brain had a hard enough time trying to understand the book already.

Meghan:  I think I skipped a whole conversation that they had in there somewhere. There was the cook who spoke in it as well. I shuddered! I really, really hate dialect in books and it was NOT done well here.

Heidenkind:  I agree. As for John, he’s not as dashing as Mr. Rochester, no, but he’s the “average guy” hero of the story. Lorna is supposed to be the dashing, mysterious love interest. I actually liked John a lot–I though he was charming in a simple way. Not that I would ever go out with him or anything. :P

Meghan:  I certainly wouldn’t, I didn’t like him at all and he was one of the problems I had with the book. I really felt like he was constantly demeaning to the women in his life even though I could tell he loved them. I’m not sure whether the author was just that bad or he was trying to emulate 17th century attitudes, but I did not appreciate feeling like all the women were silly and little and cute. And he didn’t like the sister he had with a brain, Eliza, instead being annoying about how she was always buried in books. I could not figure out why Lorna wanted to be with him. And his behavior towards his cousin Ruth really annoyed me as well – once it was established that he was going to marry Lorna, he still flirted with her and IMO really led her on when he shouldn’t have been doing that.

Heidenkind:  I couldn’t figure out what John and Lorna saw in eachother, either! But on the other hand, Lorna did really want out of the Doone encampment, and here’s John telling her he loves her and offering to help her escape. So maybe there’s a knight-in-shining-armour complex going on there.


6 comments to Joint Review: Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore

  • The appeal of this book is all about the villian I think (ah the dashing, evil Doone boy). But maybe that’s just because I kept picturing him as Stuart from ‘Queer as Folk’ (who played the villian in the mini series).

  • Hmm…I’m curious about this book, but also wary, and I think the wariness wins :P
    .-= Nymeth´s last blog ..Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi =-.

  • Jodie-Carver Doone in the book is actually a very minor character and also kind of lame. I know, I loved him in the miniseries, too! That was actually one of the things that most disappointed me about the book, actually–the lack of a compelling villain.
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore =-.

  • I have heard this book mentioned before, but never read much about it. I don’t think I would like it based on the fact that a lot of the dialog is difficult and that the characters aren’t very likable. Even someone who has not read this (like me!) can see that this is no match for Jane Eyre! Great joint review. I love this format!
    .-= zibilee´s last blog ..The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet: A Novel by Myrlin A. Hermes – 384 pgs =-.

  • I don’t know…I think I read this at an impressionable age (in my teens) and I loved this book. A bit dense, yes, but still I thought it was extremely romantic (although not a patch on Jane Eyre). Jane Eyre is definitely the better book in terms of plot and writing.

    That said, I am not that patient these days and if I read that book now, I would probably not get very far.

    Love the way you have structured the joint review :)
    .-= Nishita´s last blog ..Challenging Myself in Different Ways =-.

  • Candace JR

    I”m trying to read this for book club, and I find it tedious and difficult. It’s not that I’m dumb or a poor reader – I read constantly. I’ve been reading about the book, and I find that it was enourmously popular in the early 20th century, and many readers enjoy it, so I’m trying. And I loved Jane Eyre, which I read when I was a child, followed by many Victorian novels. So how do you navigate the long, boring descriptions in convuluted sentences, and the plot that jumps from here to there with no explanation? What am I missing?