Hi there, everyone! It’s the final hump day of March, and you know what that means: book club! If you’re new around here, check out my page about Book Club Classics to get the gist, and if you haven’t read my introduction post to today’s author and book, I would recommend it.
2015 Book Club Classics List
January – Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (January 28) My review here
February – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (February 25) My review here
March – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (March 25)
April – Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (April 29)
May – The Awakening by Kate Chopin (May 20)
June – The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (June 24)
July – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (July 29)
August – Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (August 26)
September – Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (September 30)
October – Dracula by Bram Stoker (October 28)
November – Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (November 18)
December – The Chimes by Charles Dickens (December 16)
Today’s post is all about A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, and please know that there are spoilers (!) past this point.
Since I’m all about that honesty, I have to say that this wasn’t the easiest book to get into. Nor is it my favorite book that I’ve read by Mark Twain. Nor did it really warrant nine different books on my Kindle. Thirty pages does not a book make, Amazon…
I thought the idea was fantastic. Man goes back in time following a freak accident and experiences what life was like 1,300 years before his own time. Great, I love time travel, and I can totally get behind that. In the beginning, I even understood Twain’s attempts at mimicking (and mocking) the writing style from this earlier period; they tended to ramble, embellish, and frequently shift from the main topic of a piece of writing. However, by the end of the first “book,” I was a bit over it. Twain would’ve been better off creating a collection of short stories to do with Hank instead of one huge, long-winded novel with all sorts of insignificant details.
Speaking of Hank, I personally didn’t connect with him as a reader. His character had great moments like when he used the solar eclipse (that he somehow knew would occur…) to pass himself off as a magician or during his one-on-one moments with Clarence, a character that I really did enjoy. Instead Twain filled his narration with political, social, and religious commentary that seemed way too heavy-handed and repetitive. I’m not sure I could’ve finished it had he written “the Established Church” one more time.
Changes to Camelot
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a big Whovian or that I like my literary universes to contain rules, but it really bothered me that Hank never thought about the consequences of “inventing” so many things before their proper time. Yes, I know he was interested in changing the church-oriented, nobility-loving monarchy into a republic for everyone with no slavery and a laissez-faire economy, but he never thought about what his world, the 19th century world, would look like if things like newspapers and handguns were around a century earlier than they were meant to be.
I did appreciate that the people were not amenable to his attempts at change. Had every born-and-bred peasant that he came across been completely gung-ho about overthrowing his or her lord, it would’ve been entirely unbelievable. On the opposite hand, the thought that there were knights gallivanting about the kingdom with advertisements for toothpaste on their armor is hilarious. That can stay.
Women in King Arthur’s court
I have to admit that I found the parts of the book involving Sandy to be some of the most compelling. No, she wasn’t the best example of an independent woman, but 1) she was a woman in a period when women had zero say in anything, and 2) she was a commoner in a period when commoners had zero say in anything! For these reasons, I’ll cut Twain some slack. She did, however, have the courage to bring her case before King Arthur and travel back to the orgres’ home with Hank. I also loved that she refused to listen to Hank’s complaints about her storytelling (not that I bore my own husband with too many details of my days at the office…)
Was I surprised when she suddenly reappeared at the end of the book as Hank’s wife? Yes. Did the whole child named Hello-Central thing weird me out a bit? Yes. Is it worrying that Hank married her because she was his property and she’d been faithful to him, so he might as well? Yes. Regardless, I liked Hank more when Sandy was around, and the plot may have moved forward in a linear direction instead of an all-over-the-map way if she’d been a bigger part of it. Also the very end with Hank’s death was touching, even if I found him insufferable for the other 24/25’s of the book.
Even though it literally took me days to make any kind of dent in this book, I have to say that I enjoyed the ending. I personally loved that despite all of Hank’s inventions and attempts at changing the society of Camelot, he still couldn’t keep it from falling apart. Guinevere and Lancelot got it on secretly anyway, and Arthur was caught in the cross hairs. The time travel purist in me appreciated that the modern inventions were destroyed by the end of it all, but I definitely didn’t buy that Merlin, a wizard who couldn’t correctly predict the weather, could put Hank into a 1,300-year sleep. Say what?
Overall, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is absolutely nothing like the “Connecticut Kid” movie that I vaguely remember watching on the Disney Channel (except for the baseball)! I would highly suggest reading any other Twain novel before this one because he really is a master at crafting witty satire and utilizing American dialect in his writing. I personally enjoy Pudd’nhead Wilson. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court receives two out of five stars in my book (and on my Goodreads account).
Have you ever read this novel by Twain? Are you a blogger who wants to link up with your own blog post on this book (or any other classics that you’re reading)? Use the InLinkz button below to join the party! You can also appropriate this book club button for your post and spread the word about the group.
April’s classic is a play by William Shakespeare that I’ve always wanted to read: Much Ado About Nothing! So read along, watch the film version starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate (because you know you want to!), and join me back here in the last week of April.