Book Review: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

08Aug09

Go me! I finally finished this book! It took me over a month, but it is finished, and I’m glad I read it. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is only my second grown-up Mark Twain novel, the first being The Innocents Abroad. I noticed a similarity between the two, that while they are hee-larious, they are slow and somewhat difficult to get into sometimes. Because Twain did write at the end of the 19th century, I sometimes can get lost in the language, especially in this book because not only are you trying to read 19th century writing, its a 19th century guy hanging out in 6th century England. The narrator doesn’t know what people are saying, much less me, the reader!

Twain sets up the book by meeting our protagonist Hank Morgan who hands him a manuscript and instructs him to read about what he has just been through, and Morgan’s manuscript is our book. After getting knocked out during a fight, Morgan (our Connecticut yankee) wakes up in King Arthur’s England. He convinces everyone he is a powerful magician, and rules England as Arthur’s prime minister, slowly but surely introducing 19th century technology and insitutions into the middle ages: schools, factories, telephones, bicycles, guns and even electricity. His ultimate plan is to launch 6th century England into the Enlightenment by bringing reason and democracy to the country. While this seems to be mostly a satire on how ignorant the people of the 6th century were, Hank Morgan does learn a lesson in true greatness from King Arthur during their adventures together. Like I said before, the book’s language can be difficult to follow sometimes as the medieval characters tend to ramble in chivalrous prose, and that slowed me down quite a bit. It also gets a bit slow in the middle, but Twain is good to keep perking your interest with little adventures like how Morgan manages to get lucky in a tight spot when asked to perform miracles on the spot or use his “magic” as his only weapon when challenged to a duel.

Some of my favorite parts were Twain’s description of all the things knights tried to do while still wearing their heavy armor. Imagine a calvary of armored knights on bicycles or playing baseball. Yes, baseball. I woke my napping pooch with my giggling.

The ending is surprisingly sad, but I’m glad I read it. It has a very intellectual/historical feel to it while reading. I feel somehow smarter, although I’m not sure I could tell you why.

P.S. Connecticut is spelled weird.

I picked up A Homemade Life yesterday, and I’m excited to get started!

Check out the rest of my list and reviews of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Orchid Thief, And the Band Played On.

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