Being terrible for buying tons of books at a time, which then sit untouched on my physical and virtual shelves for years whilst I get distracted by newer, shinier books, I thought I’d start this year by trying to get through some of my backlog. I picked Lorna Doone – this was a HUGE mistake, nearly robbing me of my reading mojo just two books into the new year.
John Ridd is a farmer in the village of Oare and leads a simple enough life. Bringing in the harvest, going fishing, and hoping to avoid the local colour – the Doone’s, a family of apparently noble birth who spend their time robbing and killing as many of the locals and visitors to Exmoor as they can. John falls in love with one of their number, Lorna, through a chance encounter at a young age, and from there on starts planning on how to release her from the Doone’s clutches.
A classic that has apparently never been out of print since its publication, I can only imagine that every other reader is far more patient and clever than I am. Moving slower than a comatose sloth, and filled with incredibly dense language that was agony to wade through, if I was any other person I would have abandoned this book fairly quickly. Unfortunately, my approach is a little more Magnus Magnusson (“I’ve started so I’ll finish”), leaving me to read of John walking backwards and forwards across Exmoor, describing every sodding single blade of grass in minute detail each time, and having virtually incomprehensible conversations with the locals:
Zailor, ees fai! ay and zarve un raight. Her can’t kape out o’ the watter here, whur a’ must, goo vor to vaind un, zame as a gurt to-ad squalloping, and mux up till I be wore out, I be, wi’ the very saight of ‘s braiches. How wil un ever baide aboard zhip, wi’ the watter zinging out under un, and comin’ up splash when the wind blow. Latt un goo, missus, latt un goo, zay I for wan, and old Davy wash his clouts for un.”
If you like your reading matter to be incredibly hard work, with a meandering plot and using 100 words where it could have used one, Lorna Doone will be well up your street. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.