Jan 15, 2008

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

by Mark Twain

I never heard of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court until I chanced across it on a library shelf. It is quite different from Twain's other novels. It tells of a 19th century engineer who gets hit on the head and inexplicably wakes up in medieval England during King Arthur's time. A knight finds him and takes him to court, where his manner of dress and speech arouses suspicion and he's going to be burned at the stake. But he remembers an eclipse will occur on the same date, and uses this knowledge to make himself appear powerful and magical, frightening everyone and landing himself a position as King's advisor. Before long he's practically taken control and uses his ingenuity to introduce technological advances. He attempts to teach the whole country things like the use of soap, democratic ideas, and the falsehood of superstitions. He runs up again Merlin, who is portrayed as a charlatan and fool, but dangerously in the people's favor. More than an adventure story, this book is a satire on English society, criticizing the power of monarchy, poking fun at the knights, ridiculing the ignorance and squalor of medieval society. I don't know how accurate it is historically, and I really questioned if one man (even if he is an "ingenious Yank") could have had in his head all the knowledge needed to "re-invent" and build everything he did (like railroads, printing press, gunpowder, electricity and dozens other things) but it is very funny with lots of tongue-in-cheek type of humor.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 307 pages, 1889

5 comments:

Dana said...

I have heard that this is a good book

JK said...

Do you think a well-read 10 year old would enjoy this Twain? I was thinking about it for a future gift...
nice blog, thanks for sharing!

Jeane said...

JK: I would say it depends on the maturity of the kid and what you don't mind exposing him to. The book actually has quite a bit of crude humor and violence.

Petunia said...

Thanks for the review. I knew of this book but not about it. Sounds fun.

Nymeth said...

I am a fan of Mark Twain, but I have never read this one even though I've been meaning to for years. Thanks for reminded me of it! It sounds great.