This book has been on my “to read” list for a long time. When someone, whose opinion I highly value, recommended that I read the book, I immediately picked it up. My only regret is that I waited so long to finally read Lorna Doone. Originally published in 1869, R.D. Blackmore sets his book on the wild frontier of Exmoor, England where the Crown does not have complete control over the land.
The plethora of interesting aspects to this book makes it difficult to decide about which ones to write. John Ridd is a young boy living in the wilds of western England in the 17th century, when his father is murdered by a band of outlaws who torment, bully and rob the farmers and good people of Exmoor. The Doones occupy their own outlaw village and not only survive by robbing those around them but also prey on the their neighbors for sport. When John Ridd’s father stands up to these bullies, he is murdered and leaves behind his widow, Sarah Ridd, his prosperous farm, and his three children.
Although John grows up without the guidance of his father, he develops into an upstanding, strong and honest man. Never for a minute does John harbor resentment or a grudge against the Doones. If he had let hate and vengeance consume him, his heart would never have been open to receive the love of Lorna Doone and he would have missed out on the greatest love of his life. What impressed me most about these star-crossed lovers is that they refuse to let the sins of their families ruin their happiness. R.D. Blackmore has created a character in John Ridd that is an enduring moral example for all ages.
Despite unfortunate circumstances and countless obstacles, the zeal of John and Lorna’s love never wanes. John’s thoughts and actions are always carried out with his love in mind, no matter how long it has been since he has beheld her face. This romance is an interesting lesson for those of us in the 21st century who are accustomed to social media, Skype, text messaging, and any number of gadgets that keep us constantly in connection with one another. We do not have to wait days and weeks for a letter from a loved one or travel on an extended and tedious journey to reach our beloved. In this age of “out of site, out of mind,” would a man and woman be so patient, faithful and enduring in their love as John and Lorna?
The plot is also one of the factors that made me devour this book. The reader is kept in constant suspense wondering whether or not the evil villians, in the form of the Doones, and especially their leader Carver Doone, will get their just deserts. Will anyone come to the aid of the innocent people of Exmoor to stomp out these bullies, or will John Ridd and his neighbors take matters into their own hands? John’s cousin, Tom Faggus, who is also a highway robber, has many interesting parts in the storyline. Although, as a counterexample to the Doones, he robs the rich and gives the spoils to the poor. R.D. Blackmore kept me guessing the various fates and outcomes of his characters until the very end.
R.D. Blackmore’s tale has the perfect formula for a great novel: romance, adventure, a bucolic setting, and indelible characters. The tale of John Ridd has truly captured my heart and like all my favorite classic books, it will be one of those that I will reread again and again.