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

People often ask me to recommend them a classic novel that they will enjoy.  For most casual readers, classics can be seen more as a chore than enjoyable reading.  Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court fits the bill as an easier classic novel – and really, all of Twain’s books are a bit easier to read with the exception of some particularly challenging dialect in Huck Finn.

Connecticut Yankee was published in 1889 and tells the humorous, satirical story of a nineteenth century American mechanic who bumps his head to reawaken in sixth century Camelot, England.  I always particularly enjoy time traveling stories – and Twain’s take on this sci-fi tradition is at times both lightly humorous and darkly comedic.  As our hero tries to teach King Arthur’s subjects to appreciate soap, he also hopes to end the barbaric traditions of slavery and class warfare.  It always astonishes me at how technology can vastly grow and change from century to century, while people – their hopes, dreams, and torments – tend to stay very much the same.

The pitfalls of this novel, for me anyway, deal with the flow and somewhat choppy narrative.  The story tends to meander meaninglessly at times before getting back on track.  Many small sections are written in Old English and completely indecipherable, but Twain indicates that you aren’t supposed to understand these parts anyway.  I think Twain attempted a bit too much within these 400 or so pages and fell a bit short, often times becoming preachy rather than persuasive.  Nonetheless, a socio-political debate housed within an enjoyable fantasy adventure – a book worth reading by all, and one that won’t stress you out too badly – I’m looking at you Faulkner!

Star Rating – 3/5

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