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Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor

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Published in 1869, Blackmore’s novel, Lorna Doone is exactly what the title says it is: a romance and a highly entertaining, beautifully written one that was appreciated at the time it was published just as much as it is today.

The setting of the story is Devon and Somerset, more precisely, Exmoor’s East Lyn Valley area, the age is the last decades of the 17th century. One might easily call the place the Wild West of England, just the perfect backdrop for a story spiced with intrigue, noblemen, outlaws, vengeance, hopeless love, false identities, kidnapping and many other classic ingredients of the genre. The period chosen for the story to take place is also perfect for providing the perfect setting: the turn between the 16th and the 17th century, the times that see the end of the reign of Charles II and experiences a different kind of rule by James II and certainly times of confusion, conflict and turbulence. The story comes with elements of class struggle as well – the love affair at the center of it unfolds between a yeoman and a lady of aristocratic descent.

The book is a romance, but it is not entirely fictional. It incorporates some depictions of existing places and some real events, too, such as the Great Winter and the school that is described in the setting of the first few chapters is also a real place. The characters are not entirely fictional either, some of them being the fictionalized versions of people who lived in the area where the story takes place.

The language used in the book is true to the setting – Somerset and Devonshire vernacular – so reading the story can be challenging at times, but it is also an extraordinary, well-written book and the context will always help decipher the language.

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