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on 14 June 2004
I came to this book knowing very little, and at first found it quite hard going. But once I got into it, I became determined to make it to the end, and I was glad I did. It's split into two volumes, and the second is quite different in style and content to the first. Whereas in the first part we follow Quixote & Sancho on their misadventures through Spain, with LONG diversions into the lives of minor characters (almost like mini-novels within the full text and filled with outrageous coincidences), the second part deals mainly with characters who have actually read the first volume and decide to play along with the duo's delusions and have some fun at their expense. Both Quixote & Sancho change a lot through this second volume, going to some truly unexpected places (especially Sancho on his "island").
By the time the final chapter came to a close, my opinion was one hundred percent positive, and I shall definitely re-read it one day (when I have a lot of free time!)
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on 15 March 2005
This book is often referred to as the first modern novel, and written while Shakespeare was still putting on plays in the early 1600s, we can see why. It is also one of the best novels I've read, with some of the best characters in literature.

The story follows the Don as he sallies forth as a knight errant in search of adventure, to win honour and fortune. Unfortunately, Quixote is not a knight but rather an old man with an unravelled mind infected by the reading of too many medieval romances depicting such deeds. The stage is set for a hilarious tale of hallucination and misadventure. With Sancho Panza his loyal squire he takes on spirits, evil enchanters and most famously, of course, giants in the form of windmills.
As we follow the ingenious Hidalgo we find him increasingly endearing, his complete faith in everything he believes is disarmingly lovable while also humiliatingly funny. I found it a surprise that the comedy still holds up today, yet a man trying unsuccessfully against outlandish situations of his own making is very much a cornerstone of today's sitcoms and movies. The character is therefore a familiar one and immensely engaging. While we laugh at him, we can't help admiring his dedication and fearlessness, through this Don Quixote manages somehow to keep his dignity. Above all it is this characteristic that keeps our esteem for him so high.
Sancho Panza, the lovable squire begins very much as a simple companion, only there to highlight the absurdities of the situations invented by the Don himself, but the character grows artfully throughout the adventure becoming indispensable for his simple wit and practicality. This so at odds with the high-minded madman leads to great comedy as conflict and friendship mix to form a subtly growing relationship that provides the foundation of the story.
We also meet a whole host of characters during the course of the adventure, each with their own tale to tell. Using this, the author is able to entertain us with diverse digressions, and stories within stories that never allow the journey to get stale and boring.
A must, must, MUST read. Hilariously absurd throughout as adventure piles on adventure and a new tale unfolds with every character met. Cervantes is a talented entertainer that treats his noble creation with a tenderness we can't help but share, while all the time haranguing him with all the humorous predicaments his malady makes possible. It WILL make you laugh, and if you have any heart it will also make you cry. Fantastic!
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on 3 July 2012
as classic works of literature go this is one that many people talk of and being written back in early 17th century spain and being almost 800 pages it can look a daunting read. nevertheless i was intrigued by it so decided to give it a go.

the story is about a middle aged noble man in spain who having read just about every single knightly romance book and song there ever was become totally obsessed with knight errantry and eventually resolves to set out on his own adventures and revive the long forgotten duty of knight errantry which was of knights traveling freely to help all those in need, save damsels in distress and all the other sort of things we hear in knightly romance books. Don Quixote with his rusty old suit of armour, his thin old horse Rosinante and his rustic companion and squire Sancho Panza set out then in quest of adventure. what follows is some of the most ridiculous misadventures and hilarious incidents that have ever befallen two men. the whole book is written in a sarcastic style that always talks of Don Quixote's great bravery and honour in his deeds while all the while describes one ridiculous event after another that had me laughing all the way though. the book is divided into two parts as the author wrote one first before waiting many years until writing the sequel which are both together in today's version. i found the first part the better and a lot more humorous, the charging at the windmills which are mistaken for giants, the Dons insistence that every Inn he stops at is a castle, that every country wench is a princess, the flock of sheep in the distance mistaken for an advancing army and my favorite one the great adventure of unparalleled danger of the fulling mill. the second book tells of his second sally out in look of adventure and tells of more ridiculous misadventures and sarcastic events. i didn't find the second book as humorous as the first although it was still well written, i would give the first part 5/5 while the second part 4/5.

this book is a classic of western literature and should be read by all lovers of great classics and even those just looking for a merry read. while the book feels like it drags on at times and the old Shakespearean style of writing makes its a slow read at times yet the author is brilliant in his jests and the way he describes and expresses so many things that makes the story and characters come alive.
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This novel is a superlative piece of literature, at once eloquent and bawdy, poetic and brash, sweet and rude, traversing through all these contrasts with the delicate ease of a masterly author.

Gushing aside, it is the architypal rivetting read and, despite its huge size, it is divided into many small episodes that make it idea bedtime reading. This translation is excellent and very well researched - there are masses of notes and references at the back to explain the meaning and context of thousands of names, phrases, verses, songs and historical events mentioned in the book.

I doubt there is praise too lofty for this book. I have no hesitation in recommending it.
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on 29 August 2010
I bought this book a few years ago as I thought I OUGHT to read it. It sat on the bookshelf gathering dust for a long time and every few months I'd look at it, decide I wasn't in the mood for wading through dry, dull 16th century Spanish literature and I'd read something else. Then I booked a holiday to Spain so decided I HAD to read it and...what a pleasant surprise!

The book is laugh out loud funny! I'm sure everyone knows the story so I won't go into that but the absurd situations that our Don gets himself and Sancho into as a result of his unerring belief that knight errantry is needed in the world are hilarious. I can't stress enough that this book is not difficult to read, dry or dull in any way and the writing is so fresh that it's hard to believe it was written 400 years ago.

Definitely one to put on your wish list.
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on 27 May 2013
So Don Quixote of La Mancha and his trusty squire, Sancho Panza take on the world in true chivalric style in a multitude of farcical adventures, ever fuelled by the cock-eyed lunacy of our hero, The Knight of The Sorrowful Face, or later, The Knight of the Lions, much to the amusement and mockery of those they encounter.

Book I is, in my opinion, weaker than the second. Long periods are spent in the midst of digressive tales relating to subsidiary characters. And though, I suppose, consistent with chivalric literary conventions, the stories of Book I feel somewhat one dimensional and repetitive. The number of young wronged maidens of unsurpassed beauty found roaming the Spanish countryside, for instance, is quite remarkable.

One might argue: accept it for what it is and enjoy the tale. Which may be good advice, but it would also be tacitly acknowledging that there is something lacking here. For a less demanding audience - children say - the shortcomings of Book I might go unchallenged and the episodic nature of the story as a whole quite appeal.

Book II is an improvement. Fewer, if any, digressions, and the focus is firmly on our two protagonists as they navigate fiendish deceptions and reversals of fortune. Some really ingenious predicaments together with a more intimate study of our crazed heroes. Much of the pleasure of the book is found in the thoughtful exchanges between them in Book II - though, I wonder if much of Sancho's humour and word play is lost in translation from the Spanish.

A monumental literary classic, of course, which I increasingly enjoyed. And, undoubtedly, two unique and hugely sympathetic, legendary characters.
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on 27 May 2005
This book is often referred to as the first modern novel, and written while Shakespeare was still putting on plays in the early 1600s, we can see why. It is also one of the best novels I've read, with some of the best characters in literature.
The story follows the Don as he sallies forth as a knight errant in search of adventure, to win honour and fortune. Unfortunately, Quixote is not a knight but rather an old man with an unravelled mind infected by the reading of too many medieval romances depicting such deeds. The stage is set for a hilarious tale of hallucination and misadventure. With Sancho Panza his loyal squire he takes on spirits, evil enchanters and most famously, of course, giants in the form of windmills.
As we follow the ingenious Hidalgo we find him increasingly endearing, his complete faith in everything he believes is disarmingly lovable while also disastrously funny. I found it a surprise that the comedy still holds up today, yet a man trying unsuccessfully against outlandish situations of his own making is very much a cornerstone of today's sitcoms and movies. The character is therefore a familiar one and immensely engaging. While we laugh at him, we can't help admiring his dedication and fearlessness, through these Don Quixote manages somehow to keep his dignity. Above all it is this characteristic that keeps our esteem for him so high.
Sancho Panza, the lovable squire begins very much as a simple companion, only there to highlight the absurdities of the situations invented by the Don himself, but the character grows artfully throughout the adventure becoming indispensable for his simple wit and practicality. This so at odds with the high-minded madman leads to great comedy as conflict and friendship mix to form a subtly growing relationship that provides the foundation of the book.
We also meet a whole host of characters during the course of the adventure, each with their own tale to tell. Using this, the author is able to entertain us with diverse digressions, and stories within stories that never allow the journey to get stale and boring.
A must, must, MUST read. Hilariously absurd throughout as adventure piles on adventure and a new tale unfolds with every character met. Cervantes is a talented entertainer that treats his noble creation with a tenderness we can't help but share, while all the time haranguing him with all the humorous predicaments his malady makes possible. It WILL make you laugh, and if you have any heart it will also make you cry. Fantastic!
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on 17 March 2011
The translation used here is that by Tobias Smollett, the C18th English writer. Smollett himself wrote humorous novels (Roderick Random and Peregrin Pickle) and so has a style that fits well with Cervantes original C17th Spanish but some listeners may prefer a present day translation and find C18th prose a little difficult. This is also an unabridged edition which means that the lengthier monologues from Quixote or conversations with Panza are reproduced in full. That may be a bad thing for some listeners who might find extended discourses on chivalry a bit repetitive. Finally, the reading is by Robert Whitfield, an ex-BBC announcer who has clear and expressive diction, a good range of voices and a lively and entertaining delivery. Couldnt imagine anyone doing it better. My only quibble is that he pronounces Quixote as "key - ho - tee" which although very common we now know is not correct (in C17th Spanish it would have been pronounced more like "key - shot")

All in all, if you want an authentic sounding, well read, unabridged edition you couldnt do better than this. However, if you are more used to light contemporary fiction then an abridged version of one of the more recent translations may be better for you.
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on 31 January 2003
"Don Quixote is practically unthinkable as a living being. And yet, in our memory, what character is more alive?", said novelist Milan Kundera.
Cervante's most important work, widely regarded as the world's first modern novel. This is the adventures of an idealistic Spanish nobleman who, as a result of reading many tales of chivalry, comes to believe that he is a knight who must combat the world's injustices. He travels with his squire, Sancho Panza, an uneducated but practical peasant. Don Quixote's mount is an old, bedraggled horse named Rocinante. Don Quixote travels in search of adventure, dedicating his actions of valor to a simple country girl whom he calls Dulcinea, seeing her as his lady. He sets himself the task of defending orphans, protecting maidens and widows, befriending the helpless, and serving the causes of truth and beauty. His imagination often runs away with him, so that he sees windmills as giants, flocks of sheep as enemy armies, and country inns as castles. Don Quixote's romantic view of the world, however, is often balanced by Sancho Panza's more realistic outlook.
The completed work, however, presents a rich picture of Spanish life and contains many philosophical insights.
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There is a magnificent beauty in the madness of Don Quixote. He is one of the few literary characters who finds true nobility. Jean Valjean does the same in "Les Miserables". He is untouched by the cynicism of the world and becomes far greater than the heroes he reads of in his knight errant books. He is astonishingly brave and will fight windmills who appear to be giants. His behaviour towards women is most chivalrous. He is loyal to his faithful and long suffering servant Sancho Panza and holds his good steed Rosinante, that broken down old ned in the highest esteem. He makes us weep tears of joy in both love of him and sadness for his plight. But there is greatness in him. He contains multitudes. He rides into his rightful place as the greatest literary character ever created.

Cervantes was held as a slave of the Moors in North Africa for some time until he eventually gained his freedom. It is most fortunate indeed that he survived this experience to write one of the worlds great pieces of literature. Everybody should be made to read "Don Quixote" before they die and the world would be a better place for it. Some might say the Don was just "As mad as a box of frogs". They might be reminded "There is a thin red line between the sane and the mad".

The penguin classics editions as always set the benchmark. Do not settle for less. Please, please. Time passes quickly. Read this before you die!
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