Top positive review
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Maybe the first, maybe the best!
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!