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The White Company (1891)

de Arthur Conan Doyle

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Séries: The White Company (book 1)

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In 1366, while England is at war with Spain, young Alleyne Edricson becomes a squire to Sir Nigel Loring and travels to France to join a bold band of archers known as the White Company.
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Inglês (20)  Francês (1)  Sueco (1)  Todos os idiomas (22)
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Not only am I an unabashed fan of old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventures, I am also on record as having described Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as one of the most natural storytellers in the English language. Which makes it rather embarrassing for me to admit that The White Company, a lusty historical adventure-romance about English knights in the 14th century, was a rather tedious and unimpressive read.

The final 'last stand' battle between the English knights and a Franco-Spanish army is quite thrilling, in a bluff, jingoistic way, but it's preceded by three hundred pages of cod-heroic noodling. Quite unlike Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, which retain a freshness more than a century after they were written, The White Company is told in a deliberately archaic, overly-romantic style reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott. It's all 'hark' and 'prithee' and 'forsooth', which makes it hard to follow; a style not helped by being laden with an excess of detail, down to the scars and hair colour of each minor character and the quality of the carpets and vases in each nobleman's castle.

Doyle's purple prosing proves fatal to a story that was already struggling to get going. Surprisingly, his storytelling knack seems to have deserted him, and we jump from one confusing chapter to another in a mass of verbiage, loose association and misfiring Chaucerian humour. None of the characters grow, and even Alleyne, through whose eyes we see most of the story, has a disappointingly pedestrian coming-of-age story arc. The only action comes at the end, and while it's entertaining enough, it's poorly set up. We have little idea of the wider stakes and don't care enough about the characters. Even if we did, these final chapters are not enough to redeem the book. Many readers won't even make it that far. ( )
  Mike_F | Feb 4, 2021 |
Oh, what language did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle use! What vocabulary! Verily, it was a delight to read such writing, even though I had previously never read anything by this author. It was recommended to me here, probably based on the [a:Bernard Cornwell|12542|Bernard Cornwell|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1240500522p2/12542.jpg]'s books I read. The edition I read was the original, unabridged text, as stated inside by the publisher.

Since the story takes place in the context of the Hundred Years War, differently described and yet similar to said Cornwell's works. Arthur Conan Doyle made use of old English and French vocabulary and wording, which not only made it a joy to read and make the story more vivid, but it also made it a refreshing read when used to modern English. Other readers mention, as similarly styled, [a:Walter Scott|4345|Walter Scott|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1204065181p2/4345.jpg]'s [b:Ivanhoe|15994726|Ivanhoe|Walter Scott|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405869464s/15994726.jpg|1039021], which is also on my TBR-list (To Be Read).

In short, even though other reviewers were better at describing the story: it's about an aristocratic boy who grew up in the abbey of Beaulieu, sent there by his father. It was arranged that at the age of 20, Alleyne Edricson was to leave the safe premises of the abbey and go out into the world. He is set to go visit (and live?) with his brother, the Socman of Minstead, but he sees his brother mistreating a young princess. Alleyne tries to intervene, but it leads to him being attacked by his brother, for he had to give up land to the abbey for the upbringing of Alleyne. So Alleyne has to flee and so his adventures begin.

Alleyne obviously knows nothing of the world, more so of the word of God, and with this baggage he sets out to discover humanity. And is perplexed of how one human can maltreat another, be it with words or actions. He prefers to reconciliate people, have them set aside their quarrels and issues.

He meets a few knights, archers (part of the White Company), and so arrives at the castle of Sir Nigel Loring, who is bound to march to war with Spain. Alleyne becomes the lord's squire, since he can read, write and paint, while the lord is of course skilled in other domains.

The description of the adventures preceding the war itself (which breaks loose in the last /- 100 pages), of the various factions (English, French, Spanish), the various kings, warlords, et cetera shows that Sir Doyle really has made his homework and put a lot of effort in writing a worthwhile story.

The book is a very nice read about life in the 14th century, about hardship, about love, about friendship, and more. Arthur Conan Doyle applied a very descriptive style to demonstrate this; the environment, the clothing, the dialogues, everything. All to make you imagine better what happened, bow it happened, but also to eaily put yourself in the shoes of e.g. Alleyne, Nigel Loring or other characters, but of course foremost Alleyne, since he's a central and vital character (his upbringing contrasting with his real life experiences).

If you like to read something refreshing, compared to modern writings, then I can really recommend this book. ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
It was quite a fun book. I don't know why this one isn't discussed more. ( )
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
I've had The White Company on my reader for a while and decided now was the time to read it. I originally downloaded it because Sir John Hawkwood, leader of the White Company, is an ancestor, and I thought I might find out more about him. However, Sir John and most of his soldiers are in Italy in this story, so I found myself reading a different tale.
Alleyne Edricson leaves the abbey where he's been raised, sent to participate in the world before he decides to take vows or not. He falls in with Sam Aylward, an archer in the small group of the White Company left in France and ends up joining him. They proceed to the coast, and on the way, he rescues a young woman Maude from his brother, the Socman of Minstead. Maude is the daughter of Sir Nigel Loring, the new leader of the White Company. He plans to take them to France, meet up with the Black Prince, and proceed into Spain to fight in support of Pedro the Cruel of Spain against his half-brother Henry. Many adventures ensue before Alleyne returns to his lady.
This is a book in the grand tradition of Ivanhoe, Lorna Doone, Robin Hood, etc. The language can be somewhat flowery, and sometimes florid, but it's a grand adventure. It's populated with real characters from the Hundred Years War (though not, alas, John Hawkwood). The characters are diverse and there are some very funny moments.
So, while this wasn't the book I thought, it is a good and enjoyable read. ( )
1 vote N.W.Moors | Jul 23, 2019 |
För att vara en såpass rättfram författare är det svårt att förstå sig på Arthur Conan Doyles tankar i övrigt: inte bara på grund av det där med spiritismen och älvorna, men även när han utvärderade sin litterära produktion. Hur sjutton kan någon som skapat litteraturens kanske mest välbekante gestalt, och utöver det en mindre klassiker som The Lost World framhålla ett par historiska romaner om hundraårskriget som idag bildade människor normalt inte hört talas om som sina främsta verk? Visst, visst: The white company har helt klart sina kvaliteter som han kunde vara nöjd med, främst i karaktärsteckning, men det är också närmast en provkarta på genrens värsta klichéer.

Unge Alleyne Edricsson har växt upp i kloster, men måste nu spendera ett år utanför murarna för att lära känna världen. Han blir omsider väpnare hos Sir Nigel Loring, en Don Quijote i mindre format: fattig, men inte utfattig, och frekvent missförstående av verkligheten i riktning i riktning mot att han skall få göra en insats som en riddersman, Misstagen beror dock främst på grund av närsynthet, och dunstar direkt bort när någon med bättre syn förklarar tingens sammanhang. Sir Nigel skall resa ner från England till Frankrike, ta kommando över det vita kompaniets bågskyttar, och hjälpa svarte prinsen i hans spanska krigståg. Tillsammans med sir Nigel och Alleyne färdas också Hordle John, en jätte till karl med en rak och enkel själ, och Sam Aylward, bågskytt med kompaniet, en god kamrat som annars i huvudsak är intresserad av kvinnor och krigsbyten.

Historien utvecklas i stort sett som väntat: den naive Alleyne möter stora världen, i form av en nästan parodisk uppsättning medeltida personer: flagellanter, johanniterriddare, tiggarmunkar, avlatskrämare, skogsmän, tandläkare, lekare, asylsökare, världshusvärdar. Han förälskar sig i ung dam han bara kan hoppas bli värdig genom att vinna ära och titel. Han får höra profetior. Han möter alla sin miljös stora och mäktiga. Han utkämpar duell, hamnar i bondeuppror, och i formellt fältslag. Lite mer oväntad är sjöstriden – men det är trots allt en brittisk roman.

Var för sig är förvisso de här sakerna kompetent hanterade, men sammantaget blir det övermättande. Lägg därtill att man inte träffar på själva det vita kompaniet förrän sista fjärdedelen av boken, och att man kanske förväntat sig mer av strider och lite mindre pikaresk, och boken känns udda balanserad: den känns som väldigt mycket bakgrundsmålning, och inte tillräckligt mycket handling (speciellt de sista kapitlen känns väldigt komprimerade). Lite mer irriterande är den brittiska nationalismen: England har naturligtvis den bästa armén, men även den gamla nordeuropeiska idén om det egna landet som frihetens och oväldets hemvist hålls fram, medan de franska bönderna framhålls som totalt utsugna.

Som sagt: det är inte en direkt dålig bok; alla fyra av huvudpersonerna är distinkta och vältecknade och känns som riktiga personer, och handlingen är i grunden sund, även om den borde behövt få mer kärlek. Det finns inga direkt pinsamt ahistoriska episoder. Det är en fullt acceptabel historisk roman. Men utöver sir Nigel finns väldigt lite som sätter sig ordentligt hos läsaren. Det är en berättelse av en kompetent författare vars idéer om det han skriver om inte alltid är helt riktiga och som är ivrig att visa upp sitt arbete, inte mer och inte mindre. ( )
  andejons | Mar 24, 2019 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Arthur Conan Doyleautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Almqvist, JosefTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Granlund, J.Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Iribas, Juan L.Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Wyeth, N. C.Ilustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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To the Hope of the Future
The reunion of the English-speaking races
This little chronicle of our common
Ancestry is inscribed

South Norwood,
September 29, 1891
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The greatest bell of Beaulieu was ringing.
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In 1366, while England is at war with Spain, young Alleyne Edricson becomes a squire to Sir Nigel Loring and travels to France to join a bold band of archers known as the White Company.

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