Book Review: “The Prisoner of Zenda”

Do you know I never read this book? I’d heard about it, but never picked it up. Now I have and I can say that I enjoyed it. It was first published in 1894. The style of writing is indicative of the time, but it’s still readable. Interestingly, it was written in first person–was this the first one written in that POV?

Rudolf Rassendyll lives in England, a distant relative of his family, the Elphbergs of Ruritania. He’s done little in his life, content to live on an inheritance and is harassed by his sister-in-law for his laziness. For a change of scenery and to get away from her, he decides to take a vacation on the continent to see the crowning of the King of Ruritania. On the way, he meets the real king and his two friends, Colonel Sapt and Count Fritz von Tarlenheim and finds he has a remarkable resemblance to the king. After a night of hard drinking, he wakes to find the king has been drugged and unable to attend his own coronation. If he doesn’t attend, his brother, Black Michael, would ascend to the throne, so to prevent that Colonel Sapt and the Count convince him to take the king’s place. He agrees, thinking it will only be for a short while until he learns that the real king has become a prisoner in Black Michael’s castle near the town of Zenda.

This is quite a delightful tale, but as I said earlier, it is written in an archaic form with some terms we no longer use. Still, the story stands.

This is a literary classic that all of us should read because it’s a good story. In today’s terms, it would be called a novella at best. It’s very short.

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