Book review: The Talisman by Walter Scott

The TalismanThe Talisman by Walter Scott

From BBC Radio 4 – Drama:
The Talisman is the finale of Scott’s novels set during the crusades but this one features the dying dog days of the Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart is de facto leader but the military expedition has ground to a halt and the allies are getting itchy feet. They are sick of Richard’s over-bearing leadership and, to make it worse, very few of them still believe Jerusalem can be reconquered.

To the modern reader this must be a rather recondite setting. Beyond the jousting and the knightliness, how much do we care about the crusades anymore? And that’s without opening the can of worms as to whether the West had any more right to be there then than it does now.

Jonathan Myerson, the adapter, wondered how to update this story and find a modern parallel to this situation.
And then it came to him: Occupy London in 2011. Those protestors started with the same, almost ecstatic belief in the possibility of change. They aimed to seize the holiest of places – the London Stock Exchange – but were beaten back and forced to set up camp outside. As the original crusaders came to loathe the heat and insect life in their desert encampment outside Jerusalem, the protestors of Occupy came to much the same conclusion – as winter set in – about sleeping on the cold, wet flagstones of St.Paul’s Churchyard. And, in much the same way, the competing groups started to feel it was time to pack up and go home.

So, new listeners will follow Scott’s original story of conspiracy and counter-conspiracy and, most important of all, star-crossed lovers but will hear new resonances in this old tale.

Produced by Clive Brill
A Brill production for BBC Radio 4.


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