Ripping Book Review–The White Company

DSC00066WARNING: Ripping Book Reviews are solely the judgments of Professor VJ Duke on an unlucky book that has caused him much repulsion—in one way or another. Therefore, blame must be put on the professor and nobody else. With that in mind, read on—if you are brave enough to take it.


This novel is relatively unknown today, which is a good thing, since it spares readers unnecessary torture. It was popular up through the 1940s. How? I have absolutely no idea. But I suppose a reasonable conclusion could be that torture was in style.

Yes, I suffered (awfully) while making my way through the slosh and grime which is called The White Company. The edition that I own (I am seriously thinking about getting rid of it) is 401 pages too long.

Okay, the plot.

The novel takes place during the Hundred Years’ War around the years 1366 and 1367. It follows the adventures (overstatement) of a few fellows as they travel around England, France, and Spain. Now, if that doesn’t sound boring in itself, I don’t know what does. Granted, a lush read in that time period could have been written, but, if that’s the case, Doyle wasn’t aware of how to go about it.

The story centers on the insufferable Alleyne, a 20-year-old nincompoop who has decided to leave the abbey that has sheltered him all his life. You may ask: Why did he grow up in an abbey?

Here’s Doyle’s explanation:

“Twenty years ago,” he said [i.e. the Abbot], “your father, the Franklin of Minstead, died, leaving to the Abbey three hides of rich land in the hundred of Malwood, and leaving to us also his infant son on the condition that we should rear him until he came to man’s estate. This he did partly because your mother was dead, and partly because your elder brother, now Socman of Minstead, had already given sign of that fierce and rue nature which would make him no fit companion for you. It was his desire and request, however, that you should not remain in the cloisters, but should at a ripe age return into the world.”

So, because the mother died, the father was dying, and the elder brother was fierce, Alleyne grew up in the cloister. Hmm… Sounds like Doyle had a hard time deciding just how he would make Alleyne an orphan. He should have had Alleyne move in with his brother; at least it would have been interesting.

Eventually, Alleyne meets his lady friend, Maude who is the daughter of Sir Nigel Loring—more about him in a minute. Doyle greatly confused me with regards to Maude. Sometimes she was described as a woman; sometimes as a girl. So, throughout the book, I had conflicting notions. Part of me imagined Alleyne was courting someone 20 or more years his senior; and the other part imagined Alleyne was courting someone around his own age. I wonder which Doyle had imagined himself. I suppose all are free to imagine what they would like. Doyle painted with a broad brush just to give you the option.

Maude’s father, Sir Nigel Loring, is an interest. He is short, bald, and horribly nearsighted, yet he is a valiant warrior. It’s possible, I suppose. But it would be hard to fight when you can’t see. Perhaps, Loring had incredible hearing; perhaps he could ‘sense’ his surroundings; perhaps Doyle did the seeing for him. The latter is the most likely.

As the story progresses, Alleyne hooks up with Loring and a company of maddening persons, and together they set off for France. Some instances (not adventures, too boring) follow, but it’s all very tiring. The novel is serious, humorous, then serious again.

At the end of the novel, Loring is presumably dead. But we are shocked and dismayed to find that he isn’t. The blind man returns, with his ever faithful guide, Doyle.

All of the good characters in the story (no exceptions) are so maddening that we literally would cheer if they died. But they don’t give us the satisfaction. The bad characters are—in fact, there are no bad characters.

I would not recommend picking this book up on a rainy Saturday afternoon. No, the supreme boredom it would elicit would be enough to make you go out in the rain anyway. Besides, it would keep you up for nights with a myriad of nightmarish dreams that are really a rehashing of the many appalling scenes.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle considered The White Company his best. He even wrote a prequel to it.

If only he would have been loyal to Sherlock Holmes.


11 Responses to “Ripping Book Review–The White Company”

  1. 1 FictionFan July 13, 2013 at 23:25

    No she does not! How dare you? (Nanny McPhee style.)

    Obviously, girls become women the first time they encounter Darcy – therefore yes, it’s safe to say that BigSister is a woman. Mark Twain probably remained a boy all his life because of his anti-Darcy prejudice…and serves him jolly well right! I presume that means the moustache was fake?

    :lol: I like the scope on the sword idea so much, I’m going to let you win that one!

    • 2 Professor VJ Duke July 14, 2013 at 01:28

      Well, if you two know about the White Company then–in compliance with the professor’s written word–you must have been born in the 40’s.

      What a fine trap I’ve got myself into!

      That’s funny. I thought all the girls liked Darcy, and when they finally realized their silliness in it they became women. Now, I am confused. BigSister just might be like Lady Maude: shifting from age to age… ;)

      • 3 FictionFan July 14, 2013 at 15:38

        What?!? Now you’re saying I was born in the 40s too?!? You just crossed a line, buster!! Tuppence is at the manicurist having her claws sharpened as we speak and her plane is booked – be afraid, be very afraid…

    • 4 Professor VJ Duke July 14, 2013 at 17:31

      It has even got worse. I asked Bob to prepare for an attack, and he turned abruptly around and walked away, his short tail straight in the air!

      • 5 FictionFan July 14, 2013 at 20:21

        Yeah, he’s probably heard about Tuppence’s reputation…he’ll be a scaredy-cat. Or perhaps he feels that with your skill in electrocuting cats, you won’t need help. But we’ve foiled that plan – Tuppence will be wearing 4 little rubber boots…with wee holes at the front for her claws…

      • 6 Professor VJ Duke July 14, 2013 at 20:23

        Is there any way the professor can avert the impending doom?

      • 7 Professor VJ Duke July 14, 2013 at 20:27

        :lol: I have to admit, Tuppence’s suit is ingenious.

      • 8 FictionFan July 14, 2013 at 20:43

        She’s an evil mistressmind and a mistress of disguise – in fact…how sure are you that that was really Bob…

      • 9 Professor VJ Duke July 14, 2013 at 21:30

        How do you do a scared smiley? Oh well.

        It might not have been Bob. Can you call off Twopence? (Great spelling, I think.)

  2. 10 FictionFan July 13, 2013 at 20:22

    Hmm… while the author of this review makes some fairly valid points, this reviewer must take issue with the following:-

    The Professor seems to be obliquely suggesting that BigSister remembers the 1940s – this is a highly dangerous suggestion and it will take a great deal of chocolate to prevent this reviewer from informing her…

    The Professor appears to believe that girls only become women at the age of 40. Hmm… while there is undoubtedly a flattering aspect to this assumption, it is nevertheless the kind of thing that might make a feminist want to bash him over the head with his own femur.

    The Professor suggests that Sir Nigel’s nearsightedness would prevent him from being a great warrior. He completely ignores the fact that nearsighted people can usually see things close up and fighting in those days was usually hand to hand. I accept that he may have found life as a sniper quite tricky, but feel he’d have been able to boink someone over the head with a sword without too much difficulty – so long as his opponent was silly enough to come close to him…

    • 11 Professor VJ Duke July 13, 2013 at 22:55

      Oh dear. I do believe we’ve chanced upon a new trend here: ripping the professor’s ripio’s! Oh well.

      Well! *clears throat*

      Does BigSister really remember the 1940s? Now how cool is that! (Schwarz style.)

      I’m not really sure when girls become women. But, if we use the standards that you, I, and Doyle set up, I suppose we could conclude that BigSister is a woman…? ;) Mark Twain was a boy his entire life, by the way.

      The professor is just too bad. :evil:

      Sniper’s have scopes. Maybe Nigel had a scope on his sword? It is possible. The scope’s name was undoubtedly: Doyle.

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