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3.19  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Who was Robin Hood? Romantic legend casts him as outlaw, archer, and hero of the people, living in Sherwood Forest with Friar Tuck, Little John and Maid Marian, stealing from the rich to give to the poor - but there is no historical proof to back this up. The early ballads portray a quite different figure: impulsive, violent, vengeful, with no concern for the needy, no mer ...more
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published June 4th 2009 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 3.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  181 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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May 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: we-own
As difficult a novel as I've finished in a long time, but also a marvel of sustained and disciplined imagination (all the more impressive as the novel's central conceit -- that it read as a translated Latin text written in the hand of a monk several centuries before the novel, in the form that we know it, existed -- cannot but have been hostile to Thorpe's instincts as an artist). Too thorny a read to give it five stars, but much too ambitious and visionary to give it anything lower than four, w ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews, 2000s
“The seas are folded over us, above our heads, the lower sea becoming the upper sea and yet still blue when not girt with sea mist, which is grey and melancholy. Some men when they look up see birds, but I see only a kind of fish, sometimes in great shoals. These fish are beaked and feathered...”

So begins the true tale of Robyn Hodd, recounted by an aged monk of Whitby, whose forgotten Latin manuscript is rescued from a ruined church during the Battle of the Somme, but subsequently destroyed. We
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started this book, I was confused for a minute. I thought the book was historical fiction, a retelling of the Robin Hood myth. If so, who then was this Francis Belloes and how come there where tons of footnotes? Of course, this is the central conceit of the novel: it is a translation by the aforementioned Francis Belloes of a far older manuscript. This manuscript is the autobiography of the monk mentioned in the blurb. So it is historical fiction, just done in a very clever way.

Before get
Sep 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
I have yet to have a book that I have not finished reading, Hodd threatened to be the first!! The original thought of a book written by a monk who was "truly in the presence" of Robin Hood was very compelling for me!! Only to learn that the author set in so many side tracking foot notes (and foot notes upon those foot notes) that the original narrative feel of the book is lost in what instead feels like a text book one is forced to read. Around page 150 I stopped reading and no longer had an int ...more
Katie Mather
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, although I found it difficult to follow in parts due to the footnotes.

A really fascinating way to tell a story and full of vivid imagery and connections with nature and death. So realistic and descriptive of life in the middle ages I felt like I should wash my hands after reading. And a surprisingly satisfying end, too.
Carl Nicholas
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good book in an interesting era, with an interesting perspective - but some of the descriptive language does go on a bit.
Tom Dawn
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This wasn't an easy read and I didn't always enjoy it, but the overall imaginative concept was awesome, and that's what I remember it for most of all. ...more
Alex Murphy
Robin Hood is one of my favorite stories, from when I was a kid to now. So any book about him will draw me in. Hodd does have a unique way of telling this story. The actual author (Adam Thorpe) writes it as an academic in the 1920’s translating on old medieval manuscript written by a monk telling his own story of meeting Robin Hood as a sort of autobiography/confession. So it’s a real author writing as a fake one translating an imaginary document. Got it?
So it’s written in the first person in a
Keith Currie
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As the rediscovered printer's proof of a translation of a lost copy of an original Thirteenth Century manuscript, this novel presents with over 400 scholarly footnotes (as well as mediaeval marginalia and Latin apparatus criticus) what is claimed to be the earliest historical record of the brutal felon later known as Robin Hood. Thorpe's novel is more concerned with identity and anonymity than with Robin Hood. The anonymous narrator of the original manuscript is a very aged and repentant old mon ...more
Oct 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
I've got to say this is one of the more pretentious pieces of 'literature' I've read in a while (and I did a module on literary fiction at university which was rife with prentention).
I picked it up because the Robin Hood myth is something that fascinates me, and from the back of the book, this sounded like a pleasant respite from all the fluffy merry men bullshit that is out there.
Sadly, it was trying too hard.
If it was, as it claimed, a modern translation, then why was it still full of random s
Venetia Green
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
In many respects, this is a brilliant piece of writing - but if you're after a fast-moving adventure story, don't pick up Hodd.
The main story purports to be the translation of a 14th century Latin manuscript. A scholar finds the manuscript in WW1-ravaged France and 'translates' it into quasi-archaic English, complete with 408 footnotes. Thorpe very cleverly creates a rambling theological style for his original monk-author and a scholarly, slightly pompous tone for his Edwardian 'translator'. I a
If your mind keeps drifting to other things when you are reading a book it is not a good sign

This is not a bad book, just not a good read for me. The book is as much about the minstrel / monk as it is about Robin Hood. The voice of the book is as if you are reading a 13th century monk's diary. It is well done, but I found it long winded and a bit boring. There is one thing the author does that I found really annoying. I know there are various interpretations of the name Robin Hood. Thorpe consta
Ches Torrants
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
I found this a gruelling tale, set in a time of poverty and squalor. A young boy, schooled in the relentlessly judgmental religion of the 13th century, is captured by an outlaw band. He survives under the protection of Hodd, their charismatic leader and user of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Hodd is captured. "Litl John" and the boy rescue him. It is a classic Robin Hood adventure.

But behind it lies another adventure. A British soldier found a manuscript in a ruined church during WWI. He later transl
Paul Pensom
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May 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
What to make of Hodd. There's no denying it's incredibly clever and there are passages of brilliance but every time the story gets up to speed it stalls.

Like other reviewers I was drawn to the idea of a retelling of the Robin Hood legend through an unromanticised lense. But Adam Thorpe has cloaked this retelling in the guise of a recovered manuscript- a monk's memoirs complete with footnoted commentary by a 1920s translator and he takes such pains to make this framework authentic that the story
Robin Hood's story as told through the eyes of a young boy who joins his gang for a short period. The premise of this book is quite interesting as it's done in the form of a manuscript with supposed editing and notes done by a historian in the early 20th century. However, the story itself is really rather dull and it feels like nothing in particular happens. I started to lose faith in the author at the beginning of the book when he referred to St Edmund's Abbey in Doncaster. Doncaster has never ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The true story of Robin Hood, less saviour of the people, more thief, murderer, torturer and all round nasty guy.
The style is meant to be a translation of a text written by a monk who, as a boy, was part of Hodd's roving horde. Intended to show how legends can be created from misinterpreted/mistranslated texts, what can across more was the savagery, one bloody act of spitefulness after another.
That's the main thing I remember about this book, the acts of cruelty, the torture, the hideous ways
Oct 30, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a most unusual book to read as it is actually a translation from the Latin of a lost original medieval document that was rescued by the translator from a ruined church on the Somme. The document is a testimony of the Monk Matthew and it describes life with the bandit 'Hodd' in the greenwood who believes himself above God and beyond sin, following the 13Century principles of the 'heresy of the Free Spirit". The monk's ballads were responsible for turning the murderous felon Robert Hodd in ...more
May 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
Didn't live up to its billing. I'd heard a lot of hype about this book, and would have been happy to read "a thrilling re-examination of myth", but far from thrilling it's a rather repetitive walk down memory lane of a monastic-page turned outlaw turned monastic, Much the Miller's son. In Thorpe's vision, the narrator spends a huge amount of time discussing theological issues that would be of no interest even to the most devout modern Christian (Thorpe then elides much of that, but it's still so ...more
Oct 17, 2010 rated it liked it
I was prompted to buy this based on some good newspaper reviews. It's set in a period of history which I find interesting and the legend of Robin Hood usually makes for a good read.

However, this book is only very vaguely concerned with Hood and is much more about Matthew, a minstrel whose ballads are responsible for the mythologising of Hood over the centuries.

An intriguing tale, only 300 pages long, but it is not an easy read.
Sean Rosebrugh
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not really about Robin Hood. Mostly about the inner thoughts of a confused young man lost in a world he doesn't understand. Highly impressionable and not that bright, our hero tells a story of his wasted life in a confusing memoir. Loaded with intentional spelling mistakes and useless footnotes (that may or my not reference real things) I give this book 2 stars. Adam Thorpe tried something here and it failed. ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was something very academic trying to be very clever but not what is expected in a novel. therefore really rather pretentious. I never give up and about half way through it did manage to engage me but that is not a really good recommendation! It dragged itself up from a 1 to something a little bit better.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent retelling of the Robin Hood myth, in the manner of a discovered Mediaeval manuscript. Puts forward a very interesting scenario of how the exploits of a band of ne'er do wells could become the stuff of legend. Considering it's written in faux-medieval, I found it a gripping and atmospheric read. ...more
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, albeit somewhat inaccessible. It takes a while to get used to the writing style. It's one of those books that one must sit back and absorb, rather than having it take one along, it's not a page turner. ...more
Oct 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book -- it was very refreshing to read a book set in a medieval time period without any anachronisms! The take on the Robin Hood story was also very interesting, and was grounded in what I understand to be actual historical fact.
Stephen Basdeo
Apr 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
Yes, the early ballads are violent. But in them the violence is necessary: Robin is still a man who 'dyde pore men moch god'. In this novel, however, he just comes across as callous and cruel with no redeeming features.

It's hardly Ivanhoe. Not worth the read.
Thomas Ohlgren
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A superb modern retelling of the Robin Hood legend. Here is a dark hero indeed and no social bandit.
Lucy Mason
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Would make a pretty fun film.
Amy Suzanne
Aug 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
The violence and misogyny in this book, though probably true to the period, turned me off.
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Adam Thorpe is a British poet, novelist, and playwright whose works also include short stories and radio dramas.

Adam Thorpe was born in Paris and grew up in India, Cameroon, and England. Graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1979, he founded a touring theatre company, then settled in London to teach drama and English literature.

His first collection of poetry, Mornings in the Baltic (1988), w

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