Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness OrczyI am supposed to be doing my homework, finalizing my problem statement for my thesis, checking into my classrooms. Instead, I realized that I owe you a review. I actually could have written one before I even (re)read this book, but I thought I would be good and actually read it first.

First, the synopsis, courtesy of Amazon.com:

When Baroness Emmuska Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), little did she know she was creating the super hero genre.

Who is the elusive and mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel? A master of clever disguises, stealth and elegant escapes — skills that he uses to rescue doomed French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. His signature — a tiny scarlet flower.

The Pimpernel’s true identity is unknown except to a small group of co-conspirators who work with him and together comprise the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Not even his wife, the beautiful Lady Marguerite Blakeney, knows that the man she is married to, an effete fop and dull-witted British dandy Sir Percy Blakeney, is a secret hero who risks his life on a daily basis in order to save countless others.

A vibrant adventure awaits the reader — heart-pounding narrow escapes, clever repartee and dashing wit, true love thwarted and redeemed, a relentless agent of the French Republican Government who makes it his personal goal to capture and destroy the Scarlet Pimpernel, and of course Percy’s immortal “bon mot” that makes the social rounds in England and France:

“We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.”

With that in mind, I love this book. Part of it is a huge nostalgia factor, as I grew up watching the mini-series with Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews and Ian McKellan. I found out that it was a book several years later and immediately had to read it (of course!!). I recently reread it for my book club. Yes, the book has tremendous faults. The characters really don’t develop; it is melodramatic and crosses the line into far-fetched many times. Still, I’m a sucker for a good love story, and that is what this is at heart. Part mystery (okay, a small part), part swash-buckling good time, it just makes me feel better to read it.

One thing I contemplated while I was reading it last month was the fact that typically, when reading about the French Revolution, the reader views it from the revolutionary point of view. As Americans who fought for our own freedoms, we are taught to sympathize with them. Equality, Fraternity, Liberty and all that. This is one of the few books who actually take the opposite viewpoint, to see how the guillotine actually terrorized an entire population, both poor and rich alike. It was an interesting viewpoint that I never before considered.

If you are looking for a very quick, easy and fun read, with no deep thinking required, then this is the book for you. Enjoy!

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