Monday, March 23, 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Book Review


Author –  Emmuska Orczy

A review of The Scarlet Pimpernel

My entire knowledge pertaining to this most amazing book consisted of Daffy Duck masquerading as the Scarlet Pumpernickel.  What a sad truth to admit.  I hardly remember the Looney Tunes version I seen as a child so thankfully nothing was spoiled.  I do wonder what took me so long to read it though.  Perhaps fate knew I was ready to appreciate it at this time.  Which would make tremendous sense, as my younger self would probably have thought this was a boring story.  It however is truly a wonderful read.

I likened to the book in no time, as the idea that the Englishmen were saving the aristocrats from France out of sport was shocking.  Rescuing those rich French people wasn’t out of nobility, to be a hero or simply to do what’s right but because it’d be a challenging activity.  Finally a quirky reason to risk one’s life and in doing so breaking the mold in storytelling, I can’t help but to be impressed.

Lady Marguerite and Sir Percy’s relationship played out very well.  He appears to be seen as a rich dimwit and she a popular naïve beauty in the public’s eye.  Actually he pulled off the charade at all times which is quite admirable.  Marguerite was none the wiser.  I’m not sure if the story would have worked so well if not seen through her eyes.  As she was the actual clueless one of the two it was fun trying to put the mystery together as she plodded her way along.

It was very entertaining to get a taste of 1792 in England and France.  I’m sure the era was at times terrifying to live in but the visual sense in this story is satisfying.  As I read England had this vibe of safety, freedom and a sort of utopia while France was dangerous, confining and out of control.  I couldn’t help but hope that the rich people would get saved from that mighty guillotine.  Well actually I wanted to see how the Scarlet Pimpernel would sneak them to paradise.  The drab old lady rescue at the beginning and the old Jew disguise at the end were both fantastic.

Reading about Marguerite’s character growth was compelling to me.  I wasn’t totally on board with her to start but somehow I accepted her as the main character and began to root for her to improve as a person.  I’m not meaning she is perfect now as the story took place over only a few days but that amount of time in certain situations can help you grow up fast.  She still struggled to put two and two together when it became clear whom the Scarlet Pimpernel was which makes her human and relatable.

If you decide to read this book don’t expect costumed people with swords at their side slicing through Paris leaving a bloody mess.  The story manages to omit violence, aside that nasty guillotine, and still provide a suspenseful story.  If you like the era it was written, 1903 I believe, then that can only help make your decision to read all the more easy.