For my first blog post, I decided that I should do one of my favorite books. Having a number of favorite books, it took me a little while to decide which one. But I have found a perfect one: The Scarlet Pimpernel.
I first came across The Scarlet Pimpernel in the form of a movie starring Anthony Andrews; however, no movie has yet done The Scarlet Pimpernel much justice. Baroness Orczy, the authoress of the book, spins together a riveting tale with the perfect balance of romance and adventure with deep, full characters. The movies fall a little short, especially on the ‘deep, full characters’ part. That criticism given, I must add that the Anthony Andrews movie was not bad, and the black and white movie with Leslie Howard was pretty good. Now on to the book -for which I only have good things to say.
The Scarlet Pimpernel takes place during the French Revolution, yet with the exception of the first chapter, it has very little gore and bloodshed in it. I like adventure and French historical fiction, but I greatly dislike anything that is over graphic. The Baroness does an excellent job of creating a realistic setting without being macabre. The story’s pace is quick, yet not lacking emotion or feeling. Indeed how could it lack emotion when a beautiful Frenchwoman, Marguerite, is married to an Englishman who once loved her passionately but now has drawn a mask of inanity around himself and no longer seems care for her while she still desires his love?
Along with that, there is a daring English hero, known as “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, who risks his life to rescue French aristocrats from the guillotine, incurring all kinds of rage from the revolutionists. When a French agent, Chauvelin, comes to spy out the hero’s true identity, he forces Marguerite to help him; either she aids him in finding the Pimpernel, or her brother dies.
I could go on and on about the book, but then I would spoil it for future readers.
There is enough angst in it to have you gripping the book tightly (and wailing when people interrupt you), yet it has uproariously funny parts, and in the end it is quite a happily after book. And then there lots of sequels!
To my great sorrow, I do not have a copy of this volume of my own. However, when I do find one at some store, you may be sure - aye and very, very sure!- that I will do my best to procure it for my already crowded book shelves.
Now if your library happens to be inept at stocking its shelves with great books, or it is “ept” but has overlooked The Scarlet Pimpernel, don’t despair! There are two online ways you can enjoy it: Librivox and Blakeney Manor.
Librivox.org is a fabulous place. It’s just like a “book-on-tape” library at your finger-tips. Just click and there is the whole book, chapter by chapter. You can listen to the whole thing, and it’s perfectly free.
Blakeneymanor.com is another great place, and it has the complete e-text of The Scarlet Pimpernel (it’s free, too). It also has all her other Scarlet Pimpernel books in e-text as well.
"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"