Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

31 January 2011

I am a reader. I love many types of books, and I can often find something to interest me in even the dullest of books. It is rare that I have to read something I strongly dislike. Many of the books I read fall into the "This is a great book! I highly recommend it!" category. Very rarely will I get a book that I love to the moon and back. But when I do get a book like that, and (heaven forbid!) read it... beware. I am afraid I bore my siblings and mom to death by constantly saying how much I ADORE this new book. :)

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of those books. I almost love it more than (gasp!) Pride and Prejudice. *gulp* So, proceed with caution, or thus risk inflicting this terrible disease upon yourself...

The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Baroness Orczy

It was the worst of times. The French, inspired by the Americans' recent win in the Revolution, have now contrived to begin their own revolt, known as the French Revolution. The French seek to destroy all that was of the past... including the wealthy aristocrats. Daily, these "aristos" are beheaded on the guillotine. It was the Reign of Terror. Only one hope lies in the hearts of those who are to be executed: that they will somehow be rescued in time by the daring Scarlet Pimpernel, a mysterious Englishman who, with his League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, sneaks many French aristos into England and saves them from Madame la Guillotine. No one knows this secretive stranger's true identity. He is simply known as "The Scarlet Pimpernel", named such after the small wayside flower, known as the pimpernel, that he employs as a calling card. 

Marguerite Blakeney is one of the many women who is enraptured by the Pimpernel's heroism. An actress in Paris for many years and known as "the cleverest woman in Europe", Marguerite is now the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney, one of the wealthiest, best-dressed, and silliest men in all of England. No one knows the reason why they married, for they are very different in personality. The rumor is that Marguerite, despite the fact that she tosses her head at money and social standing, really married Sir Percy for his money. Sir Percy has grown more distant as of late, and Marguerite has given up hope that her husband really loves her. 

For all that she despises her foppish husband, Marguerite loves her brother, Armand, all the more. She waves goodbye to him as he sails off in Sir Percy's yacht, the Day Dream, thinking that he is going to fight on the side of the revolutionaries. Despite the fact that she and her brother do not agree with all of the French tactics, they are French, and so they are on the side of the French. It is not until later that she is confronted at the opera by Chauvelin, a French spy and former admirer of hers, who tells her the truth: Armand is really working in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Now, in order to save her brother, who is all the family she has in the world, she must help Chauvelin discover the identity of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and thus be a weapon used to kill him. Her only hope is that the daring hero will find some way to escape from Chauvelin's clutches...

Goodness, this is an exciting read. It's the type of book that, when you read it, you almost can't sit still. The tension is so high for most of the story that it makes you anxious along with the characters. It is the dictionary definition of a page-turner--that's a fact. But isn't that a good thing?

As I said before, I almost like this book better than Pride and Prejudice. I know, that's something so out of character for me to say. I can literally hear your jaws hitting the floor. I'll explain quickly before I'm faced with a huge medical bill for all of your jaw replacements. 

I've read Pride and Prejudice many a time, and watched the BBC movie even more. I love the story so much--and I always will--but for now, I needed something new. I believe passionately that the more times you re-read a book, the more you'll like it, but sometimes it's nice to read something different. I've read the Anne books, Pride and PrejudiceSense and Sensibility, and Little Women so much that it felt good to read a book in which I actually didn't know how it ended.

If I were asked to describe The Scarlet Pimpernel in one word, I would label it as intense. That is it exactly. The story is very exciting, and it moves very quickly--you almost feel winded when you're done reading it.

The characters are marvelous! I love their personalities, especially Marguerite's. From the surface, she seems like the typical wealthy lady who constantly sticks her nose in the air and looks down on other people. But throughout the story, Marguerite loses more and more of that haughty nature and the "little girl" in her comes out more and more. Just like Elizabeth Bennet, Marguerite is very witty and very quick--that's what I love about her. She's now one of my favorite heroines.

I feel as if I should be telling you more about the plot, what happens, what my favorite parts were, etc., etc., etc., but if I told you all of that... well, you'd know the end. And I can't reveal the end--that would be the most heinous of crimes I could commit as a book-reviewer. I pretty much told you the first half of the book in the summary, leading us up to the climactic "Either--Or?" So, all I can say is PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. If you don't get anything else out of this review other than that, I will be content. And if you do read it, please leave a comment and let me know what you think! I'd love to know. :) 

Warning: there are times in this book in which characters swear, a few of which are the equivalent today of taking the LORD's name in vain. Read with caution. 

I give it 5 out of 5 stars. 

A BIT O' READING FOR THE DAY


"All these conflicting thoughts raged through Marguerite's brain, while, with a smile upon her lips, she glided through the graceful mazes of the minuet. She noted--with that acute sense of hers--that she had succeeded in completely allaying Sir Andrew's fears. Her self-control had been absolutely perfect--she was a finer actress at this moment, and throughout the whole of this minuet, than she had ever been upon the boards of the Comedie Francaise; but then, a beloved brother's life had not depended upon her histrionic powers." ~The Scarlet Pimpernel, chapter 13

P.S. I'm linking this post to Hannah's Book Love link up.

10 epistles:

  1. I love this book...I think I've read it over a doze times! Did you know that Baroness Orczy has written many books about the Scarlet Pimpernel and that this is just the first one? They are out of print, but I have had some luck locating 3 of them in used/antique books stores. The Scarlet Pimpernel is the best of the ones that I have read, but it was very enjoyable to read further stories of the adventures of Sir Percy.

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  2. There is a FANTASTIC play made from this book! I'd highly encourage you to see it, and/or listen to the soundtrack. :)

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  3. I love this one! There are a bunch of sequels, mamavee is right. :) There is a great movie too, the 1982 one.

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  4. One of my favorite books!!! Sir Percy is my FAVORITE literary hero EVER. If you have the chance you should check out some of the continuing stories...my favorite is El Dorado and The Elusive Pimpernel. The 1982 film version is spectacular, as well.

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  5. I think I may have heard of this book, but honestly have never read it! That might just have to change;-)

    Thanks for linking to Book Love! Would you mind grabbing the button and including it somehwere in the post? If you could, that would be awesome!

    I always love reading your reviews, dear:)

    with love,
    --hannah m.

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  6. @Hannah M -- Oh, I'm so sorry! I must have forgotten. :( I'll do that right away.

    Elizabeth Rose

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  7. Oh oh oh!! I adore this book beyond belief. Intense is the word; I literally could not put it down. So good...and I know people who said it was really predictable and they guessed the ending before it was done, but I never did so it was a total wonderful surpise and I LOVED it.
    Whatever you do, don't watch the movie that was made from it...it has the same beginning as the book, but the end is completely wrong. I think it's taken from one of the sequels, but it was highly disappointing.
    *sigh* Stories like this make me so happy. :)
    In Christ, Jenn
    ps--Isn't the picture on your profile the girl from Cranford? I love that movie.

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  8. We ordered the movie from Netfix, but as far as I remember, it was...no good. :( But I'll have to pick this up as soon as I go to the library; you have very good taste in books. ;)

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  9. Had to come back and re-read this post because I just started reading TSP on the way home from FL because I was trying to get over the depression that comes after finishing a really good book (A Study in Scarlet) and was desperate for a good book and remembered your raving review on this. Anyway, I'm only at the part where Marguerite is saying goodbye to her brother but I was hooked by the first chapter. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation that saved a poor girl from post-good-book-depression :)

    Love ya,
    nana

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  10. currently reading it myself. were you aware this is a series?

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