Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I...really don't have a good excuse. But we're back!

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult (reading level, mild romance, action violence)

In the year 1792, Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite Blakeney are the darlings of British society—he is known as one of the wealthiest men in England and a dimwit; she is French, a stunning former actress, and the cleverest woman in Europe—and they find themselves at the center of a deadly political intrigue. The Reign of Terror controls France, and every day aristocrats in Paris fall victim to Madame la Guillotine. Only one man can rescue them—the Scarlet Pimpernel—a master of disguises who leaves a calling card bearing only a signature red flower. As the fascinating connection between the Blakeneys and this mysterious hero is revealed, they are forced to choose between love and loyalty in order to avoid the French agent Chauvelin, who relentlessly hunts the Scarlet Pimpernel.
My friends, especially my friend Ashley, told me that I had to read this book. I downloaded it to my kindle, and didn't really read it. Ashely kept getting onto me about reading it, and I would just be like, "yeah, I'm going to." I'd read a few chapters when I was half asleep and gotten completely lost on it, and I just kind of didn't care. I kept thinking I probably needed to just start over, but I had other things to read.

When Masked, a modernized webseries adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, began, I started to think about this story again. After all, my friends wouldn't really let me avoid it. I watched the first episode. I hadn't really intended to, I wanted to read the book first, but Ashley posted it on her blog and so I went ahead and watched it. I didn't really know what to expect, and I can't say it really piqued my interest, but I saw the hype over this book. And perhaps got a bit of a spoiler, but I'm not mad.

After I listened to Little Dorrit, I found myself with a bit of a book hangover, and I didn't want to listen to anything else. But I had more sewing to do and my friends had been on me about this book for so long that I just said to myself, "fine, I'll listen to The Scarlet Pimpernel" and turned it on on Spotify.

I'm not sure when I realized "this is a really good book!" but it was long before that moment when it was at least half past midnight and I was telling myself I needed to put aside the sewing projects for the night, turn off the audio book, and not pick up my kindle to continue so I could actually go to sleep. It's just SOOOOO good. Even though my sewing project was very difficult, I wanted to work on it every possible moment because I just had to listen to more of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I was told to just file away the information in the first few chapters and wait for Sir Percy to show up. It's when Sir Percy shows up that things really get going, before that it's admittedly a bit boring, but after? Oh my goodness, there's no putting that book down! The farther along the book gets, the more exciting it is, the more intense, the more nerve-wracking. I just had to know what would happen, if Marguerite would be able to avert the consequences of her desperate actions, or if her decisions would lead to the most horrendous outcome. 
It's clean, too. There is a romantic aspect to it, and there is a point where Marguerite really wants Percy to kiss her, but (1) they're married, and (2) this was written at the end of the Victorian era so it's still handled in a pretty clean way.

This book also made me think. At a time when miscommunications between people I know in real life were potentially hurtling things towards a very bad conclusion (thankfully averted), the fact that a little communication would have prevented the events of The Scarlet Pimpernel entirely really stuck out to me. So many things go wrong because people fail to communicate. It can destroy so much. Marguerite should have communicated with her husband, Sir Percy. They both loved each other so much, yet they were driven apart by a lack of vital communication.

I love the characters. I don't want to say which character I love so much because spoilers, but suffice it to say that I dreamed I was meeting him and having a really hard time not fangirling. In my dream. He's so brilliant and selfless and brave. And the forerunner of secret identity superheroes. How can it get any better than that? I also love Marguerite, of course. Sure, she's a character I want to tell what to do, but I still love her. And she turned out to be really brave too. Though she made a grievous mistake in trying to save her brother whom she loves so much, she does all she can to right it.

And the ending! So many twists. So much brilliancy. Such a perfect conclusion. But couldn't it have gone on forever? 

In short, The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the best, most exciting classics I've ever read or listened to. Perhaps I used to be confused as to why so many of my friends love this book so much, but now I'm up there with the biggest fans among them. Highly recommended.


  1. Thanks for the review! This is going on to my ever growing to-read list! :)

    1. You're welcome. It should be a priority on that to-read list. ;) It's really amazing.


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