October 26, 2009

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Genre: Children's Classic
My Goodreads rating: 5 of 5
I simply love The Scarlet Pimpernel. This was my first time reading the book, but I have been a long time lover of the movie version with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen. I also very recently was able to see the musical version. It was put on by the local high school. They did a pretty good job with it.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is set during the French Revolution. The French Aristocracy are all being executed by Madame Guillotine, but one Englishman and his band of followers are sneaking aristocrats out of the country to safety. That man is only known as the Scarlet Pimpernel, and his real identity is a mystery. The Committee of Public Safety, represented by a character named Chauvelin, would love nothing more than to see the Scarlet Pimpernel put to death by Madame Guillotine. Chauvelin uses all his wit, resources, and even blackmail to try to catch the Pimpernel. Here is a quote from the book that I found pretty well descriptive of Chauvelin's character:

He paused a moment, like a cat which sees a mouse running heedlessly by, ready to spring, yet waiting with that feline sense of enjoyment of mischief about to be done. Then he said quietly--
'Your brother, St Just, is in peril.'
This interaction takes place between Chauvelin and Marguerite Blakeney, whose brother Armand St Just is being used as a bargaining piece. Armand's safety is promised in return for the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite is a Frenchwoman who married an English dandy, Sir Percy Blakeney, who is generally viewed as the richest fool in England. Though Marguerite swears she has no idea who the Pimpernel is let alone discovering his identity, Chauvelin believes with her popularity as the most fashionable in England, as well as her connections to the Prince of Wales that she can find the information he needs. Little does Marguerite know, the Scarlet Pimpernel may be closer to her than she thinks.

This is possibly the most recognizable quote in the book. I am so glad it was actually in the book, because it is in the movie, and absolutely the funniest thing when recited at a party by Percy Blakeney.
"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."
Note that I didn't make a spelling error; that is really how they spell damned in the copy of the book I read.
I read this book as part of a Classics Challenge. It is the last book I am reading for the challenge. It won't be the last classic I read this year, however. So stay tuned for more Classic reviews.

Reader Questions: Are you a Pimpernel fan? If so which is your favorite adaption of the book: one of the multiple movie versions or the musical? Who is your favorite character. Without a doubt, my favorite character is Percy!

Looking for more information on the Scarlet Pimpernel? Check out the Scarlet Pimpernel website.



melissa @ 1lbr said...

It's always, always be Anthony Andrews. I don't know if I've even seen any other versions, but if I did, I'm sure I'd still only love him as Percy. I didn't like the musical very much. Not sure why.

Britt said...

I'm STILL waiting for the movie to come in at the library. I'm hold 60-something... sigh.

I love the song of Percy's poem... but even more I love the song of people speculating about the Pimpernel and you can hear Percy laughing in the background!

It may be time to reread the book(s)...

heidenkind said...

I read this a few years ago. It's an enjoyable book, although I wish Marguerite had saved the day in the end instead of Percy... but then I suppose it wouldn't have been called The Scarlet Pimpernell. My favorite adaptation is the Anthony Andrews one, although the series with Richard E. Grant was pretty good. I didn't really like the one with Leslie Howard that much.

Kim said...

I've only seen the Anthony Andrews version but I loved it. I will definitely need to pick up the book after your glowing review. I'm sure I'll enjoy it.