The Scarlet PimpernelThe Scarlet Pimpernel A surging, seething, murmuring crowd, of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. 

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic adventure tale set during the French Revolution. This timeless novel of intrigue and romance is the adventure of one man’s defiance in the face of authority. The rulers of the French Revolution are unable to discern the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a man whose exploits are an embarrassment to the new regime. Is he an exiled French nobleman or an English lord? The only thing for certain is his calling card–the blood-red flower known as the Scarlet Pimpernel…” It’s clear whose side the author (a baroness herself) is on. The Scarlet Pimpernel mainly rescues aristos and other people slated for execution, and the book is much simplified. But it’s a great adventure story, and I think while many of the aristocrats were awful people, they (let alone their children) didn’t deserve to be so brutally executed without a fair trial. Plus, as we see in A Tale of Two Cities, there were plenty of people executed who did nothing at all wrong, or were only faintly affiliated with the upper class. The French Revolution just got out of hand. I myself am not in favor of capital punishment anyway, but even if you are, so many innocents were killed. The point is, it’s complicated.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is not a complicated tale at all. It’s merely the story of a mysterious rescuer protecting the innocent from the vicious and cruel. The Scarlet Pimpernel is such an alluring and evocative character, mainly because he is so mysterious, and you do sympathize with him, even if the aristocrats are tyrannical. I also loved the scene at the beginning of the book when The Scarlet Pimpernel and a whole group of prisoners escape from France into England, right under the nose of one of the French guards who prides himself on never letting anyone escape. It’s always fun to see pretentious characters get taken down a notch. 

The writing is a bit florid and there are lots of characters to keep track of, but it’s still a really absorbing read, no matter where your sympathies lie. I love a good adventure tale, and this was one, with high stakes too. I felt myself getting drawn into this tale, and really wanted to see what would happen.

I picked this one up because of two things. First, it was mentioned in The Shoemaker’s Wife and it sounded really interesting. Second, Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars (a sci-fi retelling of Persuasion), is publishing a new science fiction book set in a different area of the same world which is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I can’t wait. I’d heard of The Scarlet Pimpernel before, but had never given reading it much thought. But it sounded really interesting, and I was not disappointed. Some parts of this book are so subtle, others so obvious.

I won’t say specifically who The Scarlet Pimpernel is; I found out while reading another review and a description of the plot, and in some ways, it made my reading of the book better, in some ways not. It certainly took away a certain element of the mystery, though it did make me look at the book a different way. Anyway, read The Scarlet Pimpernel yourself to find out who the title character is. Though it was pretty obvious.

My two favorite characters were Marguerite and Percy Blakeney. Both are central characters, particularly Marguerite. When the cruel Chavelin, who is hunting down the Scarlet Pimpernel, blackmails her into doing some spying for him, she handles it with remarkable fortitude, though she can’t help breaking down occasionally. I loved the character of Percy Blakeney too.

I loved The Scarlet Pimpernel; it’s an amazing adventure. I might try a few of the less popular sequels written by Baroness Orczy. Also, Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars, is coming out with a new science fiction retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Across a Star-Swept Sea. I look forward to reading it in October. 

Read The Scarlet Pimpernel:

  • if you like mystery
  • if you like adventure stories
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you are interested in the French Revolution

299 pages. 

Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!