Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy


They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven, or is he in Hell, that dammed, elusive, Pimpernel.

In all the years, since the first time I saw Anthony Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel, I've never forgotten those words. Among my friends and I, we knew that line better than the seemingly ubiquitous "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife." from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice novel that we were forced to read. It was a line randomly brought into group conversations, and said loudly in unison followed by fits of laughter. We all knew that poem. To this day, I can't say what made that movie so attractive to us silly teenage girls, but it was, and today, I still think about it.

But, this isn't generally a movie blog, and to write about the story properly, I felt I should take things a bit farther and actually read the novel. I also found, very little to my surprise, that I enjoyed the book as much as the movie.

Baroness Orczy does a wonderful job in telling the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel, an elusive rescuer to French aristocrats awaiting their turn at the guillotine in the midst of the French Revolution. Meanwhile, back in England, Marguerite St. Just, also known as Lady Blakney, the wife of Sir Percy Blakney, is approached by A French officer to help discover the true identity of the Scarlet pimpernel. In exchange for her help, her brother, who has been accused for crimes against the revolution, might escape his own trip to guillotine. Marguerite feels she has no choice but to do as asked, and later discovers a plot during a party for one of the Pimpernel's men to meet him in a meeting room. She gives this information to the officer, but when he goes to the meeting room at the appointed time, he only finds Sir Percy stretched out asleep on the couch. Later, as Lady Blakney's suspicions arise, she investigates her husbands private office and discovers a seal bearing the Scarlet Pimpernel's sign. Has she unknowingly betrayed her husband? And, will she be able to save him from being condemned to the same death he works to rescue others from?

In a story of romance, adventure and fun, Baroness Orczy gives us a novel for the ages, that I personally, will never forget, (nor will I forget the memories that story has given me).

The Scarlet Pimpernel

16 comments:

seana said...

Sounds like a great read, and I love the bond the movie became for you and your teenage friends. You're right, probably not the most common one ever to spring up between teenage girls...

Glenna said...

Seana, we were an odd bunch...we still are. We all still try to get together for a weekend once a year, and it's an interesting time to say the least.

Now I'm getting all sentimental..

seana said...

I've recently been reconnected with some of my old high school pals, and it's been great. Something of what you had in common then remains, it seems. We were an odd bunch too, but of course in different way.

Glenna said...

Seana, it definitely does remain.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps it's the zeitgeist, or maybe it's just coincidence, but I started reading The Scarlet Pimpernel this evening.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Glenna said...

Enjoy Peter. It's a fun story, even if it is a bit predictable.

seana said...

Glenna, you should hop on over to Peter's blog and weigh in on the book, as he's got a lively discussion going there.

Glenna said...

Thanks for the tip Seana, I'll pop over soon.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, The Scarlet Pimpernel has struck many chords over the last hundred years or so -- an interesting phenomenon.
======================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Glenna said...

Peter, it definitely is.

Peter Rozovsky said...

The rescue of innocents via cleverness is a timeless theme, I suppose, but an artistocrat in the hero's role, particularly with the French Revolution as an adversary, is novel, at least for readers today. That's a good part of what makes the story interesting for me.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Glenna said...

That is one of the parts that I found interesting. I also really enjoy how he plays with his adversary. I get a kick out who he is through out the novels.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I may have more to say about Lady Blakeney before too long. I also want to avoid any spoilers in these discussions!

Glenna said...

I look forward to hearing it. Lady Blakeney is an interesting character and I've always wondered how things progressed between her and Percy. I've just started The Elusive Pimpernel and I'm hoping that area is explored some.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm trying to figure out whether her rapid switch of sympathies to the S.P.'s side is a mere narrative device, or whether it's believable. I may know more soon.

Glenna said...

Well, it may be the female side of me, or it might be I've known the story for as long as I can remember, but it worked for me. In the story, she never fell out of love with him, so when she found out the truth, it was easy to turn his way. Not to mention, she never was against him in the first place.