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Posts Tagged ‘Baroness Orczy’

I stuck with the e-reader this week, and travelled back to the 1790’s…

Book 14 – The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

This story takes place during the Reign of Terror, a particularly brutal period of the French Revolution. A heroic and daring Englishman known only as ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ is rescuing French aristocrats from certain death amidst the blood and violence of the Parisian streets.

Meanwhile, in England, the beautiful and intelligent French actress Lady Marguerite Blakeney – wife of the dull but rich Sir Percy Blakeney, and known Republican – realises that the zeal that has overwhelmed her homeland has turned into something deeply disturbing.

In the rush to punish those who protect fugitive Aristocrats, her beloved brother is in danger from the people he exalted, and Marguerite is forced to sacrifice the safety of the mysterious Pimpernel to save her brother – but when she realises the cost, she makes a dangerous and terrifying journey to right the wrong she has committed.

I really enjoyed this book.  I hadn’t expected to, particularly, although I don’t know why.  Possibly because of this…

Ah, Blackadder – how I miss you 🙂

I enjoyed many elements of the book.  Firstly, although it is about the exploits of the Pimpernel, it is Marguerite we follow through fear and danger.  It is as much her story as his, and as much her bravery that saves the day.  She is a beautiful, captivating and intelligent woman who is prepared to risk her life to make amends for the choice she made.  She is brave but flawed, just like the Pimpernel himself – the book feels quite modern in this sense.  In fact, there is a sense that the two characters are well-matched, even if their motivation is different.

The second thing is that there is something so identifiable about it.  I don’t mean the Revolution but the landscape – crossing the channel at Dover, the boat at the Gris Nez, the travel around the Calais area – which are all places I have visited.  I have looked over towards Dover from the Gris Nez, and at Calais from the White Cliffs of Dover, and it makes me feel an affinity with the scenes in the book.

Thirdly, it is so unashamedly dramatic – ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ was arguably the original Caped Crusader, and it’s a swashbuckler in many senses, but it’s also one of those stories which relies on hiding in the shadows and last-minute dashes, on disguises and misunderstandings.  Sometimes you want drama, and how great to see the female character in an early 20th century book get her hands utterly dirty!

Despite my ambivalence about reading this, I am really glad I did, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of a mask on their hero 🙂

Happy Reading,

EJ

🙂

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