By Baroness Orczy, this book is a marvelous story of intrigue, spies, deceit, and undying love. The first copy I bought was a small, paperback Penguin Press copy. Then I found this lovely boxed and illustrated hardcover at Second Read Books in St Augustine, Florida. It was printed by The Folio Society in 1997.
The illustrations are by Lucy Weller, and though they are not my favorite style of art, they are actually very well suited for this book. Each one is a collage of different images fitted together to form a whole. It is almost a true representation of each character who are collages of masks and emotions and lies. Here is one of Lucy Weller’s illustrations of Lady Marguerite and Sir Percy Blakeney. It is almost like a card, the king or the queen, isn’t it?
(I don’t make it a point to share curse words often, however, the above quote is at one of the greatest turning points in the story. It makes me laugh every time. All I can say is you’ve got to read the book.)
I listened to the final chapters of The Scarlet Pimpernel this morning. I absolutely love the ending! The great trick played on the enemy, the sweet surprise for the lady, the hero safe. The first time I read this book, I was thoroughly surprised. Now, after several readings and listenings, I still love it. And I won’t say more so that you will be compelled to read it just to find out what I am talking about. Now forgive me, but I am going to listen to the end again.
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.
(The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy, circa 1905)
Sir Percy Blakeney becomes the talk of Lord Grenville’s ball when he recites (repeatedly) this little poem he devised. “‘All done in the tying of a cravat,’ Sir Percy had declared to his clique of admirers.”
Today I started to listen to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Again. And I couldn’t wait to tell you about it, because it’s one of my favorite stories! Although I would usually tell you that I prefer a nice hardback book, there are times when I must listen to a book instead. And the next best thing to a hardback is a well-recorded audio.
I was first introduced to The Scarlet Pimpernel when my childhood friend showed me the 1982 movie. I fell in love with it. The actors, the storyline, everything about it. We watched it three times that day, and I have watched it at least 100 times since. Did I say it’s one of my favorites?
Then I found out that the movie was based on a book, so of course the first time I came across that book, I bought it. If you ever get the chance, read it, listen to it, and watch the movie. I think you will enjoy it too.
Now for the story: The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in the middle of the French Revolution, when the French commoners were killing French aristocrats. Their weapon of choice was Madame la Guillotine. An Englishman, known only as “The Scarlet Pimpernel” begins to rescue the imprisoned aristocrats. Using elaborate disguises and well-planned schemes, he and his band of men smuggle the former nobles out of Paris and away from death. Who is this man? Can the French Republic capture him before he steals away any more “aristos”?
The story is told from the view of Lady Marguerite Blakeney. Once the “Queen of Intelligent Society” in Paris, the Lady finds herself in a loveless marriage to a lazy, “foppish” English gentleman. One day, she is approached by a representative of the French Republic, a former friend named Chauvelin. He tasks her with finding out who this Scarlet Pimpernel is. He threatens to turn her brother over as a spy if she will not help him. Though she is angered and initially refuses, she eventually agrees, for she fears her brother is the only soul left on earth who loves her.
Lady Blakeney learns too late that when she betrays the Scarlet Pimpernel, she also betrays everything she ever loved. She faces great danger when she tries to right her wrong. She must hide in the shadows, tread barefoot through the night forest, and risk being caught by those who would do her harm before she can find the forgiveness and undying love she always craved.
The first copy I bought of The Scarlet Pimpernel was a Penguin Press paperback that I may still have in my library (if I haven’t given it away). But on one of my trips to St Augustine, I found a beautiful collector’s edition at the used bookstore, Second Read Books. It has a box cover and several glossy pictures. It was printed in 1997 by The Folio Society. When I don’t have time to sit and read, I will listen to the audiobook on Spotify or YouTube. It is a LibriVox recording performed by Karen Savage, who does a wonderful job.
I hope that you will decide to pick up a copy for yourself. I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy The Scarlet Pimpernel.