- 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' Review
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- Baroness Emmuska Orczy Biography
Overview: The Scarlet Pimpernel
The story begins with the escape from Paris of a beautiful Comtesse, from right under noses of the revolutionary committee who planned to send her to the guillotine. She is smuggled out by a constant thorn in the French authorities’ side, known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. The Comtesse is brought to England, where she arrives at the Fisherman's Rest inn. There she meets young men who are part of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel: all have sworn to obey and (if necessary) die for their enigmatic leader.
Among them is a young French man who detests the new government of his country and who is determined to return to France to rescue the Comtesse's husband, who remained behind. Also staying at the inn is Marguerite, who came to England and married one of the foremost fashionable gentlemen of England--the good-natured but rather stupid, Lord Percy Blakeney.
That very night, she approaches her husband, and bemoans the fact that they had become estranged. Sir Percy remains distant and tells her that he must set off on business the next day. The final act of the book's drama takes place in France, where the main players desperately race to save Marguerite's brother. It is then that the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is finally revealed.
Illusion vs. Reality?: The Scarlet Pimpernel
This novel depends on illusion but the hero depends far more on brains than brawn. The Scarlet Pimpernel is a master of disguise and misdirection, but he would rather take a beating (in order to escape his enemies) than deal one out. In the same way that the Scarlet Pimpernel tricks the doltish Frenchman, Orczy dupes us (her readers) with narrative tricks--designed to confuse and misdirect.
Orczy takes a large, complex historical background and reshapes it into a suitable background for a straightforward adventure story. The writing sometimes descends into melodrama, but the point of the novel is hardly its literary power. In The Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy tells a fantastic story in a fascinating way, and we are drawn to the edge of our seats.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic adventure story and one of the first to employ the device of a central character with a secret identity, but this novel is also a fantastic read. The book is exciting. Always interesting. The Scarlet Pimpernel holds an appeal that is still enormously strong today.