Who wrote this book and when?
The Baroness Emmuska Orczy wrote this book to be published in 1905.
Has there been a movie made of it?
There have been an enormous amount of films and TV programs made of this novel – after all, it was one of the first masked avenger novels ever written. My personal favorite is the Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellan version. The BBC series isn’t too bad either. And for a short attention span, try watching “The Scarlet Pumpernickel,” starring Monsieur Daffy Duck.
Who are the main characters?
The Scarlet Pimpernel – an elusive hero who is saving aristocratic families from the guillotine in France during the Reign of Terror
Marguerite Blakeney – a French woman who has married a British gentleman and is widely known as the most stylish woman in England
Sir Percy Blakeney – Marguerite’s husband, he is the jetsetter of social Britain, but also heralded as the dullest and stupidest man alive. He and Marguerite are estranged.
Citizen Chauvelin – the French ambassador to England, who is obsessed with discovering the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel and having him summarily executed Armand St. Just – Marguerite’s older brother, who still lives in France and is in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
What’s it about?
France is under the Reign of Terror of the 1790’s and hundreds of aritocratic families are being executed under the guillotine by the mob. A hero has emerged to rescue them from under the officials’ very noses, the Scarlet Pimpernel. No one knows his true identity, and his disguises are flawless as well as endless. Nearly every British woman of the day is secretly in love with him, though few have ever met him.
Lady Marguerite Blakeney is a French socialite who has married a British gentleman named Sir Percy Blakeney. She was hailed as one of the wittiest, prettiest, and most stylish women in France until she inadvertantly betrayed some of her relatives to the authorities and they were executed. She married a man some considered a bad match intelligence-wise, most people praise Sir Percy’s style but are frequently forced to call him the dullest and stupidest man in society.
Soon after they were married, Marguerite admitted to her husband how an idle comment of hers had betrayed her uncle to the guillotine. Immediately afterwards, he grew distant, and she has come to believe he no longer loves her. Marguerite’s brother, Armand, is returning to France. He is working for the Scarlet Pimpernel but is masquerading as a citizen (one of those who are persecuting the aristocrats).
Coinciding with his departure is the arrival of Citizen Chauvelin, the ambassador from France to Britain. Chauvelin is actually a spy, sent over from France to discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel and set a trap for him. He meets Marguerite as she is returning from saying goodbye to her brother and implies he has the means to blackmail her into helping him in his quest to bring down the Scarlet Pimpernel. She brushes him off.
The next time they meet, Chauvelin again asks for her assistance, this time implying if she does not help him discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, her brother’s life will be forfeit. Marguerite is forced to choose between her brother and the dashing and romantic Scarlet Pimpernel. Her attempts to discover his identity and save both him and her brother from the evil Chauvelin will lead her on an adventure and to conclusions she never anticipated.
Why is this book a classic?
It is the novel which set the bar for every masked avenger story following it. Plus, it was written by a woman. Booyah. Most comic book superheroes, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger can be accredited to having their roots in the tale of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Why should I read this book?
It’s entertaining, suspenseful, and funny to boot. Not to mention, it’s a classic of classics. Despite the fact it was published in 1905, it’s never stuffy in its storytelling. The characters are beautifully crafted, and although it’s predictable at times, you will enjoy the story to the last paragraph.
Has it won any awards?
Not that I’m aware of.
“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!” – Sir Percy Blakeney
“Chauvelin stood for a moment quite still, and enrolled thirty odd people in one long, overwhelming anathema. Nature, poetic, silent, balmy, the bright moon, the calm, silvery sea spoke of beauty and of rest, and Chauvelin cursed nature, cursed man and woman, and above all, he cursed all long-legged, meddlesome British enigmas with one gigantic curse.”
The Baroness Orczy wrote over 13 novels and plays in the Pimpernel series…not all of them about the Pimpernel. Some were about his comrades, some were about his children.
I absolutely loved this book. One thousand cool points and kudos to Pooka for recommending it to me! I even went out and bought it, which, my friends – I don’t just let ANY book into my personal library. This is my idea of the ideal adventure story. It’s got romance, suspense, chivalry, humor, and masked avengers. Love it love it love it!