The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the books that I had marked down in my Aurelia Osborne GoodReads, but never transferred to my [insert real name] GoodReads, and therefore promptly forgot. Then I heard the title somewhere, got intrigued, and picked it up.
The story is set in October 1792, in France. It is the Reign of Terror, and anyone even remotely suspected of being an enemy of the revolution is sentenced to die. Yet, the guillotine is cheated out of many heads by the hard work and ingenuity of a man known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. All that is known about the Pimpernel is that he, and the League who operates under his orders, are English noblemen. Therefore, the French Government sends an agent, Chauvelin, as their ambassador to England to discover the identity of their clever enemy and have, if possible, send him in France to a trap where he would be caught and executed. To assist him, Chauvelin enrolls Marguerite Blakeney, née St-Just, the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney, baronet and leader of fashion, who just so happens to be the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite does not know the secret identity of her husband: she only knows that unless she helps Chauvelin, he will have her brother Armand arrested for treason.
Having read this for the first time three months ago, and many many more times since, I am going to go ahead and call this my new favorite classic novel. I have some issues with the form: there is a lot of seeing the action happen and then followed by lengthy explanations. But I’m getting used to seeing this, as I’ve been reading more and more classic novels. It seems that they all employ this story structure. I don’t like it, and I’m really, really glad that it fell out of fashion, but I’m getting used to it. There is also a lot of wandering around, and A LOT of repetition and rehashing of events. But I do enjoy Marguerite, as a main character, and so much of the story, the intrigue and the action and the romance, is all so captivating. In a word, I have been enjoying the book despite it’s writing.
Because I do enjoy seeing classical works adapted in visual formats, I have begun to look for various Scarlet Pimpernel adaptations to compare and contrast. I am especially looking forward to Masked, a modern-day adaptation web-series announced for “summer 2015” (so… six weeks from now?)