The Scarlet Pimpernel (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 2000
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From the Back Cover
The mysterious figure known as the Scarlet Pimpernel, sworn to rescue helpless men, women, and children from their doom; his implacable foe, the French agent Chauvelin, relentlessly hunting him down; and the lovely Lady Marguerite Blakeney, a beautiful French exile married to an English lord and caught in a terrible conflict of loyalties -- all play their parts in a suspenseful tale that ranges from the squalid slums of Paris to the aristocratic salons of London, from intrigue on a great English country estate to the final denouement on the cliffs of the French coast.
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The book was a little slow to get started while it spent time introducing the main characters in the story. There is a bit of a mystery as to the identity of The Scarlett Pimpernel, although it doesn’t take long to figure it out. From there, we learn about the daring exploits of 20 Englishmen noblemen – 19 followers and one mysterious leader – who set about the task of saving people from the guillotine by sneaking them out of France by any means possible. The mysterious leader, The Scarlett Pimpernel, gets his name from a piece of paper left behind whenever his band rescues someone, as the paper bears a small red flower found in England among other countries.
I enjoyed the book, as it lauded the efforts of men who did not stand idly by while others were in need. I also enjoyed the tension the author developed around Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful French actress, who married an English nobleman. Much of the story is told from her perspective to include events on in both France and England.
*History in a Hurry: French Revolution by John Farman" was what I read to supplement my lack of knowledge.
Get it, read it. You will not be disappointed if you have any romanticism and love of adventure in your heart.
Top international reviews
It is the height of the Terror in France, but over in England there is a band of men who are willing to risk all to save French aristocrats from the guillotine. An elusive league of gentlemen, led by the Scarlet Pimpernel, who is only known to them, who could this man be? With the daring escapes of aristocrats right under the noses of the French regime this is definitely someone who is a thorn in their side, and whom they would love to get hold of and execute.
Chauvelin has been sent over the Channel to try and identify this unknown gentleman and follow him, trying to prevent more escapes. And with his machinations, including a bit of blackmail he may just be able to get onto the scent of our hero.
This works on so many levels, although not appreciated by many today the Pimpernel has the characteristics that were to become better known throughout the world when comics and superheroes came upon the scene. There is the secret identity and the always managing to ultimately stay one step ahead of the enemy. Packed with excitement, derring-do, disguises, romance and heroism this does make for a thrilling read.
With a wife afraid that she has lost the respect and love of her husband, and the awkward position she is put into where she realises that she will have to endanger either her brother or her husband so there are lots of elements to this fast paced read. I am slightly envious of someone coming to this for the first time, as I have read it so many times over the years that I know what is going to happen next, although that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of this.
‘We seek him here, we seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?
That demmed Elusive Pimpernel?’
The basic premise is an adventure story, although there is a lot more of a romantic slant that I expected. An 'unknown' Englishman sets about rescuing French aristocrats who are threatened by the zeal of the new order during the French Revolution, although in this case there is far less of the title character than might be expected. Clearly of it's time, the characters are perhaps a tad cliche - obvious good vs. evil, but they are reasonably drawn, and the book keeps you interested.
The writing style is an odd mix - the descriptions of the locations are good, and you really get a feel for the inn at the start, and the french coast. However, it is also terribly repetetive - one of the lead characters repeatedly bemoans a decision and mythologises another character so many times in almost exactly the same manner you would think the sentances were copy/pasted. This did mean i could not give it 4 stars, but 3.5 would probably be fairer than 3, and I may well take a chance on the next in the series.
It is primarily told from the point of view of Marguerite St. Just, now married to Sir Percy Blakeney. Marguerite is French and through a misunderstanding between Percy and Marguerite shortly after they marry, Percy is left with the impression that Marguerite has betrayed some of her friends in France. Both Percy and Marguerite have come to believe that the love they once had has been lost.
The principal story is how Marguerite comes to learn that there is far more to her husband than she believed and how important their love for one another is. The secondary story of the Scarlet Pimpernel and his daring exploits is the one that we all remember. This is the story that brought us “They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven or is he in hell, that demned elusive Pimpernel.”
An entertaining and enduring novel.
The stories are long since vanished from the shelves of local libraries. So hopefully, the e-books will enable other generations to enjoy them. The details of the stories give an excellent background knowledge of life in Britain and France at the time of the French Revolution. I will Repay is another book in the series.
A great story of perhaps the original masked superhero!