When I was in high school, one of my best friends worked at Hollywood Video. Before any of us even imagined watching movies online, having a friend with free rentals was quite the advantage on Friday nights. We spent most of our time watching old romantic classics, especially anything starring Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. One of my very favorites was the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. While I don’t often read books after seeing a movie adaptation (case in point: I still haven’t read Pride and Prejudice), I have read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy every few years since then. I read it again this past week and was reminded why I love it so much. P.S. I watched the movie with a friend a few years back. She could not stand Percy’s voice. It can be a bit grating, but then Marguerite thinks so too at the beginning of the book.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is part historical fiction, part mystery, part romance. It follows Marguerite Blakeney, the French wife of an English gentleman. All the society ladies are fascinated with the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel–the Englishman rescuing French nobles from the guillotine right under the noses of their guards. Marguerite is especially drawn to him because she herself is French. When Citizen Chauvelin, a French envoy to England, tells Marguerite he has proof her brother has been consorting with the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, he offers her the chance to save her brother by discovering the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel himself. Torn between love for her brother and admiration for the Pimpernel, Marguerite must decide what to do. That is, if she even can figure out the identity of the mysterious gentleman. Even though The Scarlet Pimpernel is over 100 years old, it is not difficult to read. When I reached the end of the book the first time, I was as more engrossed in the adventure than I would have expected for a book that contains quite a few descriptions of Sir Percy’s cravat. I love the thoroughly Britishness of it. Sink me, it’s just a fabulous story.
I would recommend this to: Anglophiles, readers looking to venture gently into older books, and anyone who knows where a cravat is worn.