|The Scarlet Pimpernel / Baroness Orczy|
NY: Signet Classics, 2013, c1905.
Another mysterious classic! I read this years and years ago, and decided to revisit it recently. I still enjoyed it a great deal, with its romantic storyline featuring a brilliant mind hiding behind inanity, and star-crossed lovers.
If anyone doesn't know by now, The Scarlet Pimpernel is the code name for a heroic Englishman rescuing French aristocracy from the guillotine, under the noses of the French revolutionaries. He has a whole spy network, and has never yet been caught - he is the master of disguise.
But he's also an English fop, keeping his secret identity a secret even from his beautiful French wife Marguerite. She can't understand why he no longer seems interested in her, having been passionate when they were married. And he can't trust her, having heard that a word from her had led others to their deaths.
There is the dual storyline going on here - the marriage and its miscommunications, and the whole French-English spy thriller bit. Both are exciting and dreamy and romantic and all that. I find this adventure romance style both old-fashioned and very swoon-worthy.
Leaving aside the moments in which Marguerite is totally clueless thanks to the narrator's need for a story, the characters are appealing and the story is a fun one.
However, what I didn't see as a young reader was the fairly appalling representation of a Jewish man at the end -- it was painful to read this time around. But I still do love Sir Percy Blakeney and his place in the literary tradition of genius spy/sleuth disguised as a bit of a fop. The ending satisfies the romantic reader and the intrigue is tied up neatly.