Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Scarlet Pimpernel


The Scarlet Pimpernel / Baroness Orczy
NY: Signet Classics, 2013, c1905.
288 p.

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. 


  1. There's a 1982 movie with Ian McKellan and Jane Seymour that my kids loved--it had them gasping with laughter every time they watched it

    1. I love that version, mostly for Anthony Andrews as Percy. <3

  2. I own a copy of this one and am hoping to read it for my classics challenge this year. :)

  3. A good, ripping read.
    The 1934 movie version is available at you tube,
    Leslie Howard is absolutely brilliant in the title role.

    1. I adore Leslie Howard :) Will have to watch this one.


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