Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven, or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Pimpernel!"
It's been an amazing last week--a whirlwind of travels, studies, family fun, and preparations for more travels, and so my prophecy has come true and writing has taken a back burner. But Adam and I have been reading this book together in our quiet moments and finished it this week, so at least I can toss a review on here before we depart early tomorrow for Larson Family Road Trip 2016!!!
3 out of 5 stars. I liked it.
The Scarlet Pimpernel was a fun, non-demanding read that, while engaging and artful in some ways, left me cold in others. Admittedly, after being introduced to the Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, Ian McKellan film in a high school World History class, I immediately became a devotee of the screen version, which is based on two of Orczy's books (with many changes).
To the baroness's credit, her word choices are evocative. When Chauvelin whispers menacingly into the exhausted and defeated Marguerite's face, you can feel the intimacy and revulsion of the moment. Likewise, as the book comes to its climax you can sense Marguerite's obsessive need to reach her husband. This skill in engaging readers helps to balance the extreme repetitiveness of the last third of the book, with the result that I was less impatient for it to be over than I could have been.
Where the book is high on adventure and romance, it is low on substance. While I felt I understood Chauvelin and Marguerite a bit, these characters were still not particularly developed, or rather they were developed in a way that seemed artificial. Percy's character was just completely wrong somehow, and, given the state of the marriage at the start of the book, some clue as to Percy's and Marguerite's beginnings together would have been nice. The depiction of the French Revolution and its ideals was decidedly simplistic, even amusingly so.
That said, you can't fault the baroness for writing books for diversion. I just value the movie more, as it is at the same time adventurous, historically revealing, relationally insightful, romantic, funny, and just so well done. It's not often that movies can blow books out of the water, but I feel this is one of those times. If you haven't seen the film, you should!
(By the way, I do voices and accents when reading aloud. This book was quite challenging in that arena! How do you speak as a French woman who has lived among British aristocracy long enough to lose all but the faintest traces of her accent? Well, we did our best.)
If you like to read and are interested in seeing more of my reviews, find the rest here!