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Book 21 Completed

March 31, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a daring and romantic adventure — shy on literary merit, heavy in plot — and well worth reading. How is this not even more of a classic? It should be read out loud at nighttime to a group of anxious children in footed pajamas. It should rest alongside Treasure Island and Alexandre Dumas. Major kudos too for the fact that it is written by a woman. Who said men get to write all the fun high-adventure stuff?

I was riveted by this swashbuckling tale, following each twist and turn with baited breath. It took me roughly fifty pages to get a good feel for the pacing, but about 1/4 of the way through, the story took a sudden leap and I LOVED it. Marguerite St. Just is your stereotypical woman in distress and her decision to help the evil Chauvelin in order to save her brother Armand from the guillotine is equal parts heroic and stupid. If she wants to save Armand, she has to help Chauvelin capture the Scarlet Pimpernel. However, as she works with the corrupt Frenchman, she soon starts to realize that she’s in love with the man in disguise. He is everything her whimpy, goofy, annoying husband is not. But THEN…oh well, I won’t spoil it for you…but let me tell you: It’s just one fun thing after another.

What I love most is Chauvelin’s true villainy. He is the embodiment of corruption and evil. Unrelenting and sadistic. He always has a sly smile or he’s rubbing his hands together — spinning his French moustache between his horrible little fingers. This book has clearly defined who you are rooting for and who you are rooting against. And I find that refreshing among today’s contemporary literature that wants to throw any idea of a “hero/heroine” out the window. I get tired of reading books with unlikable characters. Who am I supposed to care about? The pedophile? The shoplifter? The kid who kills animals? Oh…all of them? Ugh.

Sometimes I just want a dashing Englishman to save the day and make an evil Frenchman look stupid.

The Scarlet Pimpernel requires some suspension of disbelief, but it’s totally a fun book. I’m glad I read it. I’m glad I had French Day to celebrate it. And the book will go on a list of books I will recommend to people when they want a quick, enjoyable, mindless adventure. We need more of those in our lives.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill Sherman permalink
    March 31, 2010 12:10 pm

    I totally agree – I love this story – read it for the first time in high school. Maybe I will read it to Elliott is 10 years or so! The movie is fun too but different.

  2. Julie (Steckmann) Edwards permalink
    March 31, 2010 12:35 pm

    I think I might have to give this book a try after your lovely review. I know I didn’t have to read this book in high school so I haven’t read it yet. Now I just need to see if my husband has a copy amongst all of his books that he brought into our marriage if I need to go get a cheap copy somewhere. šŸ™‚

    • March 31, 2010 1:32 pm

      Yay! It always makes me happy when people discover something they want to check out. I think you’ll love it. And I found my copy at Powell’s for $2.95. A major score. šŸ™‚

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