The Scarlet Pimpernel makes daring raid after daring raid into the heart of France to save aristocrats condemned to the guillotine. At each rescue, he leaves his calling card: a small, blood-red flower - a pimpernel - mocking the power of Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety.
Having been told that his own wife was an informer who delivered an aristocrat into the hands of the Committee, the Scarlet Pimpernel must keep his identity and work a secret while he struggles against the love he feels for her. Until the day her own brother is taken prisoner...
(P)2005 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Everyone should read this book at least once. It is an intriguing story based on real history. The narrator, Michael Page, is fabulous. I really enjoyed the story. It is a good love story with a great hero, actually more than one hero. Heroes are hard to come by these days, which makes this book all the better.
This book really pulled me in quickly. After the first few chapters I found myself drawn to it again and again. I burned through it relatively quickly. I found the theme to be quite serious though the presentation was spirited and humorous.
An excellent read.
I love Michael Page's range of character voices. I think the story line has a lot of holes near the end, especially concerning the villain's judgment. But this is still a fun listen, enough to raise my curiosity on the sequel.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
September 1792. The Reign of Terror is in full swing in Paris as crowds of "citoyens" enjoy the guillotining of a hundred aristocratic traitors and enemies of France per day. But wait! A plucky band of young English lords, the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, has been rescuing condemned French "aristos" and their families and escorting them to England, thereby thwarting, embarrassing, and insulting the leaders of the Revolutionary government. And why? Because English nobles are sportsmen, "saving men, women and children from death, as other men destroy and kill animals for the excitement." And who is this Scarlet Pimpernel, the leader of the League, the brave, cunning, and audacious master of disguise who commands perfect love and loyalty from his followers? Faith, the French would pay dearly for that secret!
In this context, La, how dispiriting does Lady Blakeney (nee Marguerite St. Just) find her husband Sir Percy! True, he is tall, "massive," and handsome, and he is one of the ten richest men in England and is a close friend of the Prince of Wales, but, alas, he is also "a dandified leader of fashion," "an effete fop," "a brainless nincompoop," possessed of a lazy expression, an "inane laugh," and no intellectual pursuits. Why did Marguerite marry Sir Percy, when she was one of the most sought after women in Paris, "the cleverest woman in Europe," a dazzlingly beautiful young actress and hostess of a "charming salon" frequented by minds of "originality and intellect"? Because Sir Percy loved her more than life itself, and she had never before been so loved. That changed the day after their marriage when Marguerite confessed that she had caused the death by guillotine of a Marquis and his family, for in her pride she withheld from Percy the extenuating circumstances, immediately turning his love to contempt and hers in turn to despite. Thus by September 1782 they are the happily married king and queen of fashion in public, an estranged couple in private.
When French spies and agents show up in England hunting for the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel so as to become able to catch and guillotine him in France, and when Marguerite's beloved brother Armand is threatened with death in France as a traitor to the Revolution, the plot of The Scarlet Pimpernel heats up.
The Baroness must be one of the first writers of historical, romantic espionage. She works hard to generate suspense. She tosses in neat reality claims, mentioning for instance that the Fisherman's Rest hostelry/coffee room is still frequented in the 20th century and that Percy's "palatial" house in Richmond is now "a historic one." Marguerite and Percy and their fraught relationship are compelling. The Scarlet Pimpernel's "arch-enemy," "the cunning devil," "the wizened fiend," the "fox-faced" French agent Chauvelin, is interesting. Even as he hates the Scarlet Pimpernel he can’t help but admire him, and believes (not without cause) that every French aristo who escapes France will strive to generate support and money and armies with which to return the monarchy and stamp out the Revolution.
However, too often the Baroness overwrites. She uses the word "inane" to describe Percy at least twenty times and "fox" or "foxy" to describe Chauvelin at least a dozen, and paints the villain too infernally. She works too hard to make us idolize, if not worship, the Scarlet Pimpernel, possessed as he is of "that strong individuality which belongs to a leader of men--to a hero: to the mighty, high-soaring eagle," a "fearless lion," a man whose name brings a blush to the cheeks of the women of England, and we are repeatedly reminded of his bravery, cleverness, impudence, audacity, energy, nobility, and heroism. He is never unmodified; he is always "the brave Scarlet Pimpernel," "their brave rescuer," "the brave hero," "one brave man," "the brave eagle," "their brave deliverer," "a brave heart," and so on, ad nauseam.
The Baroness often writes febrile prose, as when female characters experience "nameless terror," "nameless dread," or "nameless misery." Not to mention sentences like, "Every word they had spoken seemed to strike at her heart with terrible hopelessness and dark foreboding." And passages like, "How lovely she looked in this morning sunlight, with her ardent hair streaming around her shoulders. He bowed very low and kissed her hand; she felt the burning kiss and her heart thrilled with joy and hope."
Furthermore, granted that the French Revolutionary government was, especially for people living in monarchies, a bloodthirsty regime madly plying the guillotine in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, the Baroness depicts England as "the land of liberty and of hope," but in that "beautiful land of freedom" the common English "yokels" and fishermen tug their forelocks before their noble betters and punctiliously vacate the coffee room in the Fisherman's Rest for them. Something doesn't add up.
Michael Page gives a solid reading of the novel, though I wish he would pause now and then to heighten the effect of some of the Baroness' dramatic phrases and to give the reader a chance to catch his or her breath.
Finally, I remember Scaramouche (1921) by Rafael Sabatini as being a better written, less overwrought, more suspenseful, more substantial, and equally romantic (and questioning of identity) book set in the same period.
First of all, the story is riveting, even though I've seen the movie numerous times (the version with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour). I have loved these characters since I was little, and the original text grabbed me right away. Michael Page did a wonderful job with all the voices and accents, though I found myself reading half of it because I wanted to know what happened. I just realized now that I missed hearing the Jewish character toward the end of the book and I may have to go back and hear how he did it...
Percy...he's brilliant. I also love Marguerite. I wanted to smack them both a few times, for not trusting each other, but they are both so noble and brave. I love Percy's elaborate schemes.
All the delightful voices! Especially Percy's foppish drawl...that was great.
I cried a little, a couple of times. :) Had to do with the relationship between Percy and Marguerite...
I will listen to this again. Kind of bummed that if I want to continue in chronological order (rather than order of publication), I can't listen to the next book, Sir Percy Leads the Band, because Audible doesn't have it. Guess I'll just have to read it...
Love Sci Fi and Fantasy books since I was 8, starting reading A Princess of Mars series in Junior High School thanks to my Uncle Lester.
Wonderful performance and story ,with captivating characters and style. I can see why there was a movie based on this novel, and while the movie (old B & W) was excellent, the book was even better. Mr. Page did an excellent job on the narration and characters as well.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
A classic superman tale of the mild mannered man who turns out to be the undefeatable hero!
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
When I was an elementary student I had two ‘go to’ reading choices, a set of children’s biographies (more historical fiction than biography) and the Illustrated Classic series.
The children’s biographies gave me a pretty good sense of history and historical figures (although probably 80 percent of each book was fiction.) And the Illustrated Classics gave me the rough outline of a number of classic books.
But as I read many of those classics again as an adult I have a hard time remembering if I actually have read the full version or the children’s abridged versions prior to re-reading. (And there is often a pretty large difference.) Stories that I loved, I sometimes love even more reading the full original version. And sometimes my memory of the story is nothing like what the actual book is like.
The Scarlet Pimpernel was written originally as a play in 1905 and then novelized. It is a swashbuckling novel of heroes and light romance. But in many ways reading it again it feels more like a 1940s pulp fiction than a classic.
The hero (Sir Percy) is perceived as bumbling and slow (but very rich) by everyone, including his wife. In reality he is cunning and a great fighter. It feels like Zorro (but I looked it up and Zorro was written 14 years later.) That same secret identity idea really took off with the comic book superheroes.
Marguerite St Just (Sir Percy’s wife) was a great actress in France prior to their marriage and married Sir Percy because she thought she could love the dim witted rich man because he would be devoted to her. But right after they are married Sir Percy find out that Marguerite’s testimony condemned the Marquis de St Cyr to death. And so Sir Percy is often distracted or away and he stops letting the marriage be more than part of his disguise. (Marguerite did not intend to give testimony, but both was tricked and hated the Marquis because the Marquis had had her brother beaten because of her brother’s romantic interest in the Marquis’ daughter.)
From the beginning of the book the basic plot points are already set and the reader really knows what it going to happen. It is a fun little book and because the kindle edition is free and the audiobook was only $0.99 (and I used a coupon to make it free) it was worth the time to read and get the full version of the story.
This is certainly not what I would call a great classic. But rather a reminder that all ages have had their popular fiction. And I did enjoy it as a swashbuckling popular fiction book. In many ways it channeled the best of the Three Musketeers and Andre Dumas.
yes, it is light listening for a car trip or the like
could put it with books like A Tale of Two Cities or the Count of Monte Cristo only because of the time period in France
Good ability to mimic the voices and accents!
loved the beginning in the discussion of the French revolution
Have often seen the book and thought it would be too long or complicated a read-was glad I took the time to listen to it.
"Find the Pimpernel here! The best version!"
An absolute classic novel given the audio treatment it deserves. Michael Page brings the Baroness' vision of Revolutionary France and the Pimpernel's adventures to life. Baroness Orczy practically kick started a genre that lives on in the style of the Sharpe or Hornblower novels.
This is an all time classic that delivers on so many fronts be it a boys own adventure, a stuttering betrayal and rekindling of love to comedic moments.
Michael Page's reading breathes life into the characters and places the listener inside the story. Who needs a full cast when a narrator can so skillfully define a character with a subtle variation in tone, pitch, accent or delivery without ever falling into the pitfalls others find.
Will be looking for other Michael Page read audiobooks!
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