Friday, 1 May 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emma Orczy

Date of Reading: 16/04/2015
Author: Baroness Emma Orczy
Publisher: Feedbooks
Year: 1905
Rating: 3/5

          I was searching for a classic to read and stumbled on this name on Suey's blog. Well, its a short, cozy book with some mystery and romance. Some of my great hopes regarding this was crushed on reading, as the characters were not completely developed and the author's constant ramblings on the virtues of aristocracy seemed to have got on my nerves. 
          More than a critique on the Reign of Terror, the story tends to focus on the nobleness of English gentlemen who daring their lives try to save the French aristocrats from guillotine and conveniently forgets that British also had their fair share of savagery when they beheaded King Charles I. And thinking of the cruelties they meted out to Scots and Irish, I doubt whether they have the right to condemn the French. But keeping this political prejudices apart, this is an altogether nice read you can finish very easily.

Now to the story:
scarlet pimpernel flower
         Setting is 1792, and the French Revolution has entered into the period of Reign of Terror, killing hundreds of aristocrats each day. A secret society of English gentlemen, named The League of the Scarlet Pimpernal, led by a single man has managed to save many from the clutches of guillotine. Name of the league refers to a red flower found in English countryside with whose symbol the leader signs his messages.
        The new French envoy to England, Citizen Chauvelin, is determined to catch this British pest. He blackmails Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful French actress now married to a wealthy fool, Sir Percy Blackney. Chauvelin has procured some papers which shows the involvement of Armand, Marguerite's brother with the secret society.
Frightened Marguerite finds the league's place of appointment, but Chauvelin is confronted by a snoring Sir Percy at the prescribed time and none other. Marguerite is having an estranged relationship with her husband  as she confessed that it is her unintended comments on Marquis de St. Cyr which has sent him and his sons to guillotine.
          But later out of desperation she reveals the danger Armand faces to Sir Percy but not her involvement with Chauvelin. Next day itself Sir Percy leaves to his estates which puzzles Marguerite. A search in his room reveals him to be the Scarlet Pimpernel and the thought terrifies her. Chauvelin is after him and unknowingly she has given away her husband's identity. So Marguerite follows him with Sir Andrew who is one of the members of the League.
          Though Chauvelin plans his trap very well Sir Percy escapes with Armand and Comte de Tournay whom he has come to save from imminent execution. He is warned in time by Sir Andrew and thus taking the disguise of a Jewish driver he joins the search party of Chauvelin. Marguerite gets captured while following them but later she is left with the Jew as Chauvelin intends to pursue Sir Percy.
          Marguerite's courage rekindles the love in the couple's lives and safely boarding on the schooner, the Day Dream, they sail for home.


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