How much readers enjoyed this 1905 adventure can be judged by the fact that Orzy wrote thirteen more books about the Scarlet Pimpernel from 1906-1936 and by the several films and TV shows made of her story. The well-known tale is about Paris during the French Revolution. The Scarlet Pimpernel hides his true English identity and outwits the ruthless tyrants of the French Revolution, men and women who are determined to bring the citizens of France freedom and a better life, even if it requires them to kill many citizens to obtain it. The book is filled with drama and frequently humorous dialogue, including:
We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel?
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.
Reviewed by Herbert White - January 24, 2003
The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy is a swashbuckling adventure tale of epic proportions. Like the famed Zorro who passes himself off as a bumbling aristocratic, only to transform himself into a nearly invincible super hero when it comes to defending the rights of the downtrodden. So to does Sir Percy Blakeney follow this time-honored mold. Sir Percy is one of the richest men in England, and he is believed, by one and all, to be a few cards short of a full deck. Worse, he is as dull as dull can be.
However, this lethargic persona is just that, a persona. In truth, Sir Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel, who repeatedly risks everything in order to rescue French aristocrats who are in danger of making a visit to Madame la Guillotine. This story takes places during the darkest days of the French Revolution, and Sir Percy and his cohorts have a host of hair raising, and exciting adventures throughout the course of this story. In mind however, saving aristocrats does not come across as heroic as Zorro saving the down trodden - but if I happened to be an aristocratic I might be of a different opinion.
The main players in this story are the seemingly bumbling Sir Percy, his beautiful wife, Marguerite St. Just, and Sergeant Bibot. Marguerite, a.k.a. Lady Blakeney, is a 25-year-old aristocratic who denounced her family and threw her lot in with the 'common' folk. When she met Sir Percy she was a famed actress in the Comédie Française, and she now lives in luxurious exile in England. Sergeant Bibot is Sir Percy's main protagonist. His main joy in life is capturing aristocrats who are trying to deprive Madame la Guillotine of her daily meal. The Scarlet Pimpernel has been sneaking people out of Paris, and then out of France, by using disguises and a host of unique subterfuges. When pressed, the Scarlet Pimpernel and his cohorts are capable of fighting their way out of sticky situations. Sir Bibot brags that they'd never be able to sneak anyone past him, but when they do, he sets out with a dogged determination to crush the Scarlet Pimpernel and all those in league with him!
The Hungarian born Baroness Emmuska Orczy wrote a number of sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, and many of these stories have been successfully made into various movies. This book was also one of the first 'masked' hero stories, and may have actually served as the basis for the Zorro stories. The Scarlet Pimpernel is a great adventure tale, and Orczy does a fine job of recreating the horrific atmosphere, and the blood lust that seemed to be unsatiable in France during the French Revolution.
The blood lust that ran crazy during the French Revolution stole the lives of not only the men and women of the French aristocracy, but also their children. After awhile, even the common folk became fodder for the guillotine, with people from every walk of life being sentenced to death for no more than a whispered innuendo that they were not 'for the cause'. Against this backdrop, The Scarlet Pimpernel is a hair-raising story!
Technically, this book is considered a 'children's book'. It may not, however, be suitable for very young children as it can be a bit gory in spots. For example, the "...tricot-teuses, as they were called, who sat there (near the guillotine) and knitted, whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they themselves go quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos." (Pg 19). For older kids and adults, however, this is an exciting, fast-paced story that is engrossing and exiting to read.
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
This is both a commentary on the French Revolution and a heart pounding thriller that will have you holding your breath as you wait to see what will happen to Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, two men whose lives are inextricably entwined. (Large Print)
The Black Robe, by Wilkie Collins.
Lewis Romanyne is about to become the central figure in a struggle of cosmic proportions as a beautiful woman and a Jesuit priest vie for his soul, a struggle that will rip him from his beloved solitude and change his life forever... (Large Print)