I’ve read a handful of selections for our local book club now, & I want to tell you a bit about The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. (Incidently, this is the book for Wednesday’s meeting at Better Brew Coffeeshop – we’d love more people to come & talk books!)
This classic novel takes place during the French Revolution. An English nobleman is rescuing French aristocrats from the gallows under the noses of those who want to take them to the gallows. He is known for his realistic disguises and for the small red flower, a scarlet pimpernel, left as a signature after of his rescues. The Englishman behind the flower appears to all to be a fop, dandy and fool. His name is Sir Percy Blackeney. His wife, Marguerite, was a famous actress on the French stage. She is accosted by the French Envoy to help him unmask the Pimpernel – if she does not help him, her brother faces the guillotine. After doing so, she realizes who the Scarlet Pimpernel is, and she sails to France to warn Sir Percy before he is snared in a neck-severing trap.
I had never read this book before reading it for the Book Club. I really enjoyed the action, adventure and intrigue it provided. While The Scarlet Pimpernel is full of the twists and turns as you would expect a spy novel to have, it has wonderful character arcs. Most of the characters are fully formed and rounded – only the villian is not. My favorite thing about the book was Orczy’s descriptions – I could see the settings and costumes in my mind’s eye but she didn’t go on and on in them.