Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: The Elusive Pimpernel

After their misunderstanding in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Marguerite and Sir Percy are living together in England, their happiness marred only by Sir Percy's constant ventures to France.  Marguerite, constantly fearing for his safety, wishes for him to stay more in England, but Sir Percy, still hearing the cries of the innocent people, continues in his undertaking.

Chauvelin, maddened by his failure to capture the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel the year before  is ready to try again. He is the only man in France who knows the Pimpernel's identity and he means to make good use of it.  He does not mean to send that hero to a martyr's death; oh no, that would be too tame and ineffectual for him.  What he plans is the dishonour of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and thereby of the whole League, and as hostages for this he will hold not only Marguerite, but a whole city of innocent people.

My opinion:
I love this book.  It's not quite as heartstoppingly beautiful as El Dorado, but it is a fast paced, lovely, humourous book. Sir Percy is there in full force, with all his heroic silliness, and Marguerite with her beautiful, loving impulsiveness.  Chauvelin is as villainous as ever, although since he had no choice but to capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel or go to the guillotine himself, we could cut him some slack.  In the series it is after Sir Percy Leads the Band and I Will Repay, but I have never read either of those and found no spoilers or even references to them.  There are a multitude of lovely quotes and quotable passages in The Elusive Pimpernel too, more than both The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado.  I'd recommend that when you read it you watch your copy very carefully, or you will be wandering around the house muttering, “where is that elusive pimpernel?” (I did find it, after a while, to read it the second time in a month.)

The Elusive Pimpernel is available free as an e-book from Gutenberg, an audiobook from Librivox, or a paper book from your library. If all else fails, you can get it as an un-free book from Amazon.

And now, for a particularly delightful passage:

Dishonour and ridicule! Derision and scorn!" he (Chauvelin) murmured, gloating over the very sound of these words, which expressed all that he hoped to accomplish, "utter abjections, then perhaps a suicide's grave..."
He loved the silence around him, for he could murmur these words and hear them echoing against the bare stone walls like the whisperings of all the spirits of hate which were waiting to lend him their aid.

How long he had remained thus absorbed in his meditations, he could not afterwards have said; a minute or two perhaps at most, whilst he leaned back in his chair with eyes closed, savouring the sweets of his own thoughts, when suddenly the silence was interrupted by a loud and pleasant laugh and a drawly voice speaking in merry accents:

"The lud live you, Monsieur Chaubertin, and pray how do you propose to accomplish all these pleasant things?"

In a moment Chauvelin was on his feet and with eyes dilated, lips parted in awed bewilderment, he was gazing towards the open window, where astride upon the sill, one leg inside the room, the other out, and with the moon shining full on his suit of delicate-coloured cloth, his wide caped coat and elegant chapeau-bras, sat the imperturbable Sir Percy.

"I heard you muttering such pleasant words, Monsieur," continued Blakeney calmly, "that the temptation seized me to join in the conversation. A man talking to himself is ever in a sorry plight... he is either a mad man or a fool..."

He laughed his own quaint and inane laugh and added apologetically:

"Far be if from me, sir, to apply either epithet to you... demmed bad form calling another fellow names... just when he does not quite feel himself, eh?... You don't feel quite yourself, I fancy just now... eh, Monsieur Chauberin... er... beg pardon, Chauvelin..."


Anne-girl said...

Ooh! I want to read this ! unfortunately our library system doesn't have it.

Lauren said...

Ah, I must read the rest of the series. I have only read the first book, but I love it! Enjoying your new blog!

Alexandra said...

I absolutely love The Elusive Pimpernel!!! It was the first "sequel" book I read and although its not,as you said, quite as epic as El Dorado, it's still incredible. And YES...SOOOO full of quotables!!! LOVED the one you had on here.

Another favorite...

"Sir Percy, are you aware of the fact that unless you listen to what I have to say, your wife will be dragged before the Committee of Public Safety in Paris within the next twenty-four hours?"
"What swift horses you must have, sir," quoth Blakeney pleasantly. "Lud! To think of it!...I always heard that these demmed French horses would never beat ours across the country."

Sherry said...

I found out about your blog from my daughter! I love it...great idea, so many Scarlet Pimpernel fans! I look forward to more of your blog! :)

Sarah H said...

You ought to read this great Fan-Fiction book called "Land of Calais"

Anonymous said...

Sigh... I loved this one! Such a good story!!!!

My sister got it for free on Amazon for a Kindle... Here's the link.

I've also heard of a website where you can read ALL of the books online, and most of them are complete. (When the Kindle broke, I was going to finish El Dorado on the website, but before I got around to doing it, the Kindle came back, fixed. : D) The website is


Alexandra said...

Oh, yes! Thanks for mentioning it, Ashley! Blakeney Manor was one of the first TSP sites I found, and they do have all the books on there to read for free, plus lots of fun stuff about the books and films, especially the 1982 version. Highly recommend the site!

Eclectic Elegance said...


And that is one of my favorite passages from The Elusive Pimpernel!!!! :D

You don't know how happy it made me today to see this blog. That someone is actually making an entire blog devoted to The Scarlet Pimpernel. *sighs with happiness* I've been obsessed with the books and the movies since...2008. :)

- EclecticElegance