Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Review: The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel
~The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel, chapter 25
I'll admit, I picked up this book with mixed feelings. Reading another adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel is always fun... but this novel happens to be the last in the series. (I haven't yet read all the books in the series, because I haven't yet been able to lay hands on all of them in print format. And don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a litany enumerating the many reasons why everyone should read paper books and e-books should be boycotted.) It's the last in the series, peeps. The LAST of Percy's adventures. The LAST of those death-defying, daring, dangerous, delightfully delicious escapades. The LAST of those suspenseful, hold-your-breath, oh-my-word-is-he-going-to-make-it-out-okay plot twists. The LAST time we see Percy and Marguerite together, being adorable as only they can be...
Now that I've thoroughly saddened you all and provoked a few tears, let's get on with the review. Happy faces, please-- this is a happy book! Percy doesn't die! Yay! (Whoops. Probably should have put a spoiler alert on that one. Because, you know, you didn't KNOW that he wasn't going to die... and then I ruined that for you. Bummer. I'm really soary.)
So it's 1794. The Revolution is practically over (and puh-leese let's not turn this into a French history lesson, because I'm a bit hazy on all that, having not studied it in quite a while, and I just nodded and went, "that's nice" at the history parts in this book) but there are still people in trouble in France, and it's the job of Guess Who to get them out of the country. (Say hello to Sir Percy, everyone. YAY PERCY.)
Unfortunately, it takes Percy several chapters to actually show up in the story, as usual. (Baroness, the suspense kills me every time---couldn't you produce him on the first page just once? ONCE?) The story actually begins with several other characters: namely, Regine de Serval (a young woman who's had more than her fair share of hard times), Bertrand Moncrif (Regine's overly-impassioned sweetheart who wants nothing more than to see Robespierre kicked out of power), Theresia Cabarrus (a Spanish woman betrothed to Tallien, one of Robespierre's advisors--and she was a real person, by the way) and Citizen Rateau (a wheezing, asthmatic coal-digger who possesses a great deal of brawn and very little brain).
I'll warn you-- when Percy does eventually make his appearance, he's in disguise, and it takes an exceedingly clever and brilliant reader to discern who he is when he appears (I figured it out, but of course that is immaterial...). Anyways, Bertrand publicly denounces Robespierre at a Fraternal Supper, despite Regine's remonstrances (this is where we all mimic Hortense in Bleak House and say, "you STUPID man!") and afterwards realizes just how much danger he's put himself into. He flees to the house of Theresia Cabarrus, who has been a friend to him (and whom he pretty much worships, despite the fact that he's practically engaged to Regine--BOO, Bertrand) and who agrees to hide him temporarily from Robespierre. But in the course of the evening, Bertrand is mysteriously spirited away from Theresia's apartments by none other than...
(all together, now)
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL.
Meanwhile, Robespierre is trying to convince Theresia to help him trap the elusive Pimpernel--no one has yet succeeded in this undertaking, not even that dude who goes by the name of Armand Chauvelin (yeppers, his real name is Armand. Really creative, Baroness. You ARE aware that there are other French names out there, right? Like Paul? Wait, is Paul a French name? Never mind.) This part (chapter 10, in case you were wondering) is delightful to read, because it makes fun of Chauvelin, and who doesn't want to make fun of Chauvelin? "A man of no account," he is called, and rightly so, for time and time again he has failed to capture that accursed Englishman.
I won't spoil any more of the story for you, but I will say that Theresia caves and agrees to help find the Scarlet Pimpernel--and what follows is yet another testimony to Percy's incredible fortitude, bravery, cleverness and sheer hilarity. Bookmark chapter 25 and reread it over and over again, m'dears, because it's the best of the best as far as Percy-wit goes. Sink me.
"Which would have been a pity, my dear M. Chambertin," Blakeney rejoined gravely. "I should not like you to forget me. Believe me, I have enjoyed life so much these past two years, I would not give up those pleasures even for that of seeing you and your friends have a bath or wear tidy buckles on your boots."
"You will have cause to indulge in those pleasures within the next few days, Sir Percy," Chauvelin rejoined drily.
"What?" Sir Percy exclaimed. "The Committee of Public Safety going to have a bath? Or the Revolutionary Tribunal? Which?"
And it all ends up happy, of course. Since I already spoiled that for you, I may as well say it again. There are sad things that happen, tragic things in fact, and one thing that is hinted at near the end that made me rather sad (eep, but I might just get the entire League of Leaguettes down on me for saying that), but it does end up happy. Oh, and might I add that there's a good deal of Percy's-self-sacrificial-stuff manifesting itself in this book? I'm dying to talk more about that, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet, so I'll restrain myself, because I'm not supposed to ruin the story for you. I'm supposed to write you a review--that's what I'm here for! Think you that I have sought your agreeable company for the mere pleasure of gazing at your amiable countenance?
.... Um, no offense. That last bit was a Percy-to-Chauvelin quote, you know. I just couldn't resist.