Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Folks, it is with some embarrassment that we Leaguettes admit that there has not yet been a single review on this blog of the one book that started it all: The Scarlet Pimpernel.  And today, we hope to remedy this shocking omission with a lovely guest post by Petie Marie!

"… You are forgetting the most important factor." 
"What in the world do you mean?–I am forgetting nothing…. What factor do you mean?" she added with more impatience. 
"It stands six foot odd high," replied Sir Andrew, quietly, "and hath name Percy Blakeney."

Ohmyword, where to begin?

I am positively, 100%, bordering-on-obsessive crazy about this book. It is ridiculously clever, Sir Percy is da man, and I laughed, cried, and laughed some more.

Shall I start with Percy? Odd’s fish, m’dear, what a capital idea!

The one and a half pages introducing Sir Percy already had me convinced I was going to love him; stupid, inane man that he is. When I actually met him, I fell head over heels. He is a delightful fop with his impeccable clothing, his foolish laugh, his obsession with luxury, his amusing sayings and way of speech. True, he’s no Austen hero… at least at first glance.

“She looked through the tattered curtain, across at the handsome face of her husband, in whose lazy blue eyes, and behind whose inane smile, she could now so plainly see the strength, energy, and resourcefulness which had caused the Scarlet Pimpernel to be reverenced and trusted by his followers. ‘There are nineteen of us ready to lay down our lives for your husband, Lady Blakeney,’ Sir Andrew had said to her; and as she looked at the forehead, low, but square and broad, the eyes, blue, yet deep-set and intense, the whole aspect of the man, of indomitable energy, hiding, behind a perfectly acted comedy, his almost superhuman strength of will and marvellous ingenuity, she understood the fascination which he exercised over his followers, for had he not also cast his spells over her heart and her imagination?”

Unfortunately, before I read the book, I knew the true identity of Sir Percy Blakeney, but it certainly didn’t spoil anything! I adored him long before the secret was revealed to Marguerite. He makes me laugh, and I dearly love to laugh. I greatly admire the strength of his love for Marguerite. The extent of his love is far beyond anything she can imagine, and I felt so sorry for him in Chapter 16. I wanted to grab Marguerite by the shoulders and scream, “He LOVES you, stupid woman! Quit playing with him!”

Wow… I was bouncing in and out of different degrees of crying throughout this entire chapter. His passion, her tears, his turmoil, her hopelessness, his love, her confusion. It really just ripped me apart. Percy loves Marguerite with everything in him, and she just used him and toyed with his love until it finally broke him. And even then, he still loves her, even though she’s too blind to see it. *sob*

Unlike other people (COUGH*miss dashwood*COUGH), I loved Sir Percy right from the start. He is SUCH a perfect Englishman, and I loves me my British guys. Then later on when it is revealed that Sir Percy is indeed the Scarlet Pimpernel, the daring and bold rescuer that everyone reveres and admires, I literally squealed (even though I already knew it). He played his act as a fool so very well. And just the fact that he is the Scarlet Pimpernel is incredible. On a regular basis, he risks his life for French aristocrats. He is not obligated or indebted to them in any way, but he believes in justice and cannot stomach the idea of innocent people being sent to the guillotine.

This quote had me rolling. I read it and had to put the book down because I was laughing so hard. Then I went back and reread it several times over again (and yes, I giggled every time). Then I got my camera and took several pictures of that paragraph. Each click of my camera produced another inane giggle.

“The young man drew up his slim stature to its full height and looked very enthusiastic, very proud, and very hot as he gazed at six foot odd of gorgeousness, as represented by Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.”

Lady Marguerite Blakeney did not impress me at first. At all. I thought her selfish and petty. And sometimes I wondered if she thought she loved Percy just because he turned out to be the Scarlet Pimpernel, and you know, that’s just pretty cool to discover that your husband is a courageous, Robin Hood-type who whisks aristocrats away right under the noses of those who want to kill them. During the aforementioned Chapter 16, I was totally on Percy’s side. He had given his all to Marguerite, and she just played him like a harp, only showing affection for him because he worships the ground she walks on (The last paragraph of Chapter 16!! A little bit of me died inside.). But as I got to know her better, I softened a bit. I’m of the group that likes Marguerite, even though she can be selfish, and thinks she is just a little misunderstood.
(But I’m still Team Percy.)

As much as I despised the very mention of his name, Chauvelin was a fantastic villain. He was evil and relentless and determined and merciless. And I howled so very much at the bit with the pepper snuff. That could very well be one of the best scenes in the history of literature. Go, Percy!

(All of my paragraphs end up being about Percy. Is this a problem? No. No, it is not.)

Chauvelin is a wretch, but he is a great villain. The ending words of the book are priceless. I was chuckling at “It is also a fact that M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of the French Republican Government, was not present at that or any other social function in London, after that memorable evening at Lord Grenville’s ball.”

Oh, and since reading this book, I have found a certain little someone who I have endearingly nicknamed “my little Chauvelin.” No need to name names; she knows who she is.

Okay, back to Percy now.

I find it hilarious that while he does lead a double life, whenever he isn’t in disguise and rescuing Frenchies, Sir Percy is still Sir Percy, a thoroughly British dude who adores being the pinnacle of fashion: “Everything on board the Day Dream was fitted with that exquisite luxury, so dear to Sir Percy Blakeney’s heart, and by the time they all landed at Dover he had found time to get into some of the sumptuous clothes which he loved, and of which he always kept a supply on board his yacht… But it is on record that at the brilliant wedding of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, Bart., with Mlle. Suzanne de Tournay de Basserive, a function at which H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and all the elite of fashionable society were present, the most beautiful woman there was unquestionably Lady Blakeney, whilst the clothes Sir Percy Blakeney wore were the talk of the jeunesse doree of London for many days.”

The Scarlet Pimpernel is simply one of the best classics I’ve ever read (as far as content goes, it does contain quite a few uses of a variation of the “d—” word). It was charming, witty, adventurous and unique. My only complaint with it is that after Marguerite arrives in France, the rest of the book seems to move very slowly. But that is really a trifle compared to the Royal Epicness that is Sir Percy.

Oh! And I have a new saying now…

I am now in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel! And though I may be the only Leaguette on the face of the planet who hasn’t seen the esteemed 1982 movie, I’m quite content with being a fangirl for the Sir Percy of the book. :)

My rating: 9.5 out of 10!

Would I read it again: Would I? Ohhhhh, yes.

~ Petie Wilson, Leaguette.

Heya! I'm Petie, an aspiring author, wanna-be Brit, and die-hard Okie country girl. I love my Jesus, a good book, laughter, the color red, and coffee. I blog over at Dirt and Dickens, where I share my obsession with literature, my thoughts on cultural or spiritual issues, too many pictures, and random musings about my crazy life. Come visit me, yes? Cheers!


Lily of the Valley said...

What a fun review! (I have the exact same copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel, by the way.) I have read this book twice and enjoyed thoroughly both times. Sir Percy ranks right up there with Mr. Knightley on my "heroes" list.
I love the part with the pepper snuff that Percy gives to Chauvelin. I had forgotten about that scene, and I laughed out loud when I read it. Percy, you are oh so clever!
Thanks for the review, Petie. And I do so hope that you will watch the 1982 TSP movie soon! : )

Hayden said...

Sigh. Me happy.

I love Percy. So much. That book. is. Great.

Anna Grace said...

Please, please, PLEASE tell me I am not the only one who reads this blog that died laughing when he *spoiler* kissed the steps?!?!?!? *end of spoiler* EEEHEHEHEHEHEEEE!!!!!


Anna Grace said...

Wow. Did I really just say "spoiler"??? I would assume that most of the readers of this blog have probably read the book..... *shakes head*