From My Library: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Updated: Aug 14
I’m in a classic mood, so I wanted to highlight one of my favorite stories: “The Scarlet Pimpernel”! The book was written by Emmuska Orczy, and it is a romantic adventure story set during the French Revolution.
Here's the Goodreads summary:
It is 1792 and France is in the grip of a seething, bloody revolution. Mobs roam the Paris streets hunting down royalists, barricades block any chance of escape, and every day hundreds die under the blade of Madame la Guillotine. But in the hearts of the condemned nobility there remains one last vestige of hope: rescue by the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. Renowned for both his unparalleled bravery and his clever disguises, the Pimpernel’s identity remains as much a mystery to his sworn enemy, the ruthless French agent Chauvelin, as to his devoted admirer, the beautiful Lady Marguerite Blakeney.
First published in 1905, The Scarlet Pimpernel is an irresistible novel of love, gallantry, and swashbuckling adventure.
Ok, so to fully understand my love of this book, I think I need to explain that I grew up LOVING Robin Hood.
Some re-incarnations I've loved better than others (the 1938 version pictured right above is pure gold!), but seriously, I LOVED Robin Hood.
I still do, in case you couldn't tell :)
But considering my intense love of Robin Hood, I guess it was only natural that when I stumbled upon The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was fated to fall in love with this story. There are similar themes, including protecting those who cannot protect themselves, ingenuity, adventure, out-smarting the villains, and a straight-up heroic arrogance that’s just so charming.
My first encounter with "The Scarlet Pimpernel" was when I was sixteen, and my brother played me some songs from the musical. I was instantly hooked by the beautiful music and the thrilling story, and when I saw it was based off a book, I rushed to get my hands on said book. Since then, I've re-read it, I've read some of the sequels, I have seen the movies, I adore the musical, and it is even high on my "If I Get Amnesia" list, which tells my family which movies and books to prioritize in case I ever forget everything and get to re-experience my favorite things. (Does anyone else have this list?)
I've raved a lot about this book, so let me try and focus on the actual book.
"The Scarlet Pimpernel" follows Marguerite, a famous actress from Paris who has recently moved to England after a whirlwind romance with Sir Percy Blakeney, an English aristocrat. While Marguerite is lauded for her quick wit, Percy is foppish and ridiculous. Opposites can attract, right?
When Chauvelin, a former acquaintance of Marguerite's, comes to England to investigate and capture the infamous Scarlet Pimpernel who saves French aristocrats from the guillotine, he goes right to Marguerite. Chauvelin threatens Marguerite's brother, who is in Paris, to coerce her into helping him uncover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite doesn't want to help stop the mysterious hero--she, like every other woman in England, is totally in love with--but she will do anything for her brother...
Betrayal, adventure, and romance abound in this book. Not to mention plenty of witty repertoire, surprising twists, and suspense. It's a great classic! It is not as well written as some, and the first chapter may be a little slow/confusing the first time you read the book, but I promise the story is worth it!
I avoid spoilers in my reviews......but this time it is hard, because there's so much more I feel like I could say if spoilers were allowed! So here's the deal: You read it, and some day I'll do another post where we get to talk about it more :)
Note: If you have somehow made it to this point in your life and you do NOT know the story or spoilers of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I beg you to read the book first. The musical and movies will totally give it away. That being said, I adore the movies and musical, so you can totally watch them after reading the book :)
My favorite movie versions are:
The 1982 version with Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, and Ian McKellan. Jane Seymour makes a great Marguerite, and how can you not love that hair?
Plus, she can really get in Chauvelin's face when he's being all villainous:
And I just think Percy is hilarious:
I also love the 1934 version, with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon. They have been pictured above in the black and white GIFs, but I love that version, so it deserves another GIF here:
Fun fact: Leslie Howard loved the story so much that he wrote his own re-telling and set it in Nazi Germany. It is super interesting! It's called Pimpernel Smith. Winston Churchill loved it :)
Have you read The Scarlet Pimpernel? Have you seen any of these movies? Do you agree that it's time for another remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel? Let me know in the comments!
And thanks for reading!