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Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

182 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1905

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About the author

Emmuska Orczy

583 books770 followers
Full name: Emma ("Emmuska") Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orczi was a Hungarian-British novelist, best remembered as the author of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (1905). Baroness Orczy's sequels to the novel were less successful. She was also an artist, and her works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, London. Her first venture into fiction was with crime stories. Among her most popular characters was The Old Man in the Corner, who was featured in a series of twelve British movies from 1924, starring Rolf Leslie.

Baroness Emmuska Orczy was born in Tarnaörs, Hungary, as the only daughter of Baron Felix Orczy, a noted composer and conductor, and his wife Emma. Her father was a friend of such composers as Wagner, Liszt, and Gounod. Orczy moved with her parents from Budapest to Brussels and then to London, learning to speak English at the age of fifteen. She was educated in convent schools in Brussels and Paris. In London she studied at the West London School of Art. Orczy married in 1894 Montague Barstow, whom she had met while studying at the Heatherby School of Art. Together they started to produce book and magazine illustrations and published an edition of Hungarian folktales.

Orczy's first detective stories appeared in magazines. As a writer she became famous in 1903 with the stage version of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

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5 stars
52,109 (39%)
4 stars
46,974 (35%)
3 stars
25,335 (19%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,359 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
3,918 reviews69.3k followers
September 24, 2021
Here's my new and improved title for this book...
The Scarlet Pimpernel: A Classic That Doesn't Suck Sweaty Balls.


I can't usually make it through classic literature.
Does this make me a bad person?
I think not.
There are manymanymany other things I do on a daily basis that make me a bad person, but not being able to force myself to read (in my opinion) outdated and overrated books is not one of them.

There are other readers out there like me, I'm sure of it! And it's you guys that I'm talking to now.
Rejoice, fellow slackers! There is a classic that you can actually read!
Imagine it...
You're sitting on a bench engrossed in a book. The person next to you leans over and asks, "What are you reading?". You can finally plaster a smug-ass smile on your face and say, "Why, right now I'm thoroughly enjoying Orczy's classic, The Scarlet Pimpernel.".
See?! Doesn't that sound awesome!
And when someone asks you what you've recently read, you won't have to admit to the fact that you're deep into a series about an alien who falls in love with his human neighbor, your extensive comic book collection, or all of that erotica that's hidden neatly away on your Kindle!


Now is this book really a four star novel by my 'real-book' standards?
Fuck, no!
It's old as shit. The copy I got didn't even have anything on the cover.
You know it's old when it has got that black cover-thing going on.
The pages were creaky, it smelled weird, and I think there's a possibility I should have had it tested for mold before I brought it into my house.
It's a readable book.
Go get it, and for a few blissful moments, you can pretend that you're an intellectual giant.


2021 audiobook

Listening to this was an even better experience than reading it.
5 stars for the Naxos Audiobooks edition with Bill Homewood as the narrator. Loved it!
This book has everything I want in an adventure novel - daring rescues, crazy disguises, a clever and bold heroine, an intelligent hero with a sense of humor, and a love story with a twist.
Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
January 11, 2022
I've always had a thing for books that use the Scarlet Pimpernel trope: the intelligent, capable person who hides behind a mask of inanity. So Emma Orczy gets extra points from me for popularizing this secret identity plot device in her 1905 book The Scarlet Pimpernel.

It's 1792, the early days of the French Revolution, and the Reign of Terror is at its peak: thousands of French aristocrats, men, women and children, are sent to the guillotine, regardless of actual fault. But a group of brave English noblemen, led by the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, are rescuing many of the condemned French aristocrats and spiriting them away to England. French authorities are outraged.


Meanwhile, Marguerite St. Just, a lovely French actress who inexplicably married the slow-witted, foppish but extremely wealthy Sir Percy Blakeney, is having issues in her marriage: she thought her rather foolish husband adored her, but they've drifted far apart, ever since she confessed to him that her accusation against a French noble family resulted in their deaths, while being too proud to explain the whole story to him. She's not quite sure why, but now she finds she misses the adoration of the big galoot.


But Marguerite has worse problems: the French envoy to England is blackmailing her into spying for him, so he can find out who the Scarlet Pimpernel is and make sure he dies the next time he sets foot in France. If she doesn't cooperate, her beloved brother Armand will be guillotined.

This is an old-fashioned adventure/romance novel, not all that well written and not terribly deep, but an easy, enjoyable read, for a hundred year old book anyway. It frequently gets high on the melodrama (I about lost it when Sir Percy passionately kisses the places Marguerite's feet and hand have touched, half-crazed with frustrated love) and it's incurably pro-aristocracy, though Baroness Orczy reluctantly admits that some of the French nobility had caused much suffering for the common people. And Marguerite, for a person who's supposed to be the cleverest woman in all of France and England, sure got smacked hard on the head by the Oblivious Fairy's wand.

But the exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel and his merry band are well-plotted and exciting to read, and the romantic relationship is unusual: can two married people who don't really understand each other and have become estranged, ever work things out?


I totally got sucked into it and was all, d'awww! at the end. Good times!
Profile Image for PirateSteve.
90 reviews330 followers
September 27, 2017
Odd's Fish ! Is this book an action adventure, a romance, historical fiction?
Baroness Orczy has provided us with all that.
Tis a fun romp, I say.
Had I known how much of this story was romance, I might not have read it but then I would have missed out on how good an all round story it really is.
Baroness Orczy was a playwright and this book was adapted into a play or the play was adapted into the book. I know not which was first.
It does have it's faults but still deserving of it's place in literary history.

Sir Percy Blakeney is an English dandy in his normal life. But it is when he takes on the guise as The Scarlet Pimpernel that he becomes a hero to the French aristocrats. Crossing the English channel on his yacht, The Day Dream, in order to save .these aristocrats from their adjudged doom upon the guillotine. "Tally ho! - and away we go!"

This book's disguised hero story-line, first published in 1905, has been accredited with giving inspiration to several other literary heroes such as Batman, Zorro and The Shadow.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Now I know not where those writers received their inspiration but surely there had been other, earlier, similar stories.
First comes to mind, The Bible. Josiah disguised himself in order to make war with Neco, King of Egypt. This adventure didn't turn out good for Josiah. So close, but not quite.
Then I look to ol Willy Shakes. You gotta know Shakespeare couldn't, wouldn't leave this type story-line alone.
Measure for Measure, fitting title I believe, is a play written by Shakespeare back in 1603.
In this play Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, lets everyone know that he is leaving the city on a diplomatic mission.
What he does then is stay in the city disguised as Friar Lodowick in order to observe the governing of the city in his absence.
At the end of the play The Duke reveals himself in order the save an innocent man from the guillotine.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,240 followers
February 27, 2021
When the guillotine dropped quickly, remorselessly and often, there arose a mysterious Englishman, who crossed the channel, to rescue the French Aristocrats ( mostly innocent victims), he called himself, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" . Named after a modest, British flower, this person organized a band of twenty high-born men, he like the flower, was unpretentious . Their daring deeds thrilled the world, Antoine Fouquier-Tinville director of the French government, wants to capture these enemies. Offers 5,000 francs, for the head of the unknown leader, but the brilliant Pimpernel, has supernatural powers, they say...The Terror was just beginning, Sir Percy Blakeney is a rather silly, unintelligent, fop (everyone thought so ). Percy travels in High Society, his friend is the dissolute Prince of Wales, similar men are his young followers, and copy all Blakeney's latest clothes he wears. Recite his witty words, the riches man in England was surprisingly... the secret chief of this group of daredevils, in perilous France...Having recently married a French actress, Marguerite St. Just, the most beautiful, smart woman in the country . All her friends, were stunned, she had many suitors, love of money, undoubtedly was the reason. A hard, precarious childhood, Marguerite and her older brother, Armand, endured, as they lost their parents, at an early age. Unusually close, they depended on each other to survive, but still, how can she, lower herself to such a nitwit dandy? With an irritating laugh ? Her many friends, can't accept it...In Paris the barricades, surround the city, everyone leaving, is thoroughly searched. Their carts, barrels, animals, all that goes by, particularly the frightened citizens, the fleeing aristocrats, can't get out. An old, ugly woman, approaches the western barricades, the cart will not be searched, her grandson has the plague, she says...The guards, back away and the vehicle slowly passes, into the countryside, never to be seen again. Yes, The Scarlet Pimpernel, is the old woman, and some nobles are hidden, in the wagon. Sir Percy is a master of disguise, it will save his life, numerous times. The Committee of Safety, the notorious Revolutionary French government, sends an agent to England, to find out, the identity of this Scarlet Pimpernel. Such a silly name ! Citizen Chauvelin , the spy, is also an accredited official, of the bloody, French regime, and a former friend of Lady Blakeney. When her brave brother, or foolish, Armand, working for her husband, in France, to help some Aristocrats escape, is apprehended. The "Day Dream", Sir Percy's yacht, which has been used, often, to get them, across the sea, back to freedom (England), needs to sail in the opposite direction . But now the ruthless Chauvelin, threatens to kill Armand, if Lady Blakeney, doesn't find out who is the Scarlet Pimpernel...And she is in the dark, that her despised, idiot of a husband, is that person! Will Marguerite, have to choose between her husband and her beloved brother , one must die ? Appearances are not always reality, as this book shows. A man wears a mask, for the world, but inside, he is a totally different animal.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
July 15, 2021
The Scarlet Pimpernel (The Scarlet Pimpernel #1), Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is the first novel in a series of historical fiction by Baroness Orczy, published in 1905.

Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine.

His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

It was written after her stage play of the same title enjoyed a long run in London, having opened in Nottingham in 1903.

The novel is set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution.

Sir Percy Blakeney leads a double life: apparently nothing more than a wealthy fop, but in reality a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist.

The band of gentlemen who assist him are the only ones who know of his secret identity.

He is known by his symbol, a simple flower, the scarlet pimpernel.

Marguerite Blakeney, his French wife, does not share his secret.

She is approached by the new French envoy to England, Chauvelin, with a threat to her brother's life if she does not aid in the search for the Pimpernel.

She aids him, and then discovers that the Pimpernel is also very dear to her. She sails to France to stop the envoy.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «رازی‍ان‍ه‌ س‍رخ‌»؛ «اسکارلت پیمپرنل»؛‬ «اسکارلت»؛ نویسنده: بارونس اورسزی؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم ماه نوامبر سال 2006میلادی

عنوان: رازی‍ان‍ه‌ س‍رخ‌؛ نویسنده: ب‍ارون‍زا م‍وس‍ک‍ا ارس‍زی‌ (ام‍وش‍ک‍ا اورت‍س‍ی‌)؛ مت‍رج‍م: زه‍ره‌ ب‍ک‍وب‍ی‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌: س‍روس‍ت‍ان‌، 1383؛ در 198ص؛ چاپ دیگر ت‍ه‍ران‌: بوس‍ت‍ان‌، 1387؛ شابک 9789646110649؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان مجارستانی تبار بریتانیا - سده 20م

فهرست: «پاریس سپتامبر 1792میلاد»؛ «دوور مهمانسرای ماهیگیر»؛ «مارگریت»؛ «یک دیدار غیر منتظره»؛ «در جایگاه اپرا»؛ «مجلس رقص لرد گرن ویل»؛ «ساعت یک بامداد»؛ «ریچموند»؛ «رازیانه سرخ»؛ «کالایز»؛ «دام مرگ»؛ «یهودی»؛ «به دنبال رد پا»؛ «فرار»؛

عنوان: اسکارلت؛ نویسنده: بارونس اورسزی؛ مترجم: اکرم شکرزاده؛ قم: نگاه آشنا‏‫، 1395؛ در 80ص؛ مصور، شابک 9786008181484؛ عنوان روی جلد: اسکارلت پیمپرنل؛‬ چاپ دیگر: قم‫: نگاه آشنا‬‏‫: باران سخن��‏‫، چاپ چهارم 1397؛ در 80ص؛ همان شابک؛ چاپ دیگر با عنوان اسکارلت پیمپرتل؛ قم: لاهیجی، ‏‫1398؛ در 80ص؛ شابک 9789649902890؛

داستانی تاریخی از دوران «انقلاب» در کشور «فرانسه» است، که مردی «انگلیسی»، زنان و کودکان بسیاری را، از سپرده شدن به «گیوتین» نجات میدهد؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 23/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,466 followers
April 28, 2014
“A surging, seething murmuring crowd, of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.”- The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy

It’s been too long since I last enjoyed a classic novel and I was beginning to fear that I was falling out of love with my favourite genre. Well, I found the remedy with “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” What a lot of fun!

The French Revolution is one of my favourite periods of history to learn about despite the morbidity and the violence and cruelty. It's shocking to be reminded of the fact that even children were guillotined. It makes you wonder why on earth people felt the need to be so barbaric and unforgiving.

Baroness Orczy also introduces us to one of the most interesting characters in literature, in my opinion, Sir Percival Blakeney, Bart., aka The Scarlet Pimpernel. His character is an example of what I’d call the Columbo effect, a dopey demeanour that puts people at ease and disguises sheer brilliance. Sir Percy is a fop who is obsessed with fashion and making inane comments that amuse those around him. Surely he can’t be the Scarlet Pimpernel???
Profile Image for Julie .
4,028 reviews58.9k followers
April 26, 2011
I have seen a movie version on this book at some point but I had not read the book. I am so glad I did. I highly recommend it. Don't rely on the movie versions of this classic, they don't do it justice. If you have an e reader this book should be free. I ordered mine on Kindle. There were some typos here and there, but nothing serious.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
April 12, 2019
Rick Flair talks about The Scarlet Pimpernel.



Let me step it down a notch for you literary librarian types and let me pose a question: was the Scarlet Pimpernel the first masked superhero? I mean I’m thinkin about Batman, Green Hornet, The Shadow – right? All those cats had a hidden identity and they had their crime fightin side too.

YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYIN??? The Stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun!


For all you who don’t know, this was set in the French Revolution and unlike us in AMERICA who settled our fight the old-fashioned way, those FRENCHIES took to choppin off HEADS of the old French aristocracy and royalty. And while the author, a BARONESS herself, gives some objective reasons for the French dislike of the uppity rich folks, she has her hero THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL! ride across the English Channel and rescue French royals.



Don’t wanna hand out any SPOILERS to you readers who don’t know about this HUNDRED AND SOMETHIN year old book, but THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL pretends to be an English FOP when he’s not out rescuin’ Frenchies from MADAM FREAKIN GUILLOTINE!

So read up and get some culture from this CLASSIC!


Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
August 22, 2011
Okay, I read this for exactly two reasons: one, I thought this book was on The List (it's not); and two, the Scarlet Pimpernel is the inspiration for the Bruce Wayne/Batman dichotomy and I am a giant dork.

For a book about a secret team of English nobleman working to rescue French nobles from the scary revolutionists who want them dead, this is a surprisingly unexciting book. The pace is fast, and there's plenty of spying and blackmailing and races against time, but there isn't a single fistfight, swordfight, gunfight or slapping fight in the whole book. There's sort of a chase scene at the end, but the pursued party is in a slow-moving cart and the pursuer is on foot. There's plenty of drama and intrigue and excitement, but just one duel would have been nice.

Luckily, the characters are all great. Sir Percy, in addition to being a precursor to Bruce Wayne's vigilante-disguised-as-idiot-rich-boy act, also reminded me of Lord Peter Wimsey (another fan of the Badass Disguised as Fop method), which was awesome. His archenemy is Chauvelin, basically the French version of Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, and everybody was generally so cool that I forgot about how amazingly not scary a name like "Scarlet Pimpernel" is.

The true hero of this story, surprisingly, is not the Scarlet Pimpernel. He mostly stays in the background while people talk about him, and throughout the whole book we never really get to see him in action. Instead, we see almost everything through the eyes of Sir Percy's wife, Marguerite, who despite everything manages to be awesome. The issue I had with Marguerite was that she's repeatedly referred to as the cleverest woman in Europe, but god damn is she stupid. Sir Percy might as well have been dancing around wearing a sign that read "Hello, I am secretly the Scarlet Pimpernel" and she wouldn't figure it out. At one point, Marguerite snoops around in Percy's study and sees the following objects: maps of the English and French coastlines on the walls, and a small ring with a scarlet pimpernel flower engraved on it. Marguerite stares blindly at these objects and is like, "But what does it all mean?"

The major flaw in the Percy/Marguerite marriage was a lack of communication. First we find out that Marguerite had a French family arrested by accident before she was married, and never told Percy about it even after she found out that she'd made a mistake. Then, when Chauvelin tells Marguerite that she has to work as a spy for him or he'll kill her brother, Marguerite doesn't tell her husband what's going on until after she sells out the Pimpernel without knowing who he is. I mean, Jesus. Also he's in disguise for the last part of the book and it was so fucking obvious which character was actually Percy in disguise I wanted to throw the book at the wall.

But fortunately, this all ends with Marguerite becoming awesome, racing against the clock to save her husband and defeat Chauvelin, and the ending between Percy and Marguerite is surprisingly sweet and very satisfying.

(that got a bit rambly, didn't it?) Anyway, in conclusion: a fun espionage story, even if it's not as swashbuckling as I expected and everyone except the Pimpernel is an idiot. I'll be looking up the movie version soon, and will likely prefer it to the book.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
518 reviews415 followers
January 12, 2023
This is a beautiful book, with a well-written storyline, a smooth flow, a good pace, and an interesting set of characters. Set up in the backdrop of the Reign of Terror in France, in the aftermath of the French revolution, the author creates a story of a fictitious small league of British aristocrats led by one named "The Scarlet Pimpernel", who help smuggle the French royals and aristocrats into the safety of England away from the clutches of the vengeful Republican Government of France who seek their lives. Troubled and humiliated by the actions of this unknown league, the French government appoints an official to seek and destroy the daring "Scarlet Pimpernel". Threats, dangerous bargains, and betrayals take place while the two opposing enemies try to outwit the other in a dangerous game of life and death.

This is a beautifully crafted story, full of intrigue and suspense. The flow was smooth, and the story became more and more intense as the author gradually builds up suspense. Also, despite the gravity of the background in which the story is set, there was humour, too, especially in the actions of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The writing is simple and that made it quick and easy to read. I really loved the way the story was structured and executed. There were no unnecessary details, no exaggerations. Everything was appropriate and to the point including the emotions of the characters.

Out of all, however, what captured me the most is the characters. The male protagonist is the daring Scarlet Pimpernel, who is brave, resourceful, and astute. No one would fail to love him, the dear hero. The female protagonist is a beautiful and clever woman who enters into a dangerous bargain with the enemy not realizing the consequences. Once her mistake comes to light, she takes on herself a courageous journey to the jaws of death to rescue her loved ones from peril. The emotional trauma the author takes her through disclosing her suffering yet elaborating on her courage makes her character close and dear to the heart of the readers. What is most interesting is that I could even like the vile enemy of the hero and heroine!

Overall, it was a great read. I really enjoyed it, and would easily recommend it to those who love a fast-paced, good adventure.
Profile Image for Adita ✨The Slumbering Insomniac✨.
134 reviews259 followers
July 8, 2016


Ah, classic.
How I had always imagined that the classics are only for those who are born, brought up, spoon-fed in and potty-trained in English and how wrong was I to think that they are out of the reach of people like me who had only subnormal command over the English language.

Among many other popular authors of the classic era, Emmuska Orczy was a name much bandied about for her magnum opus, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" , even during my school days. I can't quite pinpoint the exact reason why I was motivated to choose this book as the first proper classic novel that I will ever read, but it sure delivered the necessary impact that made me change my course of this book journey of my life and embrace the uphill task of delving into the treasure trove of works left behind by the writers of yonder and unearth the hidden riches of the literature world that I have so far eschewed.

This story describes the many facets of the post-revolution France and the ripples that reflected off from places as far as London. The story is written in a simple, lucid style and the narrative is very straightforward and candid, that never once did I feel like I am in the middle of a momentous undertaking as this one.

The story traces the mysterious ways of one enigmatic Englishman who works under the sobriquet of The Scarlet Pimpernel and plots ingenious ways to bring back the doomed aristocrats from the very verge of death to the safety of the English hospitality. Throughout the first half, we are left to our own devices to hazard a guess as to who this Scarlet Pimpernel could be and the sense of bewilderment ties you to the story to the hilt. After all, you have been hearing about this titular character for ages and you are only a few hours away from learning the true identity of this much celebrated hero of all ages.

On a parallel timeline, you are treated to the boisterous and always-in-the-spotlight kind of life of Lady Blakeney aka Marguerite St. Just who is popular equally among the intelligentsia and the fashionistas of the 18th century London and her ridiculously rich but inanely infectious(laughter along with other attributes) husband Sir Percy Blakeney. Her undulating affections for Sir Percy- ranging from utter hatred for his foolish ways to unconditional love for the worshipper in him- keep us riveted to the story; in an effort to help us understand which direction a witty woman's feelings for a dim-witted husband should swing towards.

The beginning of the second part is what should be the one to reveal the identity of the RESCUER- EXTRAORDINNAIRE himself. This is where Lady Blakeney is unwittingly fooled into aiding in the capture of The Scarlet Pimpernel by the evil French official Monsieur Chauvelin, who used to be her close associate during her young days in France, in return for her beloved brother Armand's life. Her arduous journey in (a league member)Sir Andrew Ffoulkes' company to save her loved ones or die alongside them trying presents to us the typical dilemma of choosing one of two equally valuable things and that's why this novel is worthy of being hailed as one of the finest precursors to the modern day whodunits, even though the dearth of a multitude of characters made it easy for the readers to zero in on the suspect(not in the usual life-taker sense, but in the unusual life saver sense). Oh, and you wouldn't quite believe how the quirky masks and strange countenances helped our dashing hero to slip away right from under the nose of his archenemy.

That this novel is a wonderful commentary on love, family, gallantry, friendship, loyalty, commitment and betrayal in the times of turmoil comes as no surprise to me. But, if "simple" could move me so much, in this age where there is a tendency among people to complicate things, and usher in a paradigm shift in my reading habit, then I owe it to this brilliant, elegant yet plain prose. And this story makes hero-worshipping only that much better.

PS: If you read my review, you'd notice that I have left a clue as to who the eponymous Scarlet Pimpernel is. Gah, the joy of giving away to the world the secret identity of someone you know!! Human nature is century- independent, huh?
Profile Image for Shannon .
1,221 reviews2,162 followers
December 30, 2009
If, like me, you watched the movie more times than you'd care to admit when you were growing up; or if, like me, you've read all of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances and then some, you'll love this book. It doesn't pretend to be anything extraordinary, it doesn't even offer a social commentary on the period in which it's set - written by an aristocrat who is clearly on the side of the aristocrats, it's easy to see where her sympathies lie. But it is a rollicking good ride, a fun adventure story, a very sweet and at times intense love story, and a daring, cunning dash into danger. For sheer entertainment's sake, I loved it.

Set in 1792 during the French Revolution when, if your history is a bit hazy, the French people rose up in revolt and began executing their wealthy aristocracy on "Madame Guillotine" - including the King and Marie Antoinette (their young son was famously unaccounted for, if I remember correctly) - stories of "innocent" aristocrats (especially women and children, who were beheaded alongside the men) being rescued and taken to England are perfect for a romantic adventure story.

When I was a little girl, my mother's best friend returned from a trip to Russia, where her family was from, with a birthday gift for me - a book printed in Yugoslavia called Girls' Adventure Stories of Long Ago. The very first story, and my favourite, was about a young girl fleeing France who is rescued by a Englishman with a secret identity, going by the name of Red Hawk. Adventure and romance ensued. So between that story and watching my sister's copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was an early fan.

Lady Marguerite Blakeney is a beautiful, clever young French woman, once an actress, now wife to Sir Percy Blakeney, one of the richest and most well-dressed men in England - and also, so everyone thinks, one of the most inane and stupid. When her brother Armand, who is working on the side of the Revolution in France, is found out to be in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel, the man in charge of hunting down the Pimpernel, Chauvelin, uses the damning knowledge to blackmail Marguerite into helping him discover the Scarlet Pimpernel's true identity. When she realises who the Scarlet Pimpernel really is, though, it's too late to save him or her brother - she must to France to warn them, but Chauvelin's trap is closing in fast.

Originally written for the stage in 1902 by Baroness Orczy, it became so popular that she novelised it a few years later. In the 1982 film, Anthony Andrews - while lacking the impressive height and shoulder breadth described of Sir Percy in the book - did a fantastic job of portraying the urbane fop who hides his cunning and resourceful mind behind a mask of stupidity. I can think of a couple of heroes Georgette Heyer wrote who were likely inspired by Sir Percy. He is wonderfully charismatic, and the love he suppresses for his wife ever since he found out her role in the execution of an aristocrat, makes for a truly bittersweet romance. They both must learn to trust one another and work through misunderstandings in order to be happy again.

The pacing might be too slow for some readers, but I found the details engrossing and the build-up of tension and anticipation gut-tightening. While the first half of the book was recreated closely in the movie, the second half is quite different. It was a pleasurable surprise, and made the book less predictable than I was expecting. It might not have the cinematic build-up of the movie, or that final classic sword-fight between Percy and Chauvelin, but I found the original ending to be just as satisfying and far less clichéd. The characters are well-drawn and feel very real; we mostly get Marguerite's perspective (never Percy's), and while she doesn't always make the best decisions, she is at least understandable and even sympathetic. The true hero is, of course, the Scarlet Pimpernel, whose modern equivalent would be Batman - a superhero without superpowers, unless you count enormous wealth and a sharp mind.
Profile Image for Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh.
167 reviews508 followers
June 28, 2014
Melodrama all the rage when this was written so be prepared, it’s pretty silly. A fast easy read you can whip off in no time that’s a lot of fun. Odd’s fish but that Sir Percy is HIGHLY amusing! “The foppish ways, the affected movements, the perpetual inane laugh.” High intrigue will keep you turning those pages, and who can resist a guy named Pimpernel who runs around in various disguises rescuing people from having their heads lopped off? Loved him for “his marvellous audacity, the boundless impudence which had caused him to beard his most implacable enemies”
For historical-adventure 4 stars, as romance maybe a 2. As kudos for creating the truly superb character of Sir Percy Blakeney 3 1/2 stars

Cons: The heroine Lady Marguerite...We’re supposed to believe she’s the cleverest woman in Britain yet she can’t figure out the identity of The Pimpernel? Seriously, it couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d been walking around wearing a flashing neon sign. Oh la la she’s dumb as a post and not the least bit witty. Would it have killed the author to have tossed her a couple of decent lines instead of giving them all to Percy? “Hoity-toity, citizeness," she said gaily, "what fly stings you, pray?” was about as good as it got…

Memorable: “Demmed excitable little puppy," he added under his breath, "Faith, Ffoulkes, if that's a specimen of the goods you and your friends bring over from France, my advice to you is, drop 'em 'mid Channel” - Sir Percy Blakeney
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews404 followers
September 9, 2016
This novel is set in 1792 in England and France during the French Revolution's "Reign of Terror". In spite of the time and seriousness of these events, the novel doesn't take itself too seriously. Baroness Orczy wasn't trying to be political or make a statement, she was just trying to write a good story. What she wrote was a rollicking bit of a mystery/adventure/intrigue that was (for me) surprisingly good.

The story is about an unknown, but gallant, Englishman and his secret band of followers who sneak into France and save French citizen's, mostly aristocrats, from the blade of the guillotine, and then shepherd them safely to England. The book is not overly long and is not your typical English classic, but I throughly enjoyed it.
4 stars
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books579 followers
November 7, 2020
Born in Hungary in 1865, at the age of three Baroness Emma Orczy (“Emmuska” was actually a diminutive affectionate form of her name, used by family and friends) fled with her parents from their ancestral estate because of fear of a peasant revolution. The family ultimately settled in England when Emma was 14, and as an adult she did her writing entirely in English and as a part of the British literary tradition. It's undoubtedly the case that this formative experience shaped the literary vision that we find here, in her most famous novel. Interestingly, she first created the title character, the Scarlet Pimpernel, in one of her numerous short stories; she and her husband Henry Barstow (like Marguerite in the novel, she married an Englishman, and the union was long and happy) then wrote a stage play titled The Scarlet Pimpernel, which proved to be very popular, running in London for four years. This book is actually her novelization of the play, and sparked a long-running series of sequels.

Set in France and England in late September-early October, 1792, against the background of the French Revolution, this novel takes its title (the name of a red wildflower native to England) from the nom de plume which conceals the identity of a mysterious Englishman who, with the help of an equally secretive group of supporters, risks life and limb to rescue French citizens, mostly aristocrats, who are at odds with the revolutionary government and in danger of being killed on that account, and spirits them off to safety in England. The image of the flower appears on pieces of paper slipped to the state prosecutor whenever an intended victim is rescued. (In the 1999-2000 TV miniseries adaptations, the image is instead embossed on the hero's sword –which is more realistic, IMO-- but there's actually no swordplay in this novel, and the miniseries adaptation of this particular book doesn't follow it very closely at all. That's also true of at least one of the older black-and-white movie adaptations, judging from the clips attached to Orczy's Goodreads author record.) There are some historical inaccuracies here: the Terror didn't really get going in earnest, and the (wildly misnamed!) Committee of Public Safety and the Revolutionary Tribunal which are both mentioned here weren't created, until 1793; and even then there was actually no program of automatically trying to exterminate everybody with noble blood. But the picture drawn isn't very inaccurate, either; many nobles unsympathetic to the Revolution had already fled the country and many others wanted to, the government had already declared war on Austria to supposedly “preempt” an emigre-sponsored invasion in support of the king and was whipping up paranoid hysteria about “spies” and “traitors,” and Sept. 1792 had already seen the bloody wholesale massacres of the accused “traitors” being held for trial in the prisons.

From some secondary-source reading over the years, and from adaptations, I already knew the Scarlet Pimpernel's true identity before opening the book; many readers may be in the same boat, especially if they've read much about literature. (Spoilers about the plots of classics often tend to be common knowledge among literature buffs and students.) However, the original readers wouldn't, and the author keeps that information close to her vest for much of the book. If you don't already know it, discovering it in its proper season undoubtedly enhances the reading experience (though some astute readers might guess it first!). Interestingly, though, the real protagonist here, and wrestler with the novel's significant moral quandaries/decisions, is not the Pimpernel, but a female, Lady Marguerite St. Just Blakeney. 25 years old when the novel opens, she's French-born, of well-to-do commoner stock, a gifted actress who dazzled the Paris theater in the last years of Louis XVI's reign, and a highly intelligent, witty and cultivated woman whose social circle included the leading lights of French and foreign philosophy, literature and the arts. She's relatively newly married to Sir Percy Blakeney (aged about 28-29), a baronet and by inheritance one of England's richest men. They met in Paris; the son of a mentally ill mother and a neglectful father, he was raised abroad, and hasn't been in England long. Everybody knows he's lazy, foppish, intellectually shallow, and not interested in much but clothes, horses and cards; but he fell hard for her, and offered her a quality of worshiping devotion that won her heart. But by the time the tale here begins, their marriage has already soured. The question of why, and the exploration of the complex relationship between this couple, is the second of this novel's two major threads. But the two are about to come together, because early on M. Chauvelin, the French government's diplomatic representative to England –whose real main mission, and obsession, is to unmask and capture the Pimpernel-- demands that she use her voluminous social contacts (Percy's money, and friendship with the Prince of Wales, puts the couple in the center of London society) to find out the hidden crusader's identity for him. She's not inclined to; the St Justs are moderately republican in their attitudes, but not sympathetic to the regime's slide into homicidal totalitarianism. But he has ways and means of being very persuasive....

Both this novel and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (1859) are Romantic school historical fiction, set in the same era, and both view the Revolution from the standpoint of those who supported reform, but abhorred the course that events took. Dickens, though, does a much better job of conveying the sense of how intolerable and outrageous the pre-Revolutionary oppression of the masses actually was; Orczy has a couple of nods in that direction, but nothing as sustained and dramatically evocative as Dickens' portrayals. The earlier writer's criticism of the Terror thus comes across as more balanced, less open to the charge of whitewashing the old order. He also delineates at more length, and more sharply, the hate-based group-think and vicious ruthlessness that underlies the hard-Left mindset; and the respective authors' two characters who personify it, Madame Defarge and Chauvelin, also have contrasting natures, the one seeming to embody fire, the other ice. On the whole, while Dickens and Orczy both have a pro-civilized-behavior stance, he tries harder to get readers to share it, where she presupposes that they already do. Although opposing philosophies are contrasted here, this is not so much a novel of ideas as a straight-up tale of intrigue, danger and suspense. If you have a mindset that glorifies the French Revolution and justifies the Terror, this book won't change that, and will probably infuriate rather than entertain you.

However, if you approach this period of history --as do I-- with a view more informed by the political and cultural ideals of the American Revolution (or England's Glorious Revolution of 1688, which was probably more in Orczy's mind), you can find a great deal to appreciate in this novel. It's very well crafted, with the three main characters drawn with great vividness. The focus on adventure and derring-do doesn't necessarily mean it lacks a worthwhile message (quite the contrary!), and it offers a profoundly insightful portrait of a marriage relationship the specific features of which may be unusual, but that can still present life lessons (as quality fiction always does, without labeling them as such!). With a tight plot compressed into a short time-frame, life-and-death stakes in the balance, and an intense mood of omnipresent danger, it's an extremely gripping read, especially in the last third or so. I knew much more than the original readers did (and also guessed one of the Pimpernel's stratagems immediately, which meant that for several chapters I “knew” something neither Marguerite nor Chauvelin did!), and it still kept me on tenterhooks most of the time. In Marguerite, we also have a strong heroine who, though not a pistol-packing swordswoman, still displays plenty of agency, ability, leadership and guts. (Of course, like Daphne du Maurier in Jamaica Inn, Orczy occasionally throws in sexist comments about women's supposed limitations, while presenting a heroine who belies them!) The Edwardian diction shouldn't present proficient readers with any problem.

The 1963 Airmont Classics edition I read has a few pages of introductory matter by B. Allen Bentley, whose qualifications aren't stated. What I read (after reading the body of the book!) was interesting and informative, and didn't contain spoilers; but the copy I read was missing the first couple of pages of it.

“We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? – is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel?”
Profile Image for Melindam.
632 reviews275 followers
March 9, 2023
Such a dashing swashbuckler -that damned, elusive Pimpernel (odd's fish, what a nom de guerre! Though, come to think of it, no more ridiculous than Batman!)- and not a swingle swashbuckling in sight.

Much of the story depends on whether you like the heroine, Marguerite Blakeney, as most of the story is shown from her POV. Unfortunately, I did not, could not warm to her at all, otherwise I would have given the book 4 stars. I feel that the author very much missed her mark with Marguerite, because she tried to make her all things to all people and came up with a contradictory heroine, but not in the multi-layered, interesting way, but in the very irritating for-Heaven's-sake-make-up-your-mind-what-you-want-her-to-be! way.
In every chapter we are hit on the head with the statement that Marguerite is "the cleverest woman in Europe" and oh-boy is she aware of it herself! She is patronising and self-important. Trouble is that in practice she is astonishingly stupid and useless most of the time.
Orczy also wants Marguerite to appear as extraordinarily brave and cunning, but keeps pulling her back because she remembers that this is quite unwomanly, so then we are told again and again how beautiful and childlike she is. Also her feelings for her husband were that of a young girl, not of a clever woman.
First I was irritated, then just bored with her.

Still, an enjoyable read which I would call an adventurous romance with quite strong melodramatic overtones. Most of them are bearable, but there were some OTT gagworthy moments , even considering the romantic traditions and expectations of its times.
Profile Image for Katelyn Buxton.
Author 13 books80 followers
July 1, 2018
I think The Scarlet Pimpernel has single-handedly rocketed itself into the top five of my favorite classics list. I. Love. This. Book.

While reading it, I kept wondering why I hadn't read it sooner! It had been on my TBR for a while, and I was ecstatic upon the discovery that it was free in ebook form on Amazon. But everything else kept getting in the way of reading it... it was always just a little too low in my priorities... so I was glad when #AuthorBookClub on Twitter decided to read it this month, and gave me the kick in the pants necessary to start me reading it at last!

Let me tell you why I love it, folks. (And I'll try not to wax too poetic). ;P First and foremost, the first half reminded me strongly of the movie Beyond the Mask. (If you know what I'm talking about, we're friends already). My sister and I have had a small *cough* small obsession with that movie ever since it came out two years ago. It has many of the same elements of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which won me over immediately upon the reading of the book.

Now, for the reasons I love it.

1.) A masked man! (Okay not literally masked, but figuratively). A hero/vigilante sort of character with a devil-may-care attitude that does credit to his type—which is the kind of noble does-what's-right-because-it's-right character people have been rooting for since the dawn of storytelling creation.

2.) The romance. I know that this part is kind of controversial, but overall, I thought it was really very sweet. And the fact that it takes place between a married couple is a refreshing change. I don't really agree with Marguerite's tendencies to describe true love as "worship," (since I believe the only thing we as humans should worship is God our Creator), but her marriage was brought back from a sorry state of existence by her realizing what she really had, and appreciating it.

3.) Marguerite is not your typical helpless female love interest/main character of the time period, either. She has brains, and she uses them. She's tough in a way that goes far deeper than mere physical ability, and I think modern books and movies would do well to follow her example.

4.) And let's not forget the dry wit! I laughed out loud more than once, and I love Orczy's way of springing the humorous bits where you least expect them.

5.) Another thing that I enjoyed was the fact that The Scarlet Pimpernel is pretty much historical fiction, but I didn't have to know anything about The French Revolution beforehand to know what was going on, since Orczy explained it. *gives Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson a sidelong glance* Believe me, I knew nothing—but now I do.

Overall, it was a wonderful adventure set in 1792, filled with real danger (guillotines, yikes)! romance, characters you can root for, and villains to despise with every fiber of your being. Perhaps the only thing I didn't really care for was the open prejudice towards Jews, the frequent use of "demmed" and occasional straight-up "d--n," but that didn't bother me too much since the rest was so amazing.

So. Why are you still here? Go read the book!
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews525 followers
April 26, 2012
So boring. So boring.

I read this weeks ago, and I've been waiting ever since for someone else in the group to come out with a great review. Something transformative. It would compare this to Radcliff and nineteenth-century opera and talk about modes of romanticism. Or it'd be one of those intensely personal reviews about a grimey, sweaty summer spent singing in the chorus line for a production of Pimpernel, and the backstage affair whose passions ebbed in counterpoint to the story. Or, I don't know, something.


It's not like I got anything either. Except maybe one thing.

Of all the times in recent years for this book to hit my radar screen, this is probably the worst. It's not about rescuing people from the violence of the French Revolution. It's about those poor, persecuted rich people. It's horrible, they've never hurt anybody -- well, except for the starvation, and the institutionalized remnants of feudal pseudo-slavery, and the "I'm not concerned about the very poor" -- oh sorry, wrong guy. "let them eat cake." There. That's the one. This is a book convinced that people are interesting and worthy of respect by virtue of being very wealthy, and I just.

It's a small part of my job to absorb national political mood and reflect it back in different analytical modes. And I was not in the fucking mood for "let them eat cake."
Profile Image for A.E. Chandler.
Author 3 books168 followers
June 28, 2021
Since I love Robin Hood, this story about an English outlaw in disguise was right up my alley. Favourite quote: “Suddenly . . . a sound . . . the strangest, undoubtedly, that these lonely cliffs of France had ever heard, broke the silent solemnity of the shore. . . . It was the sound of a good, solid, absolutely British ‘D--n!’”
Profile Image for Katja H. Labonté.
Author 16 books180 followers
May 21, 2023
5 stars. France & England, 1792. The Terror has just begun, and men, women, and children are being cruelly murdered for no other reason than their status… or how inefficient they are. A daring English band has begun rescuing the condemned aristocrats right under the noses of the French, and superstition mounts, along with anger and a determination to unmask their fearless leader, known as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

This book is simply a mix of action, mystery, and passion. There is really no theme, and we have no time to pause and make moralistic remarks—the characters are rushing on and we must catch up. The writing style is very good. Slyly sarcastic, humorously sharp, and very descriptive, it reminds me a little of Jules Verne, although it is not quite as good as his style. But what really makes the book is the characters.

The daring, mysterious, almost superhuman Scarlet Pimpernel—able to disguise himself flawlessly and outwit the cleverest man in Europe. It is impossible to say much about him without giving it away, but the man is amazing, and captures your imagination quite as much as Zorro, if not Robin Hood.
Marguerite St. Just—gorgeous, clever, humorous, passionate, confused, lonely. She is a complex mixture of republican and aristocrate, love and indifference, brains and folly. You feel much for Marguerite, no matter how much she trips up. After all, she has never had anyone to guide her, and you know she does her best, and, in the end, redeems herself well.
Sir Percy Blakeney—despairingly foppish, inane, and slow, yet somehow pathetically lovable and humorous.
Chauvelin—cruel, wicked, savage, merciless, terrifying. He is one of the worst villains of literature, a fit opponent to the Scarlet Pimpernel.
And then the minor characters: Armand, passionate to the tips of his very French fingers, and a sweet older brother. Sir Andrew, a noble, daring, loyal friend—a true gentleman. Lord Antony, loud and coarse yet somehow not to be despised, only to be ignored indifferently. Suzanne, sweet and girlish. The Vicomte, vain, pathetic, and hilarious. The Comtesse, clinging so hard to what normalcy she can. Sally & Mr. Jellyband, typical British common folk of the era. Everyone was so alive, so very English—or French.

The plot is a real rollercoaster. From the startling opening chapter, to the more restful inn; the clash between characters; the introduction of the villain; the terrible choice at the ball—it is a constant succession of movement. As Marguerite writhes through the coils Chauvelin puts around her, and the struggles to unmask the Pimpernel mount, the sudden crash of realization comes as a startling blow right after a moment of yearning tenderness between two estranged lovers. Then comes the chase, hampered by obdurate nature; the capture, so bizarre and confusing; the midnight escapade… and the end. Someone or something is always doing something, and we almost feel we MUST pay attention, for everything depends on our vigilance as much as on Marguerite’s.

The romance is particularly passionate. There are no physical scenes; it is entirely spiritual passion, with a sweet denouement where true love triumphs over pride and misunderstanding. The characters being married, there is nothing wrong with it; yet it certainly feeds the imagination, and I don’t recommend it for young readers, nor do I think it is wise to read it often. As said above, there is really no moral to the story, except the age-old, “good will triumph over evil, and love will win in the end.” And that, perhaps, is the allure of the story—a strong, beautiful, swashbuckling hero, such as we all dream of; a yearning for love and fulfilment and companionship; a mental struggle between the greyness of morality; a passionate restitution, without care for self; and a happy, perfect ending, with the knowledge that everything worked out in the end.

Content: Frequent use of language (sometimes euphemisms, such as “demmed,” “zooks,” “Lud”); people think a married woman is eloping with another man (false); an anti-semitic attitude; a waitress is hugged by a man to provoke her lover; & mentions of gambling. Recommended ages 18+

A Favourite Quote: Thus human beings judge of one another, with but little reason, and no charity. She despised her husband for his inanities and vulgar, unintellectual occupations; and he, she felt, would despise her still worse, because she had not been strong enough to do right for right's sake, and to sacrifice her brother to the dictates of her conscience.
A Favourite Beautiful Quote: The sound of the distant breakers made her heart ache with melancholy. She was in the mood when the sea has a saddening effect upon the nerves. It is only when we are very happy, that we can bear to gaze merrily upon the vast and limitless expanse of water, rolling on and on with such persistent, irritating monotony, to the accompaniment of our thoughts, whether grave or gay. When they are gay, the waves echo their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls, seems to bring additional sadness, and to speak to us of hopelessness and of the pettiness of all our joys.
A Favourite Humorous Quote: “Did you ever see such a wet September, Mr. Jellyband?” asked Mr. Hempseed.…
“No,” replied Mr. Jellyband, sententiously, “I dunno, Mr. 'Empseed, as I ever did. An' I've been in these parts nigh on sixty years.”
“Aye! you wouldn't rec'llect the first three years of them sixty, Mr. Jellyband,” quietly interposed Mr. Hempseed. “I dunno as I ever see'd an infant take much note of the weather, leastways not in these parts, an' I've lived 'ere nigh on seventy-five years, Mr. Jellyband.”
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books550 followers
August 28, 2017
I have to admit, I just fell for the title of this book, The Scarlet Pimpernel just sounds like fun:-) As it happens, the story lives up to expectations. Set in the eighteenth century, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel is a notoriously secretive Englishman, who rescues French royals from the guillotine. The story is told from the point of view of Marguerite, a French woman married to an English aristocrat, Percy Blakeney. Her marriage is unhappy, because her husband is ignoring her after having discovered a mistake she made in her youth. Yet when an old enemy, Chauvelin, tries to blackmail her, she has no choice but to seek help. One way or another, she becomes wrapped up in the clever mystery that surrounds the actions of the Scarlet Pimpernel and his league of cohorts.
This is a fun read, surprisingly humorous at times and quite clever. I would recommend it to fans of historical adventure novels, or writers like Dumas. It is an engaging romp through a notably dark time in Europe's history, and done in a manner that does not diminish the sad truth of the situation, but neither does it get bogged down in depressing details.

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for Rachelle.
313 reviews38 followers
December 23, 2013
I loved this book. It is so much better than the movie. I love the movie too....but the book is so much richer in detail. The only reason I didn't go for a 5 is that I am a sentimental fool and I wanted to see more of the reconciliation of Percy and Marguerite. It ended so quickly. There was so much build up as Marguerite realizes her errors - and her love...that I wanted some more resolution there. There were some good thoughts that I really related to...it says of Marguerite "..she, too, had worn a mask in assuming a contempt for him, whilst, as a matter of fact, she completely misunderstood him." So true. People that we dislike...are more likely simply people that we don't understand. It is also interesting to me the way that her heart guided her from the beginning to select Percy...even though later on she seems to not know why she married him at all. She should have trusted her heart all along and known that she would not have chosen an individual that was not admirable and courageous. Lastly pride is a good theme. Nearly ruined them. I haven't mentioned the political setting of the story. Besides, of course, the enourmous tradegy, it is an interesting study of human nature. It reminded me of the women's movement. Of course a good thing....that I am truly grateful for...but in the effort to be ever so equal.... there is a level of degradation as well. Brogard, a free citizen, behaves rudely to other characters in the novel...as explanation..."It was distinctly more fitting to his newborn dignity to be as rude as possible; it was a sure sign of servility to meekly reply to civil questions." .....it was "his right as a citizen and a free man, to be as rude as he well pleased." In order for women to be equal to men....must we also be as crude, aggressive and well.... manly as men?
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews402 followers
November 1, 2022
2022 Review
For a book (and series) that defined my high school years, I never re-read it. I watched the movie so many times that I could probably quote most of it. And the musical...need I say more?

It was such a fun re-read. So dramatic and romantic. Also, this is now my new favorite quote:
"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."

Love me some Sir Percy. Can't wait to see the local theater troupe put this one on in the spring!

2010 Review
If there is one piece of advice I would to people about to read this book, it would be, don't read the introduction. Don't bother even skimming it. I started the Scarlet Pimpernel utterly cluelses as to what it was about, and, as I usually do in such cases, I decided to get a little backround and read the intro. Ugh. What I got was page after page of someone talking about the author secretly pictured herself as the main character. As I had yet to meet this main character (Marguerite Blackeney) - I was entirely confused developed a muddled picture of a tall woman, thick, ruddy, and stoic. Fail. The author of this 100 Anniversary Edition intro continued to 'disect' this mysterious woman....leaving me increasingly confused. By the time he started talking about how Marguerite consummates her love for her husband (along with several other references entirely on me about other books by this author) I was ready to put the book down and never pick it up. The Scarlet Pimpernel was painted in my mind as a sexual romance and I wanted nothing to do with it!!
Thankfully, though, I decided to give it a try. Wow. What a book! A reckless band of young men, saving innocent aristocrats from the clutches of the French revolution! Their brave hero...The Scarlet Pimpernel!...Lord Percy...a beautiful woman forced to turn in the guy she admires! It was great =D It was almost like a version of the 3 Musketeers written from the viewpoint of a woman. (well, not quite, but its the same reckless, adventure feeling!)
I truly enjoyed the book. I was incredibly warry throughout the whole thing...ready at any moment to put the book down and never pick it up again...I didn't need too. The book was great.
If anything, it was to squeaky clean. Lord Percy really ought to have kissed his wife at the end ;)
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,221 reviews169 followers
October 2, 2022
“Marguerite was grateful to her husband for all this”

Like Charles Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES or Tanith Lee’s more contemporary THE GODS ARE THIRSTY, Baroness Orczy’s THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL is a novel of the French Revolution. Of necessity then, it is a tale of republicanism, international politics and bloodthirsty mob rule gone desperately awry. But THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL is also a story of love, honour, courage, loyalty, ingenuity and swashbuckling heroism. Given the “super” hero/secret identity plot device, if it had been written fifty years later, there would undoubtedly have been comparisons made to the likes of Zorro, the Lone Ranger or Superman. Despite his undeniable height, Percy Blakeney’s astonishing abilities for acting, disguise and total misdirection will also put readers in mind of Sherlock Holmes. Were it published today, back cover marketing blurbs would undoubtedly carry the typical characterizations seen on best-selling thrillers – gripping, unputdownable, compelling, “grabs you by the throat”, high speed, unforgettable!

To summarize in a couple of sentences? If you have yet to read THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, you are missing out on a rare novel that is certainly a classic but reads with the speed and ease of a contemporary thriller. A highly recommended treat!

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book485 followers
December 2, 2017
They seek him here,
They seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.

What fun! An old-fashioned rollicking romance, with dashing young cavaliers and twisted misunderstandings between lovers, set against the horrors of the French Reign of Terror. The Scarlet Pimpernel himself is slightly more daring and strong than his followers and clever enough to be an Oscar Wilde character.

I admit to not being surprised by a single turn of the storyline. I suspect that I saw this in movie form back in my childhood. But that hardly mattered. I loved the horrible predicaments Marguerite found herself in, the dastardly nature of Chevelin, and the unassailable British character of Sir Percy. Truth is, when we are young girls we dream of a man who is strong, handsome, owns a yacht, and will have eyes for no one but ourselves. Reading this novel made me feel young again.
Profile Image for Allison Tebo.
Author 20 books328 followers
October 8, 2020
Whew, I flew through this one - I was definitely pulled in from page one.

What I Liked:

Ah - I do love the old style of writing. After slogging through some modern writers recently, opening this book was like slipping into warm and soothing water.

Can we just talk about the POV? It seems that only old writers can do the removed POV and still have some much incredible emotional impact. The emotional impact was palpable; I was almost choking a couple of times with the realness of Marguerite's panic. It was so beautifully, gosmackingly, wonderfully done. They just don't write like this anymore.

The style is great, more like poetry than modern writing and the 'language' is wonderful - extra points for using one of my favorite words (jackanapes) with delightful frequency.

The story; I don't think I have to say much here - pretty much everyone can agree that the league of gentlemen spies, up to their necks with noble causes is fun. The thrill of the chase/hunt, the skullduggery, the intrigue, the rescues - what's not to like?

Now the characters: Of course, Sir Percy is a great character - there's no contest on that. I love those sorts of characters that are 'more than they appear.', and who doesn't love a dashing, mysterious, hero that operates behind the scenes? :)

I was really pleased with how much Marguerite had to do in the story and impressed with her character - I had expected her to be mostly languishing in the background as 'set decoration' - but she really displayed great gumption and brains. Even physically, she endured quite a lot. And yet, it all seemed quite believable to the time period. I liked that she didn't whip out a sword (thank goodness) and start acting like one of the guys - her motivations were one of desperation, she wasn't trying to fly in the face of convention just for the sake of being radical. 'thumbs up'.

The villain was also good, I liked the 'smallness' of how he was portrayed - instead of giving us this huge, Dark Lord type villain - I liked how the authoress emphasized how all that evil shrinks the person, reducing them to a horrible little package, a mere shade or shadow of what they once where as they give over more and more of themselves to the devil.

What I Didn't Like:

The ending, while sly and understated (usually something I liked) seemed abrupt to me and I was disappointed because I had my heart set on a good old fashioned confrontation and a Zorro-esque sword fight. I would have just preferred more swashbuckling over all, and less focus on the emotional side of the story - or rather, more action to balance out the emotional side of the story.

Emmuska Orczy seems to be the old version of those modern authors that weave unrealistic, romantic relationships that are destined to set readers up for disappointment in real life.

There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the physical attraction the MCs felt for one another and their subsequent desire to possess one another. The words 'worship' and 'adoration' were used consistently throughout the book by each character. In one scene, Sir Percy actually goes down on his hands and knees to kiss the ground his wife walks on - this scene literally gave me the creeps and even gave me a nightmare afterwards (not kidding). I know this scene raises some strong feelings and controversy - but in my personal opinion - I have never seen the appeal in these effeminate type of demonstrations from men and the infatuation with having a slave instead of a husband. Now, I have been informed that this kind of worship for another human being is addressed as wrong in later books and I am open to looking for that in future reads - but this is just my summarization of what I have read so far.

Overall, a fun and enjoyable read, and I look forward to joining the League and delving further into the Pimpernel's adventures.

Content: Rather heady romance (even if they are married), brief scene of affection between husband and wife, a fair amount of intense romantic contemplation about the MC's husband and of course the infamous scene of Sir Percy going down on his hands and knees to kiss the ground his wife has walked on. Some swearing and also a lot of English substitute swearing, such as 'Demmed' instead of 'd****ed and 'Lud' instead of "Lord'.
Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,236 followers
September 4, 2012
I’ve watched quite a few episodes of Scooby Doo, The Road Runner, and Looney Tunes in my time, so a lot of the twists and turns in this story were spoilered for me long before I started listening to this book. Also, for many years, after I first heard the title of this book in high school, I thought it was called The Scarlet Pumpernickel, which always sounded rather disgusting to me. Who wants their bread to be the color of blood? Not this girl. And I don’t even particularly care for normal-colored pumpernickel. Instead, it turns out to be a pretty red flower like on the cover of this version of the book:

cover with drawn images of a scarlet pimpernel

So, that’s a mercy. I don’t really want to read about a hero whose signature is a red loaf of bread. YOU GUYS!! This is why I thought it was the Scarlet Pumpernickel!!! My relationship with this book was doomed from childhood.

You’re a book!

I can’t even remember who does this, but I know I used to be around someone a lot who, when she would meet an animal or a baby, she would tell it what it was. “You’re a dog!!” “You’re a girl!!” Like, if there were a lull in the conversation she was having with that particular person or animal. “You’re a boy!!” I do this now. That was kind of how I felt about this book. When I was listening to it, the only real thought I had was, “You’re a book!” That’s for dang certain. This story was a book.

There were a lot of boring parts in this story, like when it’s going onnnn and onnnn about how charming and noble English people are and how fucked up bloody revolution is, but especially because the French are fucked up. Or how, remember now kids, wimmins is just intuitive and mens is just gallant. So boring. In general, there is a lot of boring nationalism, sexism, and anti-Semitism in the story. And there’s not a lot to make up for it. Also, there was a lot of telling about how freaking smart Marguerite St. Just was, but she fell for traps and mistaken identity bullshit that the road runner never would have fallen for. So, I had to doubt the scale on which we were measuring her intelligence. It seemed like it was probably the “intuitive woman” scale, and everybody knows that’s rigged.

There was one part, though, that I really loved. Marguerite and Percy get home from the ball, and it’s the part where she confronts him about the rift in their marriage. I thought it was beautiful. I think that, no, if a man acts like he doesn’t like you, he probably actually doesn’t like you and is probably not hiding his secret passion for you, but still, their conversation and their tension caught me all up. More of that! His denial of all coldness and his evasiveness, even while the coldness was obvious, but his underlying passion and her perception of it, was nicely done. Nevertheless, it seems like a few good, honest talks the year before could have at least spared everyone, including the loving couple, some strenuous eye-rolling. And two people living together who despise each other: brrrr. Maybe it is usually because of serious misunderstandings, but in my opinion, sometimes people just don’t like each other. The Blakeneys dodged more than one bullet in this story.

I wish I could tell you exactly what Percy said that seemed so smart, but I listened to this on audio, so it is all a vague impression to me. I think that was a good choice because I could tune out for a little while and still be chapters and chapters ahead of the obvious revelations the book was prepping me for. If I had read this when I was twelve, I think it would have been a favorite, but really, too much Loony Tunes or Agatha Christie, or something, has ruined me. Anyway, it was a lovely audio, though. I’m glad I decided to listen rather than read this one.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,862 reviews369 followers
April 27, 2023
I don't know how I missed reading this classic when I was in school, but I wish I had discovered it sooner. Mind you, I'm not sure how much I knew about the French Revolution back then, so I wouldn't have appreciated it.

How times have changed! I'm willing to bet that the English don't adhere to monarchist values quite so tightly any more, King Charles being much less popular than his mother, Elizabeth II. However I would hope that people would still rescue those condemned to death by kangaroo courts.

Marguerite was annoying, being thick as a brick, not the most intelligent woman in Europe as the author assured us repeatedly. But that is less important than the romance of the tale. It's not often that we read of a romance between husband and wife, but all of this plot was geared towards getting Sir Percy and Marguerite to be truthful with each other and to trust. To regain the love that precipitated their marriage.

Percy's act of being a good natured fop fools everyone quite successfully. He sets the standard for many of the current pop culture heroes. Superman fools people simply by wearing glasses and Batman’s alter ego is the unremarkable Bruce Wayne. Sir Percy is far more dramatic.

This also brought to mind a cartoon I watched as a child—Klondike Kat, who pursued a French Canadian mouse known as Savoir Faire. The rodent's tag line was “Savoir Faire eez everywhere," as he pulled off yet another escape from the cat's clutches. My closest brush with the Scarlet Pimpernel until now!
Profile Image for Jaya.
435 reviews222 followers
December 19, 2016
I read this book for the first time, almost 16 years back. It was part of those Reader's Digest compiled editions, which has three-four famous books across different genres. Since then, I think I must have consumed this story in all forms available-the book, the movie, the tele series, the audio play, audio book and still on a lookout for a version/medium that I haven't come across.

It was infact this book that introduced me to historical romances (a time when I acutely loathed mushy stuff. Haah! lot did I know what I was missing!)

This book gets all the points imho for being an adventure sort of swashbuckling (sans any pirates though) story set during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
It definitely tickled my uninitiated palate for romances and need for a happy ending with the end justifying the means.
So definitely 5+ stars to my all-time favorite Classics.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 12 books152 followers
March 20, 2021
WHY did I wait this long to read this delightful book? I absolutely loved this jolly story of derring-do. It's escapist fiction at its finest -- no one in this story really takes their grave danger too seriously, and you never doubt for a minute that the Scarlet Pimpernel will triumph. The fun is in finding out how.

I watched the 1934 movie starring Leslie Howard close to twenty years ago, and the 1982 miniseries starring Anthony Andrews much more recently than that, so I knew the basic story (and the real identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel) already. But most of the plot had kind of faded from my memory, so that was fresh and exciting for me. By the last ten chapters or so, I was on tenterhooks to see how it would all get resolved. In fact, I did my housework extra-fast so I could finish it :-) And that's just what I want from an adventure novel!

I took a class in college on the French Revolution, so I know that Orczy doesn't particularly cling to facts in this -- hundreds of heads weren't actually getting chopped off every single day, and so on. But the atmosphere of fear and antagonism was very, very real, and I think she got the emotional truths just right.
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