The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy
(1905; various reprints)
Ages 15+

As a boy I saw one of the movie versions of this book and loved it. I then saw the book recommended by some good sources so it was on my “to find” booklist from early on. I have eagerly awaited the time to read it to my boys. Since we have been discussing the French Revolution, the time was now. Early on in the book, however, I realized that this book was not one for reading to my boys just yet. There are great moments of high adventure but there is also a lot of more subtle psychological and emotional elements. I saw that significant stretches would be dull for them and I did not want to read long portions about a wife disdaining her husband, etc. However, the basic story is very compelling.

So, I continued reading the book on my own and then each night gave them a synopsis skipping portions they would not understand but relating the key story line of the adventure and intrigue. My boys loved it and are asking me to read some of the sequels. This manner of “reading” has been fun.

The story is about a daring Englishman who, with his band of loyal followers, risks his life to rescue French nobles from execution during the Reign of Terror. This Englishman refers to himself as the Scarlet Pimpernel and hides his real identity. Apparently this story laid the basis for the idea of mild mannered super heroes who disguise their identity in everyday society. Also though the wife initially disdains her husband we see her folly when she discovers that he is actually the brave and daring Scarlet Pimpernel and the public persona was only a disguise.

The story is a good read. You can find full text of all the stories in this series at Blakeney Manor..

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