The Scarlet Pimpernel

There is a good reason why I am part of a book club. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and (to a lesser extent) historical fiction have been my comfort genres. My book club has forced me to read pop-fiction which I generally don’t like (reading it more hasn’t changed my opinion of it, but at least I’m more well rounded, right?). This book was, however, brought to me by my Husband…the main force in my life for kicking me outside my comfort zones (anime anyone?).

Of course I knew of the book. I’m a literary snob and more importantly I grew up on Loony Tunes. Which means of course that I have always been very familiar with Daffy Duck’s The Scarlet Pumpernickel. So when Husband Guy found the unabridged version of the book at target for $3, I laughed at him. But he got it and read it and loved it. Having just finished it, I’m so glad he is more willing to go outside a rut and explore classics.

Obviously the book is nothing like the Daffy Duck version or the most popular film version (which I’m almost done watching and actually do like. The casting is perfect and it’s awesome to see Magneto/Gandalf as a strapping young lad.) I had a similar feeling when I read Sherlock Holmes. Modern detective stories are very graphic and gruesome, so I was expecting more blood and gore albeit wrapped in a cunning plot. Nope. For the most part they are fun and are logic puzzles with out the sensational violence. I was expecting this story (set during the Reign of Terror) to be much darker than it was. There are lots of allusions to beheadings and bloodiness and the work of the Scarlet Pimpernel is to prevent all that, but it’s just context for the main story not a focal point in and of itself. Sir Percy and his relationship with his wife are the main focal points and I love his character. Not to ruin anything if you haven’t read it, but I’m so glad when all is said and done he still likes over the top, nice clothes and expensive toys and high quality snuff. The fact that The Rich Fop isn’t completely an act and The Scarlet Pimpernel still has an inane laugh makes the character much more three dimensional and I really appreciated that. His wife was a great character, I just didn’t care for the melodramatic, fatalistic romantic she turned out to be. It was sweet and made for a great romance, but I wouldn’t want to have tea with her. I love happy and resolved and this fit that beautifully. Don’t know if I’ll be diving into the 16 sequels…but this book is very well worth a read.

Favorite Quote: A woman’s heart is such a complex problem– the owner thereof is often most incompetent to find the solution of this puzzle.

Mostly it was so reassuring to know that I’m not the only highly emotional and confused female on the planet. Us women folk have been crazy for a long time. Thank goodness for finding good men who can work with our particular flavor of crazy and (gasp!) even love us for it. I enjoyed all the phases of their relationship, especially knowing that they were both coming from such a human place of misjudgment and miscommunication. Marguerite was very well written and I think the author, as a woman, fully understood that there is something indescribably attractive about what we can’t have. It was so nice to see them find closure and reconciliation when nowadays that is very much not the typical theme.

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