Mini Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Scarlet pimpernel pelTitle: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Author: Baroness Emma Orczy
Genre: Adventure Fiction / Historical Fiction / Classics
Date: 2018 (1905)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pages: 275
Started: 10th August 2018
Completed: 19th August 2018
Rating: 4.5/5
Summary: The French Terror is raging, and few are safe from the threat of the guillotine. Sir Percy Blakeney, a foppish Englishman, decides to rescue imprisoned aristocrats before they can be executed. Showing great daring and aided by a band of brave comrades, he disguises himself as the formidable Scarlet Pimpernel. But will his beautiful French wife Marguerite unwittingly prove his downfall? Baroness Orczy’s swashbuckling 1905 novel set the standard for all future tales of masked avengers and was later adapted into a famous stage play and several film versions.

Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orci, often known as Emma Orczy or Baroness Orczy, was a Hungarian-born British writer. She wrote novels and dramas but is best known for her creation of the Scarlet Pimpernel, the first masked hero in literature. She also translated Hungarian tales into English with her husband, Montague Barstow.

The Scarlet Pimpernel was originally a play (written in 1903) which enjoyed a long run in London before it was turned into a novel.

I loved so many different things about this novel!

The plot was amazing. It was nice to see where the masked vigilante/hero-with-a-secret-identity originated and the whole idea was so much fun. It was also very thrilling because there was a real sense of danger in the book. The Scarlet Pimpernel is set during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution and the Scarlet Pimpernel is smuggling French aristocratic families out of the city before they’re executed. I love that it’s all a bit camp and over-the-top but I’m glad it had some terror and suspense within it.

I loved the writing style too. It’s fun, witty, wonderfully detailed, and clever. The characters are larger-than-life and very well written. I especially love how the French police are characterised at the very beginning of the book. It’s a bit bleak as some of them end up being executed but they’re flamboyant and over-the-top and this felt like a very British characterisation of French people. I also really like the relationship between Marguerite and Percy because they don’t have a perfect relationship. They become disillusioned with each other and, although they are still married, they become estranged before Percy finds himself in danger and Marguerite tries desperately to help him.

Overall, I really liked this book. I’m not sure if I’ll read the others in the series but I haven’t even checked to see if they’re available to buy. It’s a very fun book and it’s obvious why the trope of the daring hero with a secret identity became so popular. I’d thoroughly recommend reading it.

Read for The Classics Club.

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10 thoughts on “Mini Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

  1. Hi Amy, I found your blog by searching for this book in The Classics Club’s list of Book Reviews. I just finished and reviewed The Scarlet Pimpernel as my first book in The Classics Club. I agree that it was incredibly clever! I didn’t know much about it, so I was surprised by the identity of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but had a hunch when Sir Percy was asleep in the room that The Scarlet Pimpernel was supposed to be meeting in. At first, I was like, “Nooo, he’s such a dull goof. He can’t be him!” Then I realized how brilliant his alter ego was!

    Here is my post, if interested!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! Sir Percy’s personality is the perfect disguise 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did and I’ll definitely check out your review now.


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