The story is set in the 1790s, during the time of the French Revolution. Thousands of people who were part of the French nobility; men, women and children were killed at the guillotine. Some of these people were undoubtedly guilty of selfish and uncaring behaviour towards the welfare of their fellow countrymen but others were guilty only by virtue of their birth.“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”
English views on the Revolution differ to the French; although the British parliament are refusing to intervene the general feeling is sympathetic towards the French aristocrats. There is even a group of English gentlemen who have banded together to try and save some of the aristocratic French families from being beheaded. After people are saved, a note is delivered to the French authorities, claiming responsibility of the escape. The notes are always marked with a small, red flower – a scarlet pimpernel. The French authorities are desperate to catch this cunning man. The story open with an example of one of his daring rescues.
Across the channel, in England, we meet a group of friends which includes Sir Percy Blakeney and his French wife, Marguerite. From the earliest part of their marriage these two have been somewhat estranged due to Marguerite’s betrayal of a family of aristocrats which led to their deaths. Though they spend time together, their interactions are only surface level with both of them playing a part so that the other doesn’t see their hurt.
‘The face in the moonlight looked singularly earnest, and recalled to Marguerite’s aching heart those happy days of courtship, before he had become the lazy nincompoop, the effete fop, whose life seemed spent in card and supper rooms.’To save the life of her brother in France, Lady Blakeney is forced to take some steps that help uncover the Scarlet Pimpernel’s identity to the French authorities – but will this lead to the daring adventurer’s demise? And will the Blakeney’s marriage survive the betrayal of another person to end up on the guillotine?
This book was such a compelling read, it’s really exciting. The Scarlet Pimpernel’s plans are so ingenious and the tenuous relationship between Percy and Marguerite really plucked at the heartstrings. This was partly due to her unhappiness at the state of her marriage, particularly the distance between herself and her husband as her betrayal of the French family was accidental.
I would have rated this as a 4½, maybe even a 5 star read, but I’m putting it as a 4 star read, because although it’s a really exciting read and I scarcely wanted to put it down I found the writing style repetitive at times. Something would happen from which the reader could infer a character’s feelings – we are then told about how they feel multiple times, which got a little annoying.
If you want to buy the audio but don’t have an Audible subscription you can get the audio version cheaper if you buy the kindle book. Do this by buying the kindle version and ticking the box to add audible narration. The audio version is cheaper for lots of books if you already have the kindle version – this is even true for free kindle purchases!
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“My dear chap, I never would have dreamt of depriving you of your moment of triumph. Alas, a moment was all I could spare.”Jane Seymour was wonderfully cast as Marguerite, although I was disappointed that the actors playing the French characters didn’t do accents as it meant you had to remember who was French and who was English. As for Sir Ian McKellan, I took to cursing him every time he appeared on screen so he must have been an effective villain!
I would certainly recommend this adaptation of ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ to anybody who was interested in finding out the story. Obviously if you want the fullest picture the book is your best bet but this is excellent. I’d rate this as a 5 star watch.