So I'm doing a TBR challenge that I found from Salon.com (it's over at Adam's Roof Beam Reader). This challenge is basically what made me create a book blog, so, y'know, blame that. But it's great, because at last count, I had appx. 150 unread books on my shelves. Yeah. I suck. But this challenge should eliminate at least 12 of them! I've stayed on track thus far by reading the easy ones, so I'm five down, seven to go, BUT I'm more than halfway through The Scarlet Pimpernel, so if I finish that soon I shall be WELL on my way to being ahead of the game.
Anyway. Scarlet Pimpernel. This book is ridiculous. RI-DICULOUS. And if you have no idea who he is and for some reason want to read the book and be surprised, read nothing more of this entry. Every brief summary I've read of the movie/book has immeeeediately said who he is, so I'm now regarding it as not-that-big-a-deal.
Okay, so this was published in 1905, which basically explains everything. 1905 in England, so it's not even like the authoress had Wharton to lean on for female 'I'm going to write well' support. Er, unless Wharton was in England at the time, but let's ignore that. The writing is sooo turn-of-the-century British/not-very-good. Nothing makes you feel like you might have some literary discernment as when you read something that kinda sucks and go 'Oho! this writing is bad, I see!'
So for the first like half I thought it was super-dumb, because all it did was talk about those damned French and their murderous ways, and how much Marguerite, the heroine of the piece, is like a child. But also somehow still the cleverest woman in France. WHAT? No. I reject you, 1900, and your ways.
I just searched the word "child" and my Kindle freaked out. "THERE ARE SO MANY USES OF THIS I CAN BARELY LIST THEM ALL" it said in a panic.
Here're some, all in reference to Marguerite:
"a wistful, almost pathetic and childlike look stole into Lady Blakeney's eyes."
"Even as he spoke, that sweet childlike smile crept back into her face, pathetic in the extreme, for it seemed drowned in tears."
"Chauvelin stood beside her, his shrewd, pale, yellow eyes fixed on the pretty face, which looked so sweet and childlike in this soft English summer twilight."
"She laughed one of her melodious, rippling, childlike laughs." (this is on the SAME PAGE as the previous one)
"she held out a tiny hand to him, with that pretty gesture of childish appeal which was essentially her own."
"her childlike blue eyes turned up fully at him."
AGGGHH. Can you imagine some guy, wistfully talking about his girlfriend's childlike eyes? No! Ew. The past is gross. If I ever say again that I want to live at the turn of the century, I'm going to pick up this book, flip to any random page to see what was appealing to people back then and then apologize profusely to everyone living now that I thought that time was better than the present.
However, all this ridiculousness is redeemed by the extreme angstiness that Orczy creates between Marguerite and the Scarlet Pimpernel who is -- wait for it -- HER HUSBAND. Bam! And she doesn't realize this until like halfway through the book. Right before she does, it's super hot and awesome, so if possible, totally skip the first half and pick up right after the ball. Because, see, he loves her, but can't show it. For reasons. So they're all estranged, but totally into each other.
Know what's an even better idea than reading the book? Watching the Anthony Andrews movie version. It's got Jane Seymour and everything. Someone online complained that "the 1982 film focuses primarily on Percy and Marguerite and their relationship. BORING!" I can only assume this is a dude. The action scenes in Scarlet Pimpernel are not that actiony. It's kind of all about 'omg I love you but you're hiding something from me ANGSSSSST.'
To give you an example of how melodramatic/over-the-top this book is, I will close with a line of Marguerite's from 2/3 through:
"God grant it, Sir Andrew. But now, farewell. We meet to-night at Dover! It will be a race between Chauvelin and me across the Channel to-night -- and the prize -- the life of the Scarlet Pimpernel."