Wednesday, July 4, 2012

All the Adventure, As Promised

Oy veis mir.  Two behind and it's not even June anymore.  That's what comes of not writing these on the bus... but what's the point of lamentation? Let's get on with it.  Luckily, though I finished this like what 3 weeks ago, it's still relatively fresh in my mind... since this was like the 10th time (or something like that) I read it.  After the success of The Blue Castle, and before any of my new books came in at the library, I was eager to continue with the old favorites trend.  So I picked up a certified goodie, The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I'm obviously not alone in my enjoyment of this one - this book is a classic, and it's not because of any great literary value.  It really is the quintessential adventure.

I first valued TSP as a romance, because that's what I value everything as.  And of course, Sir Percy's hidden passion for Marguerite is very romantic.  But what makes this book stand out as a romance is the same thing that makes it stand out in general - the very awesome Scarlet Pimpernel.  I mean, I guess he's not the man nearest and dearest to everyone's heart, but handsome, brave, smart as a whip, quick, gallant (and of course rich ;))... yes, he's pretty much all that.  So who wouldn't want to read a romance starring him and a woman who is impressive enough in her own right?   And romance is very satisfying, as far as it goes.  But the truth is, it's not given *much* attention during the course of the book.

It's much more about the story, as it should be.  I've read this book a lot, I know the drill, and yet I still find it to be a page turner.  It's well-paced, with things moving along, and no gratuitous action scenes thrown in.  We get closer and closer to the mysterious identity of the SP, and then, when we find it, we are treated to a brilliant display of the abilities that have kept him bringing people to safety by the skin of his teeth time and time again.  I remember one time I felt compelled to actually clap at the conclusion of one his triumphs.  This time I didn't go so far, but trust me, I was impressed.  I don't know that there's much funner reading than Sir Percy's pitting of his wits against his enemies'.

To be sure, the book is guilty in some measure (no little one I might even say) of aggrandizing the situation for dramatic tone.   Every moment is milked for all its worth, every dilemma is agonizing, all the emotions are exquisite.  Not to mention the slightly strange emphasis at times on Marguerite's girlishness and how attractive it seems to make her (sorry not really the same thing, but it all comes down to that old "show, don't tell")  And I was even more aggravate than usual from having made the mistake of reading the forward and hearing how Baroness Orczy apparently felt "the beautiful Lady Blakeney" to be her alternate ego, her better self - don't read forwards, especially not if you plan on writing your own review.  BUT... this is one book that can get away with pretty much whatever it wants.  It really does live up to the promise of all that drama, manufactured or not.  So with all the angst and all the throes of passion, it keeps on zipping along towards its extremely satisfying conclusion.  There's a reason so many people love this book.

Verdict: 5/5

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