The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska OrczyThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Narrator: Ralph Cosham
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on July 1, 2007 (first published 1905)
Source: Library
Genres: Classic, Historical Fiction
Length: 8 hrs 20 mins
Format: Audiobook
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"Who is this man, this Scarlet Pimpernel?" Each day this question grew more pressing to the rulers of the French Revolution. Only this man and his band of followers threatened their total power. Only this maddeningly elusive figure defied the vast network of fanatics, informers, and secret agents that the Revolution spread out to catch its enemies. Some said this man of many disguises, endless ruses, and infinite daring was an exiled French nobleman, returned to wreak vengeance. Others said he was an English lord, seeking sheer adventure and supreme sport in playing the most dangerous game of all. But of only one thing could those who sought him be sure. They knew all too well the symbol of his presence, the blood-red flower known as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

I don’t usually notice who narrates the audiobooks I pick up, especially those from the library, so I didn’t realize Ralph Cosham was the narrator of The Scarlet Pimpernel, until he said “Armand,” and then I was like “oh, yeah.” His narration here was as good as I remembered. He does a wonderful job with both the British and French characters.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is just a fun adventure/romance story. The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the first heroes with a secret identity, kind of like Batman. Sir Percy Blakeney is an English dandy, concerned with dressing well, being amusing, but not incredible bright. That’s just a disguise he’s cultivated to cover his secret identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel, the leader of a group of daring Englishmen who rescue French nobility headed toward the guillotine. But his wife doesn’t know about his secret – and ends up putting him in grave danger. But I’m sure it’s not spoiling anything to say that he escapes from the enemy’s clutches.

While Blakeney is the hero, definitely, most of the story is told from the point of view of his wife, Marguerite. She and he have a strained relationship at best, mostly because they are not terribly honest with each other. She betrays him, without knowing it’s her husband she’s betraying, and then she does all she can to save him, falling deeper in love in the process of course. She’s tough and beautiful, but perhaps not as clever as she imagines herself.

The writing is a bit melodramatic and it does lean a bit more to the romance side than the adventure though. This is definitely a good classic for people who don’t like “classics.” It’s quick paced, and while there isn’t a sword fight, there’s blackmail and spying and (a rather slow) chase scene.

About Baroness Emmuska Orczy

emmuska orczy

Baroness Emmuska Orczy was born in Tarnaörs, Hungary, as the only daughter of Baron Felix Orczy, a noted composer and conductor, and his wife Emma. Orczy moved with her parents from Budapest to Brussels and then to London, learning to speak English at the age of fifteen. She was educated in convent schools in Brussels and Paris. In London she studied at the West London School of Art. Orczy married in 1894 Montague Barstow, whom she had met while studying at the Heatherby School of Art. Together they started to produce book and magazine illustrations and published an edition of Hungarian folktales.

Orczy’s first detective stories appeared in magazines. As a writer she became famous in 1903 with the stage version of the Scarlet Pimpernel. She is best remembered as the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel. She was also an artist, and her works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, London.



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