As much as this blog is titled ‘The Rantings of a Bookworm’, let me tell you, there couldn’t exist a lazier book-reader than what I have been for the last couple of years.
After what seems like an aeon, I finally managed to read one novel in its entirety – ‘The Elusive Pimpernel’ by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. It happens to be the sequel (the third in the series, in fact) to a novel that I read four years ago – ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’, which was quite a huge sensation during the days it was enacted on stage. I had been so inextricably attached to it that I remember having marvelled at the plot for weeks after I had finished reading it. The sequel – though one would have thought that writing an equally compelling follow-up was never an easy task – is as gripping and unputdownable as its predecessor.
Set in the days of the tumultuous upheaval following the French Revolution, Baroness Orczy begins the book with a heart-wrenching description of the horrors of the Revolution in France, and then sharply contrasts it with the gay and festive atmosphere across the channel, in England, where a grand Gala is organised at Richmond Green, all the more enlivened due to the presence of the most charming and clever Lady Marguerite Blakeney and her husband Sir Percy Blakeney – who, although a mere lazy dandy on the outside, happens to be the ringleader of the secret League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
The Scarlet Pimpernel – Sir Percy Blakeney – who has been rescuing aristocrats from France under the very nose of the French government, is sought after (for persecution) with great impatience, for the most devilish and cunning plans of Citoyen Chauvelin, ex-ambassador of France to England, had been thwarted the previous year, leading to his complete humiliation and defeat. But Chauvelin, seething with the lust for revenge, is not ready to give up. He now knows the identity of the adventurous Englishman and with some powers acquired from the sly, authoritative Robespierre and the help of a young and sensational actress Mademoiselle Candeille, he sets upon his journey to England and lures the Scarlet Pimpernel to Bolougne (in France) where he has everything set and ready for Sir Percy to be dishonoured and/or killed, and also has Lady Blakeney as his bait, locked up in Fort Gayole, lest Sir Percy should find some way to escape yet again. He also jeopardises the life of every bread-winner from each family in Bolougne, who are to be pardoned in exchange for the Pimpernel’s dishonour in the form of a signed letter; he has Sir Percy tied properly not just with the ropes of love for his wife, but also those of sympathy for the people of Bolougne.
Does Sir Percy save himself and his wife and accept dishonour for the sake of the people of Bolougne? Or does he allow himself to be taken to the guillotine and leave his wife to her fate? Does Chauvelin succeed in his plans?
The story unravels itself in the most compelling manner and the author’s writing is so skilled that you would never think of putting the book down even for a moment. Thrilling suspense, humorous sarcasm, tender romance and an overall ingenious plot gives way to an absolutely wonderful reading experience, especially if you love a good piece of historical fiction. I still haven’t got over it myself, to be honest.
P.S. Do read ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ before you read this book.
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