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The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy, Wanda McCaddon I’ve watched quite a few episodes of Scooby Doo, The Road Runner, and Looney Tunes in my time, so a lot of the twists and turns in this story were spoilered for me long before I started listening to this book. Also, for many years, after I first heard the title of this book in high school, I thought it was called The Scarlet Pumpernickel, which always sounded rather disgusting to me. Who wants their bread to be the color of blood? Not this girl. And I don’t even particularly care for normal-colored pumpernickel. Instead, it turns out to be a pretty red flower like on the cover of this version of the book:

cover with drawn images of a scarlet pimpernel

So, that’s a mercy. I don’t really want to read about a hero whose signature is a red loaf of bread. YOU GUYS!! This is why I thought it was the Scarlet Pumpernickel!!! My relationship with this book was doomed from childhood.

You’re a book!

I can’t even remember who does this, but I know I used to be around someone a lot who, when she would meet an animal or a baby, she would tell it what it was. “You’re a dog!!” “You’re a girl!!” Like, if there were a lull in the conversation she was having with that particular person or animal. “You’re a boy!!” I do this now. That was kind of how I felt about this book. When I was listening to it, the only real thought I had was, “You’re a book!” That’s for dang certain. This story was a book.

There were a lot of boring parts in this story, like when it’s going onnnn and onnnn about how charming and noble English people are and how fucked up bloody revolution is, but especially because the French are fucked up. Or how, remember now kids, wimmins is just intuitive and mens is just gallant. So boring. In general, there is a lot of boring nationalism, sexism, and anti-Semitism in the story. And there’s not a lot to make up for it. Also, there was a lot of telling about how freaking smart Marguerite St. Just was, but she fell for traps and mistaken identity bullshit that the road runner never would have fallen for. So, I had to doubt the scale on which we were measuring her intelligence. It seemed like it was probably the “intuitive woman” scale, and everybody knows that’s rigged.

There was one part, though, that I really loved. Marguerite and Percy get home from the ball, and it’s the part where she confronts him about the rift in their marriage. I thought it was beautiful. I think that, no, if a man acts like he doesn’t like you, he probably actually doesn’t like you and is probably not hiding his secret passion for you, but still, their conversation and their tension caught me all up. More of that! His denial of all coldness and his evasiveness, even while the coldness was obvious, but his underlying passion and her perception of it, was nicely done. Nevertheless, it seems like a few good, honest talks the year before could have at least spared everyone, including the loving couple, some strenuous eye-rolling. And two people living together who despise each other: brrrr. Maybe it is usually because of serious misunderstandings, but in my opinion, sometimes people just don’t like each other. The Blakeneys dodged more than one bullet in this story.

I wish I could tell you exactly what Percy said that seemed so smart, but I listened to this on audio, so it is all a vague impression to me. I think that was a good choice because I could tune out for a little while and still be chapters and chapters ahead of the obvious revelations the book was prepping me for. If I had read this when I was twelve, I think it would have been a favorite, but really, too much Loony Tunes or Agatha Christie, or something, has ruined me. Anyway, it was a lovely audio, though. I’m glad I decided to listen rather than read this one.