Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book 5: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Book 5: "The Scarlet Pimpernel", by Baroness Orczy, first published in book form in 1905 (it was originally produced as a play in 1903 for want of a book publisher)  Upper elementary to middle school.

Last week, from my local library, I checked out "Sovay", by Celia Rees, published by Bloomsbury, 2008. I enjoyed it, but darn if it didn't remind me of something else. "Sovay" is set during the latter part of the French Revolution/Age of Reason, so of course I thought of "Tale of Two Cities" and the "The Red and the Black". There is even a wonderful hot-air balloon scene in it that recalled "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" to me. But none of these seemed to be quite right. Then I remembered "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and immediately upon finishing "Sovay" I re-read that.

What a great book -- no wonder I bought it. First of all, I'm a sucker for the whole secret identity thing. Batman wouldn't be nearly so interesting without Bruce Wayne (and, even more so, vice versa). Not only does "The Scarlet Pimpernel" predate Batman, it even predates "Zorro" (upon which Batman was loosely based). As far as I can tell this was the first true duality-of-man book.

Secondly, it is a history lesson of sorts in that it is based on actual events if not an actual person. To me, the French Revolution is one of the most confusing times in history. I understand the reasons for the beginning of the revolution, but this book takes place three years into the war when those who set out to topple tyrants have become tyrants themselves and once-clear issues become cloudy.

Finally, it is just a well-written story. It is over a hundred years old and I've read it a few times and I'm sure I'll read it at least a few more. I know in another ten or so years, my son also will enjoy reading it.

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