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Old 12-22-2018, 02:24 AM   #91
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Flaws are so much more interesting to explore than excellence. Excellence is boring - why else are heroes so rarely perfect individuals? Even superheroes have to have their Achilles' heels.

And so it is when discussing books. A great book (if participants agree) becomes: "Gee, wasn't that great?" ... "Yeah." And then crickets singing in the dark. But when a story has flaws we all have different views on exactly what those flaws were, and how they should be fixed - allowing this to the 91st post rather than the third.

I enjoyed this book. No, it's not going to be a favourite, but it was fun. The book is pretty much exactly what it pretends to be, and what its reputation has become. This makes it an easy book to pick up and read for what it is. The fact that it has flaws, even obvious ones, just means it's also fun to talk about.
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Old 12-22-2018, 08:32 AM   #92
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Flaws are so much more interesting to explore than excellence. Excellence is boring - why else are heroes so rarely perfect individuals? Even superheroes have to have their Achilles' heels.

And so it is when discussing books. A great book (if participants agree) becomes: "Gee, wasn't that great?" ... "Yeah." And then crickets singing in the dark. But when a story has flaws we all have different views on exactly what those flaws were, and how they should be fixed - allowing this to the 91st post rather than the third.
I agree with this, but for me there's something else, too. With a great book, I think it exists on its own. I don't care about how it's been influenced by the author's life or how it's a representation of its times; it has its own self-contained world. I'm not saying those things might not come up, for fun and insight, but they don't matter.

With a flawed book, though, those factors become interesting and possibly even compelling to me. It's impossible for me now not to see The Scarlet Pimpernel and other books of its stripe as representative of a reactionary impulse in the zeitgeist. The age of the common man was dawning, and the Orczy element was resisting with all its worth. Save the nobility at all cost, pay lip service to its centuries of cruelty to the oppressed, patronize the working class. (Sally's "little mind.") So Orczy drew on her own experience as having fled a peasant uprising and cast her mind back to the start of it all, the French revolution. One wonders, as you implied above, just what would have got the aristocrats' attention short of the Terror? France did keep returning to the kingdom/empire mode for the best part of the next century; that tendency was hard to root out for good.
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Old 12-22-2018, 09:55 AM   #93
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I do like the thought that a great books exist on their own. I think think this is one of the things that makes them such personal choices; that world is contained in our head, and world and container become inseparable. (What the book means, that sense of greatness, is so much a part of who we are.)

Reviewing The Scarlet Pimpernel with an eye to Orczy as an aristocrat does add an extra layer of interest. I can't help wondering: Did she have any idea how hard it would have been for an aristocrat to convincingly pretend to be a menial in those times? Was this naivety, or deliberate "we're just having fun"? Probably no way of knowing now ... unless subsequent books reveal more knowledge of the difficulties.
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Old 12-22-2018, 06:09 PM   #94
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Shades of Marie Antoinette playing at being a milkmaid or whatever it was she was pretending to do in her toy village.

I think it would have been impossible for the aristocracy to have any idea of what life was really like for the peasants. And they couldn't have acted the part very easily, Sir Percy notwithstanding.

In more recent times of course they have had to live with the middle classes. We knew a man who died some years ago now, who was by birth a Polish count, grew up in the 1930s, became a refugee and then a British national, and joined the RAF in the Second World War.

After the war he and his wife came to Australia and he became a very successful businessman. He was very charming, had beautiful manners, but was unmistakeably aristocratic. He liked to have the family crest on his writing paper, and surrounded himself with beautiful books and objects, no doubt to replace all the things lost to his family during and after the war. He had earned the right to have them, as opposed to simply inheriting wealth and property.
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Old 12-26-2018, 05:48 AM   #95
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An interesting comparison to The Three Musketeers. I guess I like the idealistic type book, similar to preferring Lord of the Rings immensely over Game of Thrones, not withstanding the pitiful writing in books 4 and 5 of GoT.

The continual battle of aristocracy over the working class continues into modern times. The aristocracy of the 1800s, became the industrial tycoons of the 20th century. Working class revolt took the form of labor unions and in the extreme in some countries, socialism or communism. The ever push pull continues today, albeit with lesser extremes at the endpoints. Communism has been replaced in Russia by the Oligarchs, the current Russian nobility. The industrial tycoons of the early 20th century by the tech giants of the late 20th and early 21st century. The struggle of haves vs have nots will always be there, just in different forms.

None of this diminishes my like of The Scarlett Pimpernel. The 1937 flick seems to be the definitive movie version so I purchased it from TCM's shop for about 8 bucks. I'll watch it this week.
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Old 01-01-2019, 03:10 AM   #96
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I enjoyed the Book for what it was. A fun read. Yes, it has its flaws. But I was more forgiving than some of you in relation to implausibility. This book seems to have been a pioneer in many aspects of the super hero genre. One constant in this genre is the incredible good luck of the hero as good always triumphs. I'm also not too concerned by historical inaccuracies in a work of this kind.

The discussion of the author's political sympathies has been an interesting one. I actually thought the author was a little conflicted. Though her sympathies are plain, she did not totally ignore the other side. Indeed it is interesting that she felt the need to justify her sympathies by emphasising the particular brutality of the reign of terror, not entirely accurately. For instance, from reading the book one would assume that the execution of children was common. In fact it seems that there is no real agreement amongst historians on this point. Though it is likely that some children were executed, this does not appear to have been common practice.

The other thing I enjoyed about the story is the overall tone in which it was written, including some wry humour and irony I seldom encounter in more modern works.

All in all an enjoyable read not to be taken too seriously.

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Old 01-01-2019, 04:22 PM   #97
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The book was new to me. I read it and I enjoyed it.
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Old 01-01-2019, 07:22 PM   #98
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Oh, good! And welcome to the discussion. Glad to have you join us.
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Old 01-02-2019, 12:00 AM   #99
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I'm extremely late, but I FINALLY finished The Scarlet Pimpernel!
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Old 01-02-2019, 12:06 AM   #100
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Good to see you back Catlady! I was wondering if your cat had been ill again, and was hoping it was just that you were busy. I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought about it.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:56 AM   #101
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Good to see you back Catlady! I was wondering if your cat had been ill again, and was hoping it was just that you were busy. I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought about it.
Thanks--kitty is doing well, but I've fallen out of the habit of reading for the past two months. It started because of busy-ness, but now I'm having a difficult time listening to an audiobook while doing anything else, and that translates into almost no reading. I was listening to 10-12 books a month, but only a paltry four in the last two months (two of those for the book club). I have to get back on track!
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Old 01-02-2019, 12:26 PM   #102
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Really glad to hear kitty is doing well, Catlady. As for the reading -- I think we all go through periods like that, but once a reader, pretty much always one.

I've just been through a binge of reading during the holidays. Quite refreshing, actually. But now it's back to work and my time will be much more curtailed.
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Old 01-02-2019, 05:03 PM   #103
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I mostly enjoyed the book, but did not care much for the writing. I got annoyed with the repetitiveness of some character descriptions--did anyone ever tell Baroness Orczy to show, not tell? I especially got tired of hearing about how clever Marguerite was, when there was little to support it. Why in the world keep portraying her that way, then show her being rather easily duped? It seemed to be an avoidable disconnect.

Not sure if this was a first read (I think I read it around the same time I read A Tale of Two Cities and conflated the two books), but I certainly knew the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, as surely as I know Clark Kent is Superman.

I HATED the blatant, horrible anti-Semitism in the scenes with the "Jew"; I knew right away who it really was, because there was simply no other reason for that character to be there. So I also hated the clunkiness of those scenes.

After I finished the book, I watched the Leslie Howard movie--he and Raymond Massey were both wonderful.
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Old 01-02-2019, 05:38 PM   #104
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The League and the Musketeers do make for an interesting comparison. The high-mindedness of the League's members was all very noble, but really they were a bunch of thrill-seeking young men who no doubt still thought they were immortal. As you do in your twenties.
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On the matter of leadership, the League clearly revolved around Percy. He was the head daredevil, and I thought it was more like a gang of schoolboys getting up to mischief and egging each other on. Writing notes to each other, secret signs, disguised handwriting ...
This is not at all how I thought of them at all as I was reading--I thought they were heroic!--and I did a bit of a double take when Marguerite thinks something similar when she realizes Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel:

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Percy . . . Percy . . . her husband . . . the Scarlet Pimpernel . . . Oh! how could she have been so blind? She understood it all now—all at once . . . that part he played—the mask he wore . . . in order to throw dust in everybody's eyes.

And all for the sheer sport and devilry of course!—saving men, women and children from death, as other men destroy and kill animals for the excitement, the love of the thing. The idle, rich man wanted some aim in life—he, and the few young bucks he enrolled under his banner, had amused themselves for months in risking their lives for the sake of an innocent few.
How dismissive of their efforts can Marguerite be? Why is she belittling them at the exact moment she's realizing her husband is the dashing hero?
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:48 PM   #105
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Yes, that's an interesting point Catlady, but I think Marguerite was spot on in terms of their motivation. I seem to remember that Sir Andrew had made some comment along those lines earlier also, that they were doing it for the sport of it. So while she admired their courage, and especially that of the Pimpernel, she knew they were daredevils.

In fact, Marguerite's courage was the truest of all, because she was afraid but she went anyway. In the end, she didn't actually achieve anything of course (perhaps because of the changed ending of the play?) but it was very brave of her to go.
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