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Old 12-18-2018, 08:12 AM   #46
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It amused me to think that The Three Musketeers was set only a few years before the revolution. Part of me wanted to say "they earned this". Then I refreshed my memory and realized TTM was about 170 years prior to this. Oh well, I was amused at least for a little while.
It was a long time brewing at that.

I'm glad that TTM has been brought up in the context of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Many seemed not to like TTM because they found the Musketeers themselves despicable. The same objection can't be made to the noble in both social standing and character members of the League! And yet, wouldn't it be more realistic for a group of vigilantes to engage in drinking, whoring and thievery as likely ancillaries to their lives of action, than only to do that which aids others?

It's one reason why while Scarlet Pimpernel may be a better read (it never bogs down), TTM is a better book.
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Old 12-18-2018, 08:44 AM   #47
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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.

I agree with you issybird - the Dumas is the better book, for all that people were put off by the central characters. But surely being appalled by their behaviour is a sign that Dumas has written a convincing and three-dimensional narrative?

The characters in The Scarlet Pimpernel are far less nuanced, though of course Orczy may have developed them more in later books. (I did read many of them in my youth, but have no recollection of their plots at all.) Remembering that it was originally a play, it would have been about action rather than about subtleties of character.
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Old 12-18-2018, 09:09 AM   #48
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The level of my disappointment in TTM stems mostly (I think) from the disparity between the actual text (well, the translation that I read) and its modern reputation. We come to TTM expecting noble behaviour and get what I'm quite willing to accept was probably more likely to be the case in reality: inconsiderate thugs out for themselves at the expense of any and all others. As such I can really appreciate Dazrin's comments.

TTM is certainly a more accomplished work: it had less obvious plot holes, and the plot had more potential. But then The Scarlet Pimpernel is among Orczy's earlier efforts; I haven't heard that she had others to do the hard work for her, and I think the objectives were rather different. But the story of the The Scarlet Pimpernel has survived intact, its modern reputation reflects pretty much exactly what the story actually is. Perhaps it is that it was written so much closer to our own time that it better reflects our modern mores.
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Old 12-18-2018, 09:11 AM   #49
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I liked some of the oaths offered through the story. I did a bit of research out of interest:

Zooks : short for "gadzooks", first known use 1600 (Merriam-Webster and OED agree).

Zounds : short for "God's wounds", first known use 1592 (Merriam-Webster and OED agree).

Odds Fish ("Odd's Fish" in the book) : "God's Fish" (OED and this site); or genitive of odd+fish (Merriam-Webster). Given the nature of the phrase (a mild oath) I think the OED explanation seems more likely.

(According to Meriam-Webster Zooks/Gadzooks may have come from "God's hooks" (the nails of crucifixion), and if so then the evolution to Zooks could then been seen as taking the same path as the OED explanation for Odds Fish.)
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Old 12-18-2018, 10:41 AM   #50
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When I checked this book in on Goodreads, it informed me that I had read it before. But as I worked my way through the Ralph Cosham audiobook (at double speed as he reads very slow to me), I had absolutely no memory of it.

I felt like I was reading the progenitor Batman - a rich playboy who acts the fool playing the daring hero by night.

But I have to be honest, I did not have much patience for the melodramatics of the latter chapters. Just how many times did I need to go through the Lady's internal despair over her husband and/or brother?

I think if I had read this when I was young, I might have had a nostalgic sheen. But as it was, I was only lukewarm on the story as a whole. I had most of it figured out pretty early on and was not ever taken by surprise by any of the big reveals.

BUT! This did get me to my goal of reading 10 of the 12 book club books on the year!
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Old 12-18-2018, 02:01 PM   #51
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But the story of the The Scarlet Pimpernel has survived intact, its modern reputation reflects pretty much exactly what the story actually is. Perhaps it is that it was written so much closer to our own time that it better reflects our modern mores.
I don't see as big a difference between the theme and execution of Scarlet Pimpernel and Musketeers, with the 60 years between them at a time when the world changed more slowly, than I do between Scarlet Pimpernel and now, over a hundred years later. In fact, I think TTM has aged far better; the people are flawed but real, and not just paragons in the heroic mode.

The Scarlet Pimpernel seems very much of its time to me, a typical turn of the last century romance. I was thinking along those lines and that the apotheosis of that type of novel was probably The Prisoner of Zenda when I realized that they were the inverse of each other; SP has one man in a dual role, and PoZ has two men as a single person. The biggest difference, though, is that PoZ was contemporary, albeit set in a fictional country.
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Old 12-18-2018, 04:38 PM   #52
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I'm glad that TTM has been brought up in the context of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Many seemed not to like TTM because they found the Musketeers themselves despicable. The same objection can't be made to the noble in both social standing and character members of the League! And yet, wouldn't it be more realistic for a group of vigilantes to engage in drinking, whoring and thievery as likely ancillaries to their lives of action, than only to do that which aids others?

It's one reason why while Scarlet Pimpernel may be a better read (it never bogs down), TTM is a better book.
I don't read a book for reality though, I want the main characters to be noble and good. Yes, TTM is better written, but I cannot say it is a better book. Different expectations I guess.

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The level of my disappointment in TTM stems mostly (I think) from the disparity between the actual text (well, the translation that I read) and its modern reputation. We come to TTM expecting noble behaviour and get what I'm quite willing to accept was probably more likely to be the case in reality: inconsiderate thugs out for themselves at the expense of any and all others. As such I can really appreciate Dazrin's comments.

TTM is certainly a more accomplished work: it had less obvious plot holes, and the plot had more potential. But then The Scarlet Pimpernel is among Orczy's earlier efforts; I haven't heard that she had others to do the hard work for her, and I think the objectives were rather different. But the story of the The Scarlet Pimpernel has survived intact, its modern reputation reflects pretty much exactly what the story actually is. Perhaps it is that it was written so much closer to our own time that it better reflects our modern mores.
The perception vs reality issue really is my problem with TTM too. Hollywood and children's versions of the story have so changed it that the general perception is no longer reflective of the book and therefore the book is very disappointing in spirit while still good from the technical standpoint.

I am not a big fan of "anti-heroes" in general though, so I do know that is influencing me here. Gritty-ness, while sometimes more "authentic", is not what I read for. I want an escape from that. The Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones) is another example, technically good writing (at least as far as I got) but not worth consuming.

I was talking with a friend about GoT and said I didn't care for them. He said I would be rooting for Jamie Lannister in later books. After the scene in the tower with Jamie and Cercei, I doubted it then and now. I finished the first book but won't go back for more.
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Old 12-18-2018, 05:40 PM   #53
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GoT was never on my list, and I can't see that changing. And T3M was not a book I enjoyed. But I did quite enjoy this, even while seeing it's flaws. I've reached an age where I don't read books because they're good for me, or they're assigned, or even because they're literature, but simply because I enjoy them. And if I don't enjoy a book? I'm very likely to simply walk away from it.
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Old 12-18-2018, 06:58 PM   #54
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The perception vs reality issue really is my problem with TTM too. Hollywood and children's versions of the story have so changed it that the general perception is no longer reflective of the book and therefore the book is very disappointing in spirit while still good from the technical standpoint.
I agree Dazrin. I think we are often disappointed when we read a book which has been successfully filmed, often more than once. The Richard Lester films of The Three Musketeers for example, were such fun and omitted all the more reprehensible behaviours (apart from the end of Milady) that it can be a bit of a shock to read the book.

Similarly, The Scarlet Pimpernel has been filmed at least twice and so the audience is swept along by the adventure and doesn't have time to see the holes in the plot, or find fault with the narrative style. I suspect that Orczy is one of those few writers whose stories are better seen than read, because the story itself is better than the author's style. Possibly listening to an audio version is also a better experience than reading the printed page.

For some reason I have never seen a filmed version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I have found two versions on YouTube, and intend to amuse myself over the holidays.
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Old 12-18-2018, 07:04 PM   #55
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For some reason I have never seen a filmed version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I have found two versions on YouTube, and intend to amuse myself over the holidays.
I think my eldest would love TSP right now (almost 11), so I am going to encourage her to read it while off school next week Then maybe we can watch a version of it together. Sounds wonderful!
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Old 12-18-2018, 07:08 PM   #56
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I've reached an age where I don't read books because they're good for me, or they're assigned, or even because they're literature, but simply because I enjoy them. And if I don't enjoy a book? I'm very likely to simply walk away from it.


This is so me! Except that it has been me since I could read. That's why I've never read War and Peace, or any Dickens - I didn't want to. Now that I'm on the wrong side of 50, I've decided to give both a try, because I want to. I certainly don't feel obliged to read anything or anyone simply because the works or the authors are universally esteemed. I believe this book was a "guilty pleasure" selection, which is a bit of a misnomer really, because it suggests one should feel guilt over one's choices of reading material. Do I feel any guilt at having read LotR eighteen times, the HHGTTGseries at least as many, all of the Discworld series and not having read any Tolstoy, Dickens or Dostoevsky? Nope. Which is why re-reading the Scarlet Pimpernel has been a fun exercise - a pleasure, without any guilt
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Old 12-18-2018, 07:35 PM   #57
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I think my eldest would love TSP right now (almost 11), so I am going to encourage her to read it while off school next week Then maybe we can watch a version of it together. Sounds wonderful!
She's the perfect age for it! Please, let us know what she thinks - or better yet, have her post her thoughts herself. My inner-almost-eleven would love to chat with her.
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Old 12-18-2018, 08:23 PM   #58
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I don't see as big a difference between the theme and execution of Scarlet Pimpernel and Musketeers, with the 60 years between them at a time when the world changed more slowly, than I do between Scarlet Pimpernel and now, over a hundred years later. In fact, I think TTM has aged far better; the people are flawed but real, and not just paragons in the heroic mode.
I see big differences. Scarlet Pimpernel was so obviously a translation from a stage play that all the early chapters (at least) felt like stage settings; it is not big surprise that the story should move quickly. The over-the-top descriptions and dialogue of the characters in Scarlet Pimpernel make it feel light, and I assume this was the author's intention, and it stays light all the way through.

Whereas the Musketeers was all novel. Long lead in with much more depth and background to more characters. The writing was serious, not fluffy (and almost garish like Sir Percy himself) like the Pimpernel. And even if the Musketeers story began with a certain feeling of lightness, this changed slowly to the quite dark ending.

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The Scarlet Pimpernel seems very much of its time to me, a typical turn of the last century romance. I was thinking along those lines and that the apotheosis of that type of novel was probably The Prisoner of Zenda when I realized that they were the inverse of each other; SP has one man in a dual role, and PoZ has two men as a single person. The biggest difference, though, is that PoZ was contemporary, albeit set in a fictional country.
The previous comments should not be construed to suggest that I think The Scarlet Pimpernel was a great work of literature. It was, as you say, a fairly typical romance of the author's time. But I feel as if I understand what Orczy intended with The Scarlet Pimpernel as a novel. Whereas I am far from sure I understand what Dumas intended with the Musketeers, there are what seem to me to be inconsistencies in the styling of it that leave me puzzled. If that is a result of the passage of time then I'd have to say Musketeers has not aged well, but I accept that it could be a lack of understanding on my part.
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Old 12-18-2018, 09:17 PM   #59
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Similarly, The Scarlet Pimpernel has been filmed at least twice and so the audience is swept along by the adventure and doesn't have time to see the holes in the plot, or find fault with the narrative style. I suspect that Orczy is one of those few writers whose stories are better seen than read, because the story itself is better than the author's style. Possibly listening to an audio version is also a better experience than reading the printed page...
I can remember a 1950s vintage TV series that I watched in the early 60s as a pre-teen; I read the book much later. It was very action-orientated, which I think is also the strength of the book; the suspense is kept up nicely. If the novel was initially conceived as a play, that fits with how well it has been adapted to film and into pop culture.

I believe there was another TV series done in the late 1990s, but I haven't seen that.
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Old 12-18-2018, 09:34 PM   #60
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But I feel as if I understand what Orczy intended with The Scarlet Pimpernel as a novel. Whereas I am far from sure I understand what Dumas intended with the Musketeers, there are what seem to me to be inconsistencies in the styling of it that leave me puzzled. If that is a result of the passage of time then I'd have to say Musketeers has not aged well, but I accept that it could be a lack of understanding on my part.
The Dumas was written as a serial over quite a period of time, so those inconsistencies were probably because Dumas was changing his mind, or even forgetting earlier sections, as he wrote.
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