Friday, August 19, 2011

I Will Repay - Baroness Emmuska Orczy

i will repay
baroness emmuska orczy
c. 1906
307 pages
completed 8/9/2011

read for: historical fiction challenge, TBR challenge, and scarlet pimpernel series

*may contain spoilers*

"Coward! Coward! Coward!"

In 1793, during the height of the French Revolution, Juliet Marney finds herself rescued from the Parisian sans-culottes by Paul Déroulède, a prominent figure in the National Convention. Déroulède is a passionate public speaker and is beloved by the people of Paris as a favorite of the recently martyred Marat and a staunch republican, someone who understands and speaks for the sans-culottes. Juliet and Déroulède continue to live together after her rescue, but soon realize that neither is exactly what they seem and could either be each other's salvation or damnation.

So, this is a Scarlet Pimpernel novel, but did you notice my complete lack of mention of the Pimpernel? Yeah, that was pointed. The Pimpernel is hardly in it at all. Yes, there is a daring rescue attempt by the end, and yes, you do eventually realize (or guess way in advance) that another minor though pivotal character from earlier in the novel was Sir Percy in disguise, but really this is not his story the way The Scarlet Pimpernel or Sir Percy Leads the Band are. This is very definitely the story of Juliet and Déroulède. I can see that some readers would be irritated by that, but I didn't mind it. I was definitively wrapped up in the story of Juliet and Déroulède, not to mention I just love reading about the French Revolution. But for others, the lack of Pimpernel could be a strong deterrent.

Orczy has an interesting voice as an author. I'm not sure how much of that comes from the time period she was writing in (1900s) or the subject matter, but she writes in an impassioned voice that's unusual in more modern works. It almost felt like she had written a speech (a really, really long speech) rather than a novel. In fact, I actually found that silently reading did a disservice to the prose and ended up reading most of it out loud. I realize that's super a little weird, and thankfully no one else was in the house, but it just seemed to sound better out loud. There are a lot of exclamation marks and bemoaning the fate of France at the hands of the sans-culottes.

I did have some issues with this particular edition (of course, I've since returned it to the library and so can't tell you which edition). There seemed to be quite a few typos. I mean, not on every page of anything, but enough so that I felt it to be distracting (especially while being a dork and reading out loud).

I just finished my very last college course (the final was literally this morning) which was on the French Revolution and it honestly made it so much more enjoyable to read this. It was like a supplement to the course, being able to read the story but pick out the events and figures that we'd been studying in class. I find it best to read historical fiction like this when I really feel like I know the basics of the period.



carolsnotebook said...

Actually, I've never read The Scarlet Pimpernel, so maybe I should start there. I wonder if I can find it on audio. Some stories really are better out loud,and I would probably get some odd looks at my house.

Veronica said...

I would think it would be fairly easy to find it on audio. Well, the first one at least. I don't know about the others...