Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Those Frenchies seek him everywhere"

Every summer National Review invites its editors and contributors to suggest good books for summer reading. There are a lot of interesting suggestions here — far more than could be read in any summer. John O'Sullivan divided his recommendations between those books he reads for work and those he reads for pleasure. In the former he included, among others, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, which I have also read and highly recommend. His "read for pleasure" section includes many of my favorites and he reminds me of the "Scarlet Pimpernel" books which I once read and enjoyed.
A final category of book I keep by me through the summer is the reliable one of books I’ve read before, enjoyed, and know will entertain me without fail. Obviously, Wodehouse falls into this category; ditto Sherlock Holmes, Eric Ambler, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Rafael Sabatini (or any books about pirates or swordsmen, really), James Hilton (an underrated popular novelist of the Thirties and Forties), Raymond Chandler (or any hard-boiled thrillers — my latest addiction is to the Norwegian Jo Nesbo), adventure stories (try Lionel Davidson’s The Rose of Tibet, set chronologically in 1950 but emotionally in the 1930s), and — finally — the dozen or so “Scarlet Pimpernel” novels by Baroness Orczy. These are intricately plotted romantic thrillers. They have a dire villain in the Jacobin zealot, Chauvelin, a meltingly beautiful but foolish heroine in Marguerite, a dashing hero in the form of Sir Percy Blakeney, an apparent fop secretly leading a group of English gentlemen to save French aristocrats from the guillotine, and not least a sound and solid hostility to the French Revolution. Give them to your adolescent son; he may annoy you subsequently by wearing a monocle at the breakfast table but he would never vote to sustain Obamacare. [more]
The Pimpernel series all seem to be in print and most are available for Kindle, including the first, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and that one, at least, is free.
The best film version of the first Pimpernel book is in the public domain and can be watched here: The Scarlet Pimpernel : Alexander Korda, Grace Blake : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Got Summer Reading? - NRO Symposium - National Review Online, and I found the video link at The Frog's Eyebrows: Vintage Novels (The Scarlet Pimpernel)