Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

I was finding Julius Caesar very tedious so I had to digress a moment and read my book club book.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is set during the French Revolution. He is a masked person (not literally but he does wear a disguise) who is a person of heroic legend in England and villainous legend in France.

He and an anonymous band of young men conspire to save the lives of many innocent nobility who are slated for the guillotine. They manage to steal the people away out from under the noses of Robespierre and his men of the French Provisional Government. Then, perhaps from hubris, a note is sent to the French powers that be advising them of who has just been stolen away and saved from certain death.

Along with this story of adventure and daring, is a love story of sorts. A young French woman, Marguerite St. Just has recently married a wealthy Englishman, Percy Blakenley, Bart. She is known to be the smartest woman in Europe and he is known to be a simple fop who loves fashion, cards and a laugh. Marguerite does not respect her husband and he, in turn, does not seem to respect her. Once they both learn more about each other though, things may change.

This was a fun read. It was a bit tedious at the beginning because I thought Lady Blakenley to be a shallow and snippy woman who clearly wasn't seeing what was in front of her eyes. As I got into the story more, I was able to more enjoy the intrigue that twisted through the story from a variety of corners.

I recommend this book. Now, on to finish Julius Caesar!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Since the list of works from the Authors card game was a bit overwhelming, I wasn't sure where to begin. I decided to list them in chronological order of publication date. This means, I'll get all the Shakespeare taken care of first thing. I've read them all before especially Romeo and Juliet plus I've seen them performed and seen a couple movie productions of the books. I decided to pay attention to what I have either forgotten or just never noticed before.

First, Juliet's nurse had a daughter, Susan, the same age as Juliet. Susan died but it isn't specific when that happened. Nurse had also had a husband who was around in Juliet's youth but has since died. The only reason this is really important is that Nurse seems extremely protective of Juliet. More mothering than Lady Capulet for certain. It is quite possible that after the death of Susan, Nurse poured more of herself into her duties as Nurse.

Second, Mercutio, Paris and Prince are all related. Mercutio seems like the quintessential playboy while Paris has always seemed like a dweeb. Perhaps it is the various portrayals that I have seen but he seems like such a suck-up with the Capulets in trying to marry Juliet who doesn't even know what he looks like. Prince is just all about duty. If they were the three little pigs, Mercutio would be the straw-building pig because he'd be too busy partying and brawling for anything else. Paris would be the stick-builder because he'd try to do the right thing but would be lame about it. Prince would definitely be the responsible brick-builder.

Third, Paris dies. It makes sense that he dies since it's a tragedy. It is also tidy for the story because now there isn't an extra suitor left hanging. I suppose Shakespeare could have married him off to Rosaline but then it wouldn't have been as tragic.

Fourth, Romeo's mother, Lady Montague, dies. News of her death is not reported until the scene at the tomb. She apparently dies of grief over the news of Romeo's banishment. Good thing she didn't stick around for the gruesome scene in the tomb. I'm surprised that Lady Capulet doesn't die of the shock of seeing her dead daughter now really dead and bloody too. She doesn't seem like a terribly sensible woman.

I really enjoy the plays on words and the fast banter that Shakespeare gives his characters. It makes the story more entertaining although I find myself needing to read out loud in order to get the full effect of the language. The silly, romantic behavior of the teenagers is mildly annoying but I suppose that's the way the world looks when you are 14. I don't think my memory does the age justice.