Monday, April 30, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Once upon a time, in high school, I took some English classes. In those English classes, we were assigned novels to read. Fairly standard, right? Well, I don't know why, but that just seemed to be a killjoy for me. It sucked the fun out of reading an otherwise fabulous novel. I struggled with keeping a deadline and was frustrated with being asked to find certain things within a novel. I didn't like being told to read something. But that's kinda the point of an English class, isn't it?

Now, I know that if my husband is reading this, he's probably cringing horribly. He happens to be an English teacher. For that, I apologize. I am not saying that I did not like English. In fact it was one of my favorite subjects in school. And most of what I read, if I jumped right in, I enjoyed. Many of the assigned books, I bought, and have read again later. There are books that I am glad to have been exposed to. It opened the door to more literature and created deeper thinking. In fact I really enjoyed the discussion of the books, and was glad to hear the perspective of other readers. (So, what was my problem? I don't know. I was a dumb teenager.)

I've missed being able to have that discussion. Last year, I read so much (about 4 books per month), but didn't have anyone to discuss it with, because no one was reading what I was. So, I decided to create my own book club. I'd still get to pick what I wanted to read, and have an outlet for the discussion. Great idea, right? The problem is, I've gone and done what seemed to make it difficult for me to keep up my reading while in school. There was this weight hanging over my head that said that I needed to finish because of my blog. And that was somehow unappealing. So, instead, I didn't read.

Then, after a short update on my lack of reading, I got a message from Carrie, who said she'd started The Scarlet Pimpernel and was really enjoying it. And it reminded me of why I wanted to read it in the first place. Because it's so fun! That day, I promptly picked up my copy again, and flipped back a few pages (to refresh my memory) and moved forward. I have since finished the book and am ready for some kind of report here. If you didn't read it, but intend to, you may want to skip the rest of this post.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by the Baroness Orczy, is a tale of the master of disguises. In France, the aristocrats no longer garner the respect that they once had, merely because of their family history. The common people will not be ruled over and oppressed any longer. In fact, the people are so loathe toward the upper classes that any who are caught in any sort of scandal are immediately, and without trial, sent to the guillotine. Simply being a descendant is often enough of a crime.

In England, however, this is deemed cruel and uncalled for. The French "aristos" had made attempts at escaping the borders on their own, but for many this proved fatal. Once over the border, they were free live in England. But the borders were heavily guarded, allowing for no one who was of the upper classes to pass through. Here is where we hear of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He is a man with a band of followers (known as the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel) determined to set free the French and deliver them safely to England. No one knows who this man is, because no one has seen his true character. He is always heavily disguised, and after he is allowed to pass, there is often a note found, bearing the stamp of a red 5-pointed flower--the scarlet pimpernel. He and his band allude everyone and there are many angry French who are determined to stop him.

Sir Percy is such a complex character. He has to live a lie to protect himself and the people is is saving. Why go to all the trouble? In my book, one of the questions in the bonus section compares the Scarlet Pimpernel to Superman. I kind of like this comparison. Clark Kent is a fake. His true identity is one that must be protected so that he can continue to do the right thing when the need arises. Now, obviously Sir Percy has no super powers. His would be that of his intellect, which he hides behind slowness and eccentricity. Why go to all the trouble? His life is essentially a lie, too. He doesn't even confide in his wife, who may truly love him if they can only communicate.

Is there a reason to hide behind the goodness that you do? I suppose it could mean his death if he is discovered. But then, why go to the trouble of helping these people if it could mean your own life? How much helping is too much? And when do you discover that your 'calling' in life is one of such danger? Wouldn't it be easier to just stay home and be your clever self for all to see? I suppose, for Percy, the lives of others should not be sacrificed in such a cruel manner. He finds his own worth at least that of those he can save, and so chooses to do all he can at rescuing as many as possible.

Sir Percy's "Lex Luther" is Monsieur Chauvelin. He is a French man who is determined to hunt down the Scarlet Pimpernel and bring him to an end. Chauvelin discovers two men from the League and takes all the papers they are carrying. Among them happens to be a letter detailing a rescue and including the name of Lady Blakeney's brother, Armand St. Just. He is now going to use this information as blackmail to get Lady Blakeney to help him discover the Scarlet Pimpernel. If she doesn't help, her brother will be killed.

Now, having been familiar with the story before reading it, I knew her husband was the man she was trying to trap. But my heart ached with hers as Lady Blakeney realized who Sir Percy really was, and that her husband was truly a man to be loved, and that she did love him. She was suddenly under this realization that he was suddenly sent to his death on her doing. All unintentional, but still her fault. What is remarkable is that upon finding out who he is, she is thrilled and her love is realized. I can't help but wonder, if Percy had not been in danger when she discovered his secret, would she have been angry rather than filled with a love for him? She put the Scarlet Pimpernel on some sort of pedestal, idolized him, while loathing her husband and his every move. Upon finding them one and the same, why isn't there a hurt or anger because she wasn't confided in? I suppose it is the realization of his cause and her past that allows for understanding in why he couldn't tell. She did denounce the Marquis de St Cyr, which meant, of course, the guillotine. If she was capable of this in a mere snide comment, the entrusting her with his identity could prove fatal. Perhaps Lady Blakeney understood this.

I love the fantastic diguises used in the book. The last chapters, where Lady Blakeney has followed Chauvelin up a hill in order to try and save Percy were quite suspenseful. This scene was different from the musical (and it's been almost 2 years since I saw it) and so I didn't know how it would turn out. As different unfamiliar characters were introduced, I tried to figure out where Percy could be. I wondered if somehow he could be among the guards. And I wondered if Sir Andrew was playing a part, too. What of this old Jew? I was pleasantly surprised to find out where Percy had been hiding, in plain sight all along. The best scene, however, was when Percy enters the run down inn and meets Chauvelin there. He simply acts as if he always arrives there to have dinner and a man who may be an enemy is never a surprise. There is a dedication to creating a character and never breaking from him. Percy never even shows surprise or alarm when encountering Chauvelin. It's a simple, "How do you do, yep, I've just stopped out in France for dinner in a disgusting tavern."

There are nine sequels written by Baroness Orczy (plus several "spin-offs" and 2 collections of short stories featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel), although I think I will just stick with the one. The popularity of the story is spread through film and stage and has managed to last 107 years in print, in at least 16 languages. Certainly a classic that I am glad to have on my shelf.

"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That demmed; elusive Pimpernel?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Me & My Cello

I got a concerned phone call from my "Anonymous" reader today, wondering if I'm doing alright. (Don't worry, I know who he is.) You see, I have't posted since Friday the 13th. Which seems a little ominous, don't you think? I've dissappeared from the "blogosphere" and the last I was seen was a day full of superstition. Rest assured, everything is great. I think I may have just needed a break. I have been online to check for comments and to read some of the blogs I follow. I just didn't have anything to say here. And since I didn't have any music scheduled, my blog came out looking neglected.

For those of you (perhaps one of you?) are trying to be a part of my book club, have no fear, I have brushed aside the lack of desire (gasp!) to read and have picked up The Scarlet Pimpernel. Again. I'm not sure what was stopping me, because it is a fun story. Whatever the problem was, it has passed and I am nearly finished reading. (Some book club host I am!) Look for my post in the coming week. I hope.

The video for today is fantastic. I laughed out loud. For most of my readers, it will be a repeat, however because my sister posted it on her blog a few weeks ago. But it is so funny. And the music is great, too. So, I had to share with the few readers (two?) who do not read Such a Sew and Sew. And if you've seen it, you may decide whether you like it well enough to watch again. Obviously, I did, so here it is.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bradbury Friday: Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed

What better day to end my Bradbury 13 series, than on Friday the 13th! Saving the best for last, I am pleased to share Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed. Found in S is for Space and The Day it Rained Forever, Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed is my favorite of the Bradbury 13 series. Always my first choice, and for me, one of the most fantastic stories. There is a bit of wonder and imagination that just grabs me here.

The Bittering family has just landed on Mars. Harry, his wife, Cora, and their three children, Dan, Laura, and David, have come to Mars to escape the wars. The atom bombs are threatening, and they want to be away until they it is safe to return again to Earth. But the moment Harry steps out of the rocket, he wants to turn back. There is just something about the planet, its air, the wind, that frightens him. But Cora insists they stay, having traveled over sixty million miles.

So, they stay. They build a home, plant a garden and go about their lives. But Harry is always on edge, worried about the air or the sounds, the memories in the old Martian ruins. The garden doesn't seem to bring the vegetables that he remembers from earth, even though they are earth seeds. Things just don't seem right. He is tense, worried that something is going to happen.

And something does happen. The radio sends up word that the Atom bombs have hit New York, and all the space rockets are gone, blown up. One thousand Earth people, gone to be safe on Mars are all now stranded.

The one hope Harry had, that the rockets would come and he could return to Earth with his family, is gone. They are stranded on this strange planet with the few hundred other people who came to Mars to wait out the war. Harry will not be stranded. This cannot be final. So, he goes into town to urge the other men to help him build a rocket. No one feels his urgency. Sam, a friend, tells Harry he has rocket blue prints and a load of metal. Harry is welcome to it. But no one is eager to help. He works alone, the men standing in the doorway, helping Harry lift something heavy every now and then. But no one is worried about a rush to go home.

As the summer comes in, and it gets hot, the town has decided to move up to the old Martian villas where it is cooler. What's a man to do? Harry has to build his rocket, but no one will help, and now they're all leaving town. Is life really that bad on Mars? Or is it just a perception that Harry needs to let go of? People seem happy. The town is peaceful. There's no hostility.

What would you do? The story has a fantastic turn of events and an even better ending. I love to contemplate the way this works. Many of Bradbury's stories have people who have moved to Mars or are out searching other planets for something better. And it always brings to my mind the question of what would we do if earth really got so bad? Would we run away from it? Where would we go? If there was another planet, would we try to attempt a better life there? Would it be peaceful and calm? Or would there be someone who would try to rule, form government, instead of just living in peace and order without reinforcements? Is that life possible? Wouldn't the folks who made the earth unlivable just jump in their own rocket and create the same chaos that they left behind? Not all of Bradbury's tales about people on Mars are peaceful. Some have destruction, some with unexpected results, (Read the Martian Chronicles, you'll see my point) but many of his characters do find a better life.

If there is only one Bradbury 13 story that you read, make it Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. Don't forget the audio version available on I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Without You

I picked this because the other day, this song, by Usher was on the radio, and my son said, "Hey, I love this song! PianoGuys does this one!" I couldn't remember if I'd even seen it (my Dad shows them videos when we go to my parents' house), so I had to find it.  Please enjoy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Screaming Woman

This story is my second favorite in the Bradbury 13 series. The Screaming Woman, found in S is for Space (and The Stories of Ray Bradbury), is one part scary, one part frustration and anxiety.

This story is narrated by ten-year-old Margaret Leary. One hot July Saturday, her mother asks Margaret to run to the store to get some ice cream for lunch. She takes a short cut through the empty lot behind her house. On her way back through the lot with the ice cream, Margaret hears the Screaming Woman.

"It was coming up out of the ground. A woman was buried under the rocks and dirt and glass, and she was screaming, all wild and horrible, for someone to dig her out. I just stood there, afraid. She kept screaming, muffled. Then I started to run. I fell down, got up, and ran some more. I got in the screen door of my house and there was Mama, calm as you please, not knowing what I knew, that there was a real live woman buried out in back of our house, just a hundred yards away, screaming bloody murder."

But no one will believe a ten-year-old's wild story of a woman buried alive in the empty lot. But she heard it! And Margaret is determined to make someone listen; to save this Screaming Woman.

I love the narration of this story. It just flows, and you just want to reach in and shake those grown-ups. 'Listen to her!' This story pulls you in, and won't let go until you reach the end. The radio drama (on is excellent, following very closely to the original.  This story was also done on Ray Bradbury Theater in 1986, and stars Drew Barrymore. It is posted on YouTube in 3 parts. (Search Ray Bradbury Theater: The Screaming Woman) Some of the details have been changed from the original, but it's pretty good, too.

Please enjoy. It's one of the best of the Bradbury 13.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Nearer My God, to Thee

Between LDS General Conference and Easter Sunday, I thought this selection to be appropriate.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Completed Project

Here is the big reveal. Our bathroom project is (nearly) finished! Okay, so we still didn't get a towel rod. But a towel rod is boring blogging. What I am going to share with you has actually been finished for about a week and a half now, but I suppose I figured the towel bar would have been installed by now. But to install one, you have to buy one. And I just haven't done that yet.

So, here they are: our beautiful bathroom cabinet and lights! (And a monkey shower curtain-only slightly less new.) A bathroom is the Worst place to take pictures, the room just doesn't allow you the appropriate space to get the shot. But here they are. And they didn't get there as easily as one might expect.

Remember the old light/cabinet? Right. The one with the lights IN the cabinet, making a quick change-out impossible? That's right. So, I enlisted (thank you!!) the help of my Dad, the expert on EVERYTHING. He came and removed the old cabinet and light fixture. Guess what he found under them? An electrician's WORST NIGHTMARE. The wires were spliced and bare and scary and I don't even know what else. Plus, behind the cabinet was a gigantic hole where an old medicine cabinet had been recessed in the wall. AND the wires were not even in a ready box. The original ready box was about 6 inches or more above the spot where the wires were.

So, after two evenings of amazing electrical work, (my Dad even put in a new electrical outlet. The old one was connected to the light fixture. Weird?) plus some drywall patching and spackling, I painted the repaired wall, and my Dad came back on Saturday to hang everything. And I could not be happier. It makes my bathroom new and nice and feel bigger (a mirror will do that) and awesome. My boys said it looked like a hotel bathroom. I suppose that's a compliment. Now, to find a towel bar....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Conference Coloring

For LDS General Conference, we sit for four 2-hour sessions (over 2 days) to hear the General Authourities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints speak to us. For two young children to sit quietly, is sometimes difficult. So, I prepare them with things like "Conference Squares"-- a bingo type game where they listen for different words or topics and cover the squares on their game boards. ( has seven different game boards for Conference Squares to print out!) I also print out a few coloring pages, some with color by number and some just coloring pages (also available at

My oldest son finished his coloring pages at the end of the 3rd session. So, instead of asking for more coloring pages, he found some blank paper, and drew pictures of his own, like he does during our weekly Sunday Sacrament Meeting. But this time, instead of just drawing whatever comes to him, he decided to draw the speakers. He didn't get all of them, but the few he did were pretty neat. He studied the speaker and then carefully drew what he saw. I thought I'd share 3 of his drawings.

Elder Russell M. Nelson
Sister Julie B. Beck
President Thomas S. Monson

While there is always a moment when you need to remind them to quiet down, my kids did pretty good this General Conference. And I was grateful to hear the Prophet and the Apostles speak.