Author: Rafael Sabatini
Genre: Historical Fiction
Original Publishing Date: 1921
My first introduction to the work of Rafael Sabatini was through his book Captain Blood, with which I fell completely in love. (I'll post a review of it on here sometime just to have it in the database : )
Scaramouche didn't open with anywhere near the bang and gripping drama of Captain Blood; in fact, it was kind of a chore to get into, though I have to give it credit as having what is probably the best opening line ever:
He was born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad. And that was all his patrimony.
Really now, what's not to love?
In Scaramouche, Sabatini has created a vivid main character, almost raw in his realism. Andre, the hero of the story, is a brilliant young man who seems almost bored with life since it presents no challenge to him. Raised as the godson of a local nobleman, Andre manages somehow to prosper wildly at whatever he puts his hand to - first as a lawyer, then as an orator in the cause of the French Revolution, then as the actor Scaramouche, then as master of a fencing academy, then once again as a politician. But his wild success always manages to end in Andre fleeing for his life from one pursuer or another, and for various reasons.
At times I found myself getting very frustrated with Andre's almost arrogant confidence, and his determination to put a Stoic face on no matter what happens... but I just couldn't help loving him anyway. His dry, almost caustic sense of humor and his conviction that 'the world was mad' are underwritten by his deep commitment to those he loves... no matter how infuriating they all are and how unfair or nail-biting the circumstances.
One thing that particularly jumped out at me that carried over from Captain Blood was the author's love of poetic justice. In both Sabatini books I have read so far, irony and poetic justice both play significant leading roles. And you've gotta love that.
One thing that does bother me is that Scaramouche, like so many other books set in this time period, is that there are quite a few instances of the Lord's name being taken in vain. Unfortunately, there seems to be no getting around it in this type of fiction.
Another issue with this book that's very minor (and really more of an annoyance than a problem) is the fact that it's interspersed with heavy doses of French here and there, most of which have no translation provided. Since my entire French vocabulary consists of bonjour, merci, champagne, and ooh-la-la, the lack of translation got kind of irritating. However, I was still able to understand the story, conversations, etc.
On the whole, another great book to add to my Rafael Sabatini collection, and a great book for anyone wanting an exciting French Revolution adventure!