"A plot of cunning construction, worked out with finished technique. There is just that amount of suspense which is necessary to to charm the imagination of the average reader, just enough heroic gestures to satisfy the child that survives in all of us." The New York Times, June 26, 1921
How through the crowded days of the French Revolution, Andre Moreau, fugitive, strolling player, master of the sword, gained fame and happiness because he fought equally well with tongue and rapier. Never will the reader forget the sardonic Scaramouche who was "born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."
published by The Riverside Press
Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921
I love a good adventure, and Scaramouche was probably the second book of this genre I had read. Pulled along through the trials of Andre-Louis, I was genuinely surprised by many of the plot twists.
Re-reading the book almost 20 years later, I still find the plot exciting, the characters believable and the writing clever and evocative of the time period without being difficult to read.
Andre-Louis Moreau seems to be able to land on his feet no matter what the circumstances. Of unknown parentage, he nevertheless starts out with the patronage of the Lord of Gavrillac who has him educated as a lawyer. After his friend, Philippe deVilmorin, is killed by the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr, Moreau becomes a master orator for a cause in which he does not yet believe and moves the people of Rennes and Nantes to embrace the ideals of his dead friend.
Fleeing the enemies he has made because of his speeches, Andre-Louis joins a troupe of travelling players and discovers his talents for writing and acting. He becomes Scaramouche, a master manipulator. When he is unable to resist an opportunity to denounce de la Tour d'Azyr from the stage, he must escape again.
This time he goes to Paris and becomes a fencing instructor. After gaining expertise in weaponry, Moreau again is presented with an opportunity to foil his enemy's plans, this time as a representative in the States General. But, his fate and that of the Marquis are interlocked and the action continues to build to a climax and conclusion that was as surprizing for me as it was reasonable.
It is no wonder that reprints of Scaramouche are still widely available.
Another review, by Simon McLeish, is available at his home page.
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