Author: Rafael Sabatini
Format Read: Paperback
“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”
– Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche
“Scaramouche” (originally published in 1921) is set during the turbulent times of the French revolution. The aristocracy sees itself as superior to the population at large, and there is hunger and poverty among the working class. The upper classes, however, are cynical, and wealthy, and excessively touchy about having their apparently endless powers contained.
It is in such a world that Andre-Louis Moreau is born, and this is the world he must put up with. Adopted by the well-to-do Lord of Gavrillac, Quintin de Kercadiou, Andre-Louis has had a noble’s upbringing – with books and oratory, some fencing, and writing. He has some of the cynicism of the nobility in him, and a whole lot of detachment. After all, the world’s gone mad, and he prefers to keep himself away from the insanity of the class clash.
That is, until a very idealistic friend of his, a certain Philippe de Vilmorin, is murdered by a cold, calculating noble, M. de la Tour d’Azyr. Vilmorin’s death and the guile and deception of its execution leaves Andre-Louis shaken, and then determined to carry forward his friend’s idealism – and bring some justice to the downtrodden, especially to those suffering under the caprices of the aristocracy.
But Andre-Louis discovers that he is hotheaded and his speeches are inflammatory. Which means he must go into hiding, and join a travelling theatre troupe. There, he dons the role of Scaramouche, a theatre-buffoon, and is a tremendous success. Naturally. Andre-Louis, being Andre-Louis, is an exceptionally gifted character. He acts with élan. He writes plays that are huge successes. Later on, he takes up fencing, and within months, his rudimentary knowledge develops into extraordinary skill. People listen to him when he speaks, and are influenced enough to riot on his behalf. He is acutely aware of his abilities and revels in them, almost to the point of being insufferable.
And there is also the beautiful, accomplished, free-thinking Aline, who is on Andre-Louis’s mind as he traverses this quagmire of intrigue.
“Scaramouche” is an adventure novel, and Andre-Louis is by no means infallible. He is often called heartless by his peers, and he makes mistakes during his hiding that almost lead to his discovery. He manages to annoy and enrage the Lord of Gavrillac and he makes powerful enemies because of his excessive honesty that is more handicap than virtue a lot of the time.
“Scaramouche” is an engaging, gripping read, one that I enjoyed very much.