The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

A prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society books, this is the story of the Society’s founder Nicholas Benedict when he was a nine-year-old orphan dealing with bullies, narcolepsy, night terrors, oblivious grown-ups, and trying to find a treasure that will solve all his problems.   There are a few bright spots:  at his latest orphanage, he makes a friend and there’s a fabulous library, but he knows unless he finds this treasure, he’s facing years of misery.


If you don’t mind reading books for kids, The Benedict Society books are a lot of fun.   Genius children facing extraordinary challenges, sometimes created by evil geniuses which must be fought, but in this one more about the challenges of life most of us face: school, friends, everyday problems that even with being a genius Nicholas doesn’t find easy to solve.

I read this for several reasons: 1) it’s a chunkster, 2) it’s a book I wish I could have read as a kid and 3) it’s been on my TBR shelf for a couple years now.

The Scarlet Pumpernickel, er, Pimpernel

So, for the last book of the Classics challenge I needed an historical mystery classic. That meant the author had to be writing about a time that was at least 50 years before his or her own and it had to be both historical fiction and a classic.    I had originally intended to read 20 Years After, the sequel to The Three Musketeers, but it’s really long and time ran short, so I switched to The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy.  I saw the movie years ago and the only thing I can remember is Leslie Howard doing his effete little rhyme:

They seek him here

They seek him there

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere

Is he in Heaven?

Is he in Hell?

That demmed elusive Pimpernel

That pretty much sums up the plot.   Some unknown, but brave and clever Englishman is rescuing aristocrats from being beheaded in the French Revolution which is generally agreed to have gotten out of hand.   The Revolutionaries are spittin’ mad mostly because they are being made fools of.   The Scarlet Pimpernel hasn’t really dampened the actual numbers of beheadings all that much, but he does it with a lot of style and generally making someone look like an ass.   So an evil Citizen named Chauvelin forces our young, beautiful heroine Marguerite St. Juste into finding out what she can.   The book is fun, full of lively writing and entertaining.


Haven’t seen this version with Anthony Andrews.  But I would love to.

SPOILER:  I was big-time annoyed with Marguerite insisting she go to France herself to warn the Pimpernel they’re onto him.   Don’t be an idiot, woman, says I.   You don’t know anything about this sort of work, you’ll just be a bother and likely get yourself captured and then they’ll have to rescue you, too.  Just get word to his team, they’ll take care of it, but no.  Sometimes if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth getting an expert. /SPOILER


It is a surprisingly light, fluffy, entertaining swashbuckler and I may read the rest of them at some point.   I don’t think this was useful for any other challenges, though I may just be forgetting.