Rafael Sabatini knew how to captivate a reader’s attention. ‘Scaramouche’ follows the experiences of André -Louis Moreau as he seeks vengeance on the Marquis de La Tour d’Azyr for killing his best friend. Each character is larger than life and brimming with verve, and the story carries you along like a river, with all the surprise, wit, and drama a reader could ask for.
Let me hasten to add that Sabatini was definitely not writing solely for the sake of entertainment. The first forty pages of ‘Scaramouche’ consist of a conversation about God and man, good and evil, and class and government. André-Louis plays the role of the cynic, while Philippe (the aforementioned doomed best friend), with an optimism backed by action, argues for a change in the system.
Philippe’s beef is with the Marquis, a tyrant who had a man killed for stealing from his garden. Propelled by his idealism, Philippe marches off to confront the Marquis for this injustice. The Marquis, of course, has no intention of making things right. No match for Philippe’s eloquence, he resorts to a “your mom” joke (which they took a lot more seriously back in the day). Philippe hits the Marquis in the face, and the Marquis calls for a duel and murders him to rid the world of his revolutionary ideas.
As his best friend dies, André-Louis swears vengeance, and the hero’s journey begins. André-Louis takes up Philippe’s mantle, having witnessed the corruption his best friend had set himself against. With his ever indomitable spirit, André-Louis takes on the government, incites townsfolk to riots, gets chased out of town, joins a troupe of traveling actors, and winds up back where he started, ready to deal with his unfinished business.
‘Scaramouche’ is just plain fun to read, but it’s also pretty inspiring. André-Louis’ eccentric journey is more than just wandering through life and taking it as it comes; he sets out to make things happen— to change the world. With all the charm of a minstrel’s song, Sabatini recounts the story of a man’s life, and what a man can accomplish when he knows his purpose and fears nothing.