The Prisoner of Zenda – Being the History of Three Months in the Life of an English Gentleman (to give the book its original and complete title) by Anthony Hope, is probably one of the best known and most filmed adventure classics of all time. It has been adapted for stage, set to music, transformed into an opera, and performed on radio and television. Written at a time when innumerable little kingdoms dotted the map of pre-World War Europe, the novel wonderfully captures the romance, intrigues and excitement that such remote places symbolized in the popular imagination. As a story that combines mystery and adventure, The Prisoner of Zenda is unmatched. It gave rise to a new genre of literature known as Ruritanian Romance! The mythical country of Ruritania portrayed in The Prisoner of Zenda became a symbol for a kind of novel that combined swashbuckling adventurers, damsels in distress, palace intrigues, royalty, honor, loyalty and love. As European kingdoms dissolved and disappeared, so did the public interest in their royal families and castles, but books like The Prisoner of Zenda bring that era back to life.
Anthony Hope, or Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, to give his real name, was an extremely prolific British novelist and playwright. However, he is almost always associated only with his most famous book, The Prisoner of Zenda, published in 1893. He did write one sequel entitled Rupert of Hentzau in 1894. The amazing success of the books allowed him to retire and devote himself to writing full time. Readers thoroughly enjoyed the fast-paced style of writing, the witty and irreverent young hero and the touch of tragedy at the end of both books. Hope went on to write several books of historical fiction, set in various European kingdoms, both big and small.
The Prisoner of Zenda is an entertaining and engaging read that is sure to appeal to readers of all ages.