The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

May 5, 2010

Welcome, Classics Circuiters! The Dumas circuit is starting to wind down, so I know that many of you have already read a lot about Dumas and his books. I should start this review by admitting that I haven’t entirely finished The Count of Monte Cristo yet. I tried so hard to finish by today, but I’m only on about page 1000 of 1200. However, I would say that a thousand pages of reading material gives me something to talk about, even if I won’t know the ending for a few more days.

The Count of Monte Cristo, an introduction: Handsome, brave, but poor Edmond is beginning to live the American dream, albeit in early nineteenth century France. He’s got the beautiful fiance, the promotion, and the ailing father who has worked hard for his son to advance. But suddenly, in one fateful night, Edmond’s fortune shifts for the worse, at the hands of a few evil men.  Edmond then spends the rest of the story plotting and acting out his revenge against those who stole his life from him. A truly great set-up for an adventure story, with plenty of room for moral dilemmas!

Before I began this novel, I had already read the famous The Three Musketeers and the lesser known, short but fabulous novel The Black Tulip. I so thoroughly enjoyed them both that I was expecting to absolutely love Monte Cristo. And yet, when I first started this novel (almost a year ago during a long plane flight), I had a difficult time making it past the third-way point. I loved the first couple hundred pages, but unlike some of the previous reviewers, I really did not enjoy reading about Edmond’s time in prison. I set the book aside until last month, when the Classics Circuit chose Dumas for a spring tour. I was surprised at how quickly I could get back into the novel, and I fell in love with it all over again. I was able to seamlessly join in with Edmond’s crazy plotting, and loved reading about his ingenious attempts to trick people. Right now, I’m nearing the end of the novel, yet I’m as captivated as ever, mainly because at this point I’m actually rooting against Edmond, and I’m curious to see how Dumas solves the puzzle he sets up at the beginning: When do the well intended actions of a good-hearted person become too horrible to bear? It’s certainly an interesting question, and I hope that the ending of the book does the rest of it justice.

That being said, although I’m enjoying the novel, I can’t help but compare it to The Three Muskateers and The Black Tulip. I loved both of those novels, with very little hesitation. And I can’t stop thinking about what made them great that Count is lacking: a great sense of humor and strog(er) female characters. The Three Muskateers had me laughing on nearly every page. The Black Tulip has one of my favorite female characters ever in it. Count doesn’t really have any of these. (I know, there’s Mercedes, but she never really talks and when she does she is always so so weak. And Valentine has potential, but is never really as great as she could be. Made Villefort has the potential to be an awesome villainess, but I’m not through enough of the story to decide how I feel about her.) So even though I like the plot, and I’m enjoying the novel, as of right now, I don’t think that I could say that it’s one of my favorite Dumas novels. However, I would definitely still recommend it to people looking to read something with a great plot and interesting characters. I would just maybe recommend The Three Muskateers first.

One comment

  1. Excellent review — I’ve been wanting to read Dumas forever (just couldn’t manage in time for this circuit). Now I can’t decide which to read first — probably Three Musketeers since it’s sitting on my shelf, but everyone seems to really like The Black Tulip.

    And did you know the 1970s Three Musketeers movie (and Four Musketeers) will soon be rereleased on DVD? The ones with Michael York and Richard Chamberlain. Sadly, the Richard Chamberlain Man in the Iron Mask is unavailable, but I think old video copies are still floating around. I haven’t seen them in years but I remember loving them.

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