Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo (review)

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‘Wait and hope!’

So one of the major things you learn if you read The Three Musketeers is, that whenever a musketeer is in trouble, there will be fencing. Lots of duels and all fought with rapiers. So I sort of thought I knew what would be happening in this one. People would fence their hearts out and it would be swashbuckling madness. But The Count of Monte Cristo is a very different book than that. And definitely not in a bad way.

Where the morale of The Musketeers is about friendship and loyalty and is shown mostly through the positive behavior of these musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo is in some ways a more sinister book with a focus on how man shall be careful with playing God although still with an emphasis on being truthful and loyal. It’s a novel filled with smugglers, murders, poisoners, illegitimate children, young lovers and cruel fates – and revenge.

Edmond Dantès is a happy young man. Much beloved by his old father, his betrothed as well as his master, he is on the brink of making it. He has been promised the position as Captain on the ship he sails on and he is about to marry Mercedes, the love of his life. However, jealousy abounds around him and he is betrayed by three men he views as friends and is arrested at his own wedding party. When he is brought in front of the magistrate, however, he is sure to be freed because the magistrate seems so kind to him and, of course, because he is innocent.

However, this takes place in France at the time when Napoleon Bonaparte and the royal family is battling over who is to rule France and Edmond Dantès is not only caught in this but also get caught up in the magistrate’s own ambitions and family secrets.

So instead of being freed, he is thrown into a prison at Chateau d’If without chance of parole and is left there to die or go mad. But Dantès is lucky and not only survives but manages to escape and become a rich man because of a strange friendship he formed in prison even though he was put in isolation.

And this enables him to seek revenge on the four men who has ruined his life and turned him into a hard and bitter man; a man willing to wait and plot for years to achieve his goals: to give back to the people who treated him kindly and tried to help him – and to destroy the ones who ruined him.

It’s a book which roughly said is split into three parts. The first part is where we are introduced to Edmond Dantès and his family, friends and foes and where he is wrongly sentenced and put in prison. The second part is where he is setting the stage, networking and preparing for the third part which is his revenge on everyone who ever wronged him. I felt that the second part was a bit slower than the other two. I wouldn’t say it dragged but it was less of a thrilling read. Whether this was actually caused by the novel or because I started a new job at this point and only read about 10-20 pages maybe every other day, I’m not sure. Suffice to say that whether the one or the other was the case, I still really enjoyed this novel and am a bit surprised by myself that I haven’t read it earlier.

My edition, Everyman’s Library, has a preface by an Italian translator and I found it so strange that an French book translated into English should be prefaced by the person who had translated the novel into Italian – but it was engaging and interesting so I kept reading. And I must admit I blushed a bit when I reached the end of the preface and read the name of the translator. Umberto Eco. Okay, I guess then it was fair enough to have him write the preface…!

Despite it’s many many pages (1188 to be exact) and despite the fact that it took me 33 days to read it, this is not a difficult read. It’s engaging with a fascinating main character who one initially gains an incredible amount of sympathy for – but who still is very flawed. Dumas manages to create an enigmatic protagonist whom you start out with nothing but positive feelings for but then his actions and his complete focus on getting his revenge even though innocents get caught in the middle, makes him a character whose actions you really have to question. Man is not supposed to play God!

  • Title: The Count of Monte Christo
  • Author: Alexandre Dumas
  • Publisher: Everyman’s Library #320 – Alfred A. Knopf
  • Year: 2009 (original 1844)
  • Pages: 1188 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

I think this week’s Top Ten topic is the easiest one ever! At least it is to me since I have put a lot of books on my Christmas wish list. The only difficult thing this week is to limit myself to only 10 books. But I will try my best! As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and here is my list for this week.

  1. Ken Follett: World Without End. I read and loved The Pillars of the Earth earlier this year so of course I’m hoping to get this book so I can see what happens next.
  2. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas. Some years ago, I stood in a bookstore and debated whether to buy Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten. I ended up getting Ghostwritten and I’ve kind of regretted it ever since since Cloud Atlas seems to be the big thing. However, I chose Ghostwritten because I thought it sounded better so I definitely want to read that too. But after watching the trailer for Cloud Atlas, I’m just sold. I so badly want to read that book.
  3. Diana Gabaldon: Voyager (Outlander #3), Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4). I’ve read the first two of the series but with some years in between and I tend to forget how much I like these books. So after reading Dragonfly in Amber, I decided I wanted to read more books in the series – and soon. So I’m wishing for the next two.
  4. Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Christo. I loved The Three Musketeers as a child. Loved, loved, loved. I really want to reread that book at some point – as well as the other books in the series. But even more, I want to read The Count of Monte Christo. I keep hearing so much good about it so that’s my Classic wish for this Christmas.
  5. Joyce Carol Oates: Zombie. I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers. And this is written by one of my favorite authors. I really, really want this one!
  6. Toni Morrison: Beloved. I’ve never read Toni Morrison. It’s about time, right? I got intrigued by reading a review talking about how a woman in the book kills her baby girl because some fates are worse than slavery.
  7. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury recently died and that sparked a lot of people talking about him and his books. And I’ve never read anything by him. This one is about book burning and it sounds like something I will just love. Crossing my fingers I get this one!
  8. J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy. It’s J.K. Rowling’s new book. Of course I want it!
  9. Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton. I could write almost the same thing as just above but it’s not entirely true. I have not read a lot by Rushdie but I’m loving his Twitter personality, I really want to read more by him because he’s a very impressive author – and I find it very interesting to learn how he coped with the fatwa.
  10. Olivia Butler: Kindred. This sounds a bit similar to the Outlander series in plot. It’s about time travelling too but in this book, a woman travels back to the time of slavery in the US. I’ve heard so much good about it so on the list, it went.
  11. Andrea J. Buchanan (ed.): It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters. I have two girls, two daughters. I like getting inspiration on raising them, learning more about how to make sure we all survive when they become teenagers and just how I can be the best mom I can be. This book sounds very interesting.
  12. Peggy Orenstein: Cinderella ate my daughter. My oldest daughter is 4, she loves princesses, she talks like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty – and I am not sure that’s necessarily a good thing. So I want to read this book to maybe get a bit of perspective on this whole princess thing and to see if it will become a problem when she grows older.
  13. Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This sounds like an intriguing book. A man writes a letter to a woman dying of cancer –  but instead of mailing it, he decided to walk across England to deliver it himself. It was longlisted for the Man Booker and yeah, I want it.
  14. George R.R. Martin: A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire #1). I want to know what all the fuss is about. And I want to read about the dragons. And the big wall. And what happens when winter comes.
  15. Freda Warrington: Midsummer Night (Aetherial Tales #2). I read the first one, Elfland, and liked it. I’ve been meaning to get this one for a while but just haven’t seen it anywhere.

Yeah, I know. I lied. I didn’t try my best. I realized I had 14 books on my wish list so I just went with it… These are the 15 books I would love to find beautifully wrapped underneath my Christmas tree on December 24.

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