Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo – by Alexandre Dumas

Devin gave me this book for Christmas with a dedication written inside the cover. I picked it up and started reading that day. But I didn’t like the style, the language, the long-winded sentences, and the stilted dialogue. So I soon put it down in favor of easier prose, like Stephen King’s Under the Dome, which was extremely long and thick, but I read it in a matter of a week or two.

Then something happened. I started reading Ulysses by James Joyce. After laboring with it, and working it, I ended up putting it away. When I then picked up Monte Cristo again, it seemed easy, flowing, logical and workable.

It’s the story of a young man, not twenty years old in the year 1815 in France, who becomes the envy of three connivers, one who wants his position as captain of a ship, the other who wants his fiancé and the third who just loves to spread misery to others just to keep his belly full. They end up setting him up to get thrown into a dungeon, where he stays in solitary confinement, surrounded by rock walls, for over 14 years.

Fate has it that he gains knowledge, wisdom and immense riches thanks to the benevolence of a fellow inmate, and through his death obtains a unique chance for escape.

He then commits all his time and resources to gain revenge on his tormentors, by setting up circumstances and revelations that expose their crimes, without he himself ever having to do anything to them. Each of them, through their greed, their cunning and their recklessness, set their own traps and then step right into them.

It’s a story about crime and revenge, good and evil, wretchedness and honor. The good guys sail off into the sunset, and the wretches perish.

I learned a lot about the world of the first half of the 19th century in France, and particularly society in Paris. The story plays under the backdrop of the French Revolution, and Napoleon’s existence and history plays a significant part of the plot. I learned enough to know that I am interested in that period for several reasons: Having just read about John Adams, the American Revolution and the period just preceding the French Revolution, I am determined to get a biography or some historical fiction of the Napoleon era.

Throughout reading the book I felt odd about the language. Here is an excerpt:

“My dear Franz,” replied Albert, “when, upon receipt of my letter, you found the necessity of asking the count’s assistance, you promptly went to him, saying ‘My friend, Albert de Morcerf, is in danger; help me to deliver him.’ Was not that nearly what you said?”

“It was.”

“Well, then did he ask you ‘Who is M. Albert de Morcerf? How does he come by his name – his fortune? What are his means of existence? What is his birthplace? Of what country is he a native?‘ Tell me, did he put all these questions to you?”

“I confess, he asked me none.”

Nobody talks like this. But all the characters in this book do, all the time. It’s something you get used to and accept after a while. I personally had much rather read an author like Stephen King, where you can hear the characters speak. In Monte Cristo, I never got absorbed in the story, I was always aware of reading a book, being recited to.

I am glad I finished it. I am estimating the word count to be about 500,000, that’s longer than King’s Under the Dome, longer than Follett’s World Without End and about ten times as long as Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Only Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, with an estimated word count of 645,000, is longer.

It was an adventure. Thank you, Devin.

Rating: ***

One thought on “Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo – by Alexandre Dumas

  1. Eric Petrie

    Nobody talks like a lot of artistic dialogue. Everyone in a Shakespeare play sounds Shakespearean–never like a real person. But what is more true and revealing: actual conversation or a quadruple entendre back and forth between characters who then give an unforgettable monologue! Congratulations on finishing it, and lets have 500,000 more words read and written.

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