Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Fiction Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

Every summer, for my annual #BigBookSummer Challenge, I choose one classic book among my stack of Big Books to read during the summer (note that you don't need a stack; you can participate in the challenge with just one Big Book). In recent years, I read Gone with the Wind, David Copperfield, and last summer, Anna Karenina. This year, my Big Book Summer classic was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, a novel my husband and many friends have told me was a great read. I'm glad I finally listened to them! I enjoyed this super-twisty, surprising story of the ultimate revenge.

Edmond Dantes sails into his home port of Marseilles on February 24, 1815, after a long voyage on the merchant ship that employs him. The captain died on this journey, so Dantes, as First Mate, took over leadership of the ship. He reports this to Monsieur Morrel, the owner of the ship, who confides to Dantes  that he is very happy with his performance and will officially make him captain when the chip leaves on its next trip in three months. Dantes is overjoyed, as he loves the ship and his job. One person who is not happy, though, is Monsieur Danglers, the ship's purser who feels that he should be made captain due to his seniority. Once onshore, Dantes heads home to see his beloved father and tell him the good news. Once they are reunited, Dantes' next stop is to his girlfriend, Mercedes. The two young people are in love and decide to be married the next day, now that Dantes is home safely. Once again, there is one man unhappy with the good news: Fernand, Mercedes' cousin who has proclaimed his love--and proposed marriage--many times, only to be turned down. The next morning at their betrothal breakfast, surrounded by family and friends, the couple's joyful celebration is interrupted by police, who arrest Dantes. He is brought before a magistrate, Monsieur Villefort, who explains to Dantes that he has been accused, in an anonymous letter, of being a follower of Napoleon, at a time when the former Emperor has been exiled to Elba and it is a crime to support him. Dantes denies the accusations, and Villefort assures him he will be acquitted. However, a short time later, with no explanation, Dantes is taken to prison. It's not just any prison but Chateau D'Or, an infamous fortress set by itself on a rocky island offshore. It's known to be the place for the worst criminals and impossible to escape from. Dantes' bitterness grows as he is held there without reason or explanation ... and that is all that can be said of this novel to avoid spoilers.

All of that happens in the very first chapters of the book. To avoid any and all spoilers, I will simply add that this is one of the greatest revenge stories of all time! Most of this 500+ page novel is a twisty, suspenseful labyrinth, with the action ranging from Rome to Paris. It's a suspenseful and surprising tale, peopled by French nobility amid great wealth. Characters are in-depth, though there are a lot of them, and many of them are related, so I sometimes had to flip back to remind myself who someone was. While I was initially disappointed to learn this was a story of revenge (not really my thing), it turned out to be an intricate and engrossing novel that easily kept my interest right to the very last pages.

 1276 pages, Penguin Classics

(note that my copy--no longer in print--was only 511 pages, so I'm guessing this version includes some front matter, essays, discussion, etc.)

Naxos Audiobooks

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Challenge

Back to the Classics - 19th century classic

Travel the World in Books - France

Big Book Summer Challenge

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  1. My first thought is: does any book really need to be over 1200 pages?! I'm glad you liked it though

    1. ha ha My copy was only 500 pages! I'm guessing that 1200-pager had a bunch of extras.