Friday, 25 November 2016

Classic Literature: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Book Review

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

"Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you."

I've been reviewing a lot of new releases recently and I thought it was about time to show some appreciation for the classics.
First off is one of my favourite books, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This is my rather battered but loved Penguin Classics edition.

My Dad actually suggested I read this book; he read it when he was a teenager inter-railing around Italy and I have read it on my travels too, it has accompanied to Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Transylvania, adding a ridiculous amount of extra weight to me overstuffed backpack, but it was worth it (this was in the time before Kindles).

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas' epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s.

The Count of Monte Cristo really has everything you could want from a novel; adventure, war, love, mystery and revenge. The latter is of course the main theme of Dumas' novel and the main reason people love it. The fact that Edmond Dantès, a good man, is framed and therefore thrown into a jail to rot for the rest of his life, makes readers' blood boil and I think we can all relate. Maybe we haven't all been betrayed on such a large scale, but everyone has experienced the unfairness of life and this extreme case is one of the reasons everyone feels for Dantès.
Dantès setting out to get revenge is also the reason everyone loves this book; we can all envision setting out to systematically destroy our enemies the way Edmond Dantès does.

"How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure"

The book is very long, but the need to see Edmond Dantès first escape prison and then revenge himself on everyone constantly pulls you owards. Mostly the book flows well. There are a few places where it slows a bit, and Dumas gets weighed down in description and history of the characters, but these are rare and usually useful.

The character of Edmond Dantès is also one of the reasons I love this book. At first I thought he was a little too good to be true, but I think his innocence really allows the reader to see the changes that happen to him, both breaking and strengthening him. The Count of Monte Cristo looks at how pain, both mental and physical, can grind down a person, but it also examines human resilience and finding strength even in the most horrific of circumstances

I always admire writers who can anchor you in a world so much that the real one feels fake, and this is what Dumas does, conjuring up the multi-layered story and making it real and emotive.

I have reread The Count of Monte Cristo twice now, but I may have to read it again soon; it's the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter's day.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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