Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Classics Circuit: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I haven't yet completed my re-read of Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo for the Classics Tour.  I'm savoring this read; in fact last weekend I upgraded my copy of this Dumas masterpiece; my ratty, worn-out Penguin Classic copy was exchanged for a lovely hardback.  I've read The Count of Monte Cristo before and it is absolutely my most favorite book in the world.  It even beats The Bell Jar as my all time favorite book.  This is the book I would take with me if there was any chance I would end up stranded on an island or stuck in a room full of people I don't like.

I was surprised to read reviews from my fellow Classic Circuit writers and other bookish types in the blogosphere;  most folks seemed to dislike this book.  The length and obsession with revenge puts some readers off.

The Byronic hero -- Edmond Dantes -- is obsessed with revenge.  His young and successful life is forever changed when his jealous friends plot against him and lead to Dantes false imprisonment as a spy for Bonaparte.  Dantes is imprisoned in a stark prison where he befriends a priest who enriches both his mind and his pockets.  I won't give too much plot away, but I will tell you that there is plenty here to keep this reader interested:  infanticide, opium dens, secret affairs, lies, revenge, secret identities, and general bad assery.

Why do I love this novel?  I don't have a deeply thoughtful answer, simply put, it is because of Dantes' bad ass nature.  I found the book thrilling and I have more than a little crush on Dantes. He is flawed, but that is the glory of the Byronic hero.  Perhaps I have a defect, I'm also a little sweet on Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and I know for a fact that he is a rather cruel person. 

Surely, there's another gushing Dantes fan out there?

Okay, enough with the gushing on imaginary bad boys, in all seriousness there is a very basic premise of the book.  When one is consumed with a single feeling -- to the point of moral blindness -- the results are never good.  In the novel Danglers is consumed with jealous, Villefort is consumed by his ambition, and Dantes is consumed with revenge.  There are negative implications for each character and I believe the book truly teaches that one should endevor to be a better person.  Perhaps this is an immature view of The Count of Monte Cristo, but is most certainly what I thought about after I completed the novel.


mel u said...

I justed posted on Dumas's early novel for the Classics Circuit, Georges, it is also about revenge-I think the single minded focus of the characters helps to make them seem exciting and we can fantasize perhaps taking revenge on those who have slighted us-I really enjoyed your post-

Karenlibrarian said...

Great review -- now I need to read this one too! After every Classics Circuit blog posting I end up redoing my to-read list! Dumas is pushing Zola back to the end. Le sigh.

Amanda said...

I'm afraid I'm one of those people who read and hated this book, though I read it last year. I'm not one for vigilante justice, and there were about 700 unnecessary pages in the middle, I thought. Ah well.

Amateur Reader said...

My criticisms were definitely not about length or revenge! Just style, characterization, ethics, that sort of thing.

The "Pyramus and Thisbe" chapter, for example. I would be glad to read a full-throated defense of that one.

I'm just as surprised as you, though, when I read people actually disliking this highly likable book. The exact moment when Dantes leaves prison, for example - howcan anyone dislike that?

Veteran blogger Mark Sarvas wrote an entire novel around a Dantes-lover, so there's at least one more big fan out there.

Are you sure you want that "rather" in front of "cruel"?

Allie said...

Like you, I re-read this for the Classics Circuit and it was like visiting an old friend. I just love the dark and mysterious tone of the whole book. It is just wonderful!

Great review!

everybookandcranny said...

I've wanted to read this book for so long but I have been one of those who are put off by it's length.

Your positive review is a motivation!

Tea said...

I will really try to read The Count...this fall.