The Count of Monte Cristo

November 27, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction | Leave a comment

I decided to read the Count of Monte Cristo because I was traveling and it seemed to have two attributes that would make it ideal for keeping me occupied: First, it was really, really long. Second, despite being 480,000 words the book was relatively compact. I hadn’t read anything by Dumas since Three Musketeers ten years ago, so I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Turns out, the book is quite good. If the idea of a 1200 page, small type book makes you nervous, then forget about it, there’s plenty more for you to read. However, if you aren’t scared off by the length, the long format (and let’s not beat around the bush, it’s that long because Dumas was paid by the line and had ghostwriters helping him) turns out to have some advantages. Unlike Dickens, Dumas uses the padding for conversations instead of tedious or obscure descriptions, and he has both the wit and the ear for dialogue to make it work. The cast of this novel is large (though by modern standards perhaps not exceptionally so) and each character is carefully drawn. It’s this detail…plus the almost philosophical introspection that Dumas isn’t afraid to work in…that makes the book rise above its rather adolescent revenge fantasy plot and become something that is actually worth reading. I should also mention that unlike Three Musketeers (which if memory serves is adventure) is more of a story about intrigue, plotting, and manipulation. Recommended to anyone interested in the period (France after the second Restoration) or the genre.

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