Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

I made a post about a list of books that Amazon thinks everyone should read. The Count of Monte Cristo was available at my library as an audiobook, and I was willing to start something that would take me only 1 whole eternity to finish.  So here we go!

The Book

800px-louis_franc3a7ais-dantc3a8s_sur_son_rocherThe Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
1844-1846, serially published
Gutenberg Project Link (This one’s even illustrated, so there’s literally no reason to use Amazon)

I thought this looked interesting, but I’m pretty put off by the sheer length of this sucker.  I can listen to audiobooks at 2x speed, and I still look at that length with fear.  How far behind will I get on my podcasts? I’ve heard from people who had to read this in high school that it was good, but  will it be worth it?

Non-Spoiler Review

Wow – I was genuinely surprised and pleased with this book! Despite the length, I rarely felt like it was slow.  The characters and situations were built so cleverly, and it constantly left me wanting for the next chapter.  I definitely suggest this classic to anyone who’s scared by the length.

One of the things that did throw me off – especially at first – were some of the French names. I’m desperately anglophonic, so I sadly didn’t find it easy to associate a name with a character. That’s my own stupid fault, though; I can keep up with Chinese names because I took enough Chinese that the words no longer have that extreme foreign feel. Anyway, the French names compounded the small difficulty of name learning with the use of multiple disguises and aliases. While it always becomes clear and apparent who a character really is, sometimes it starts off a little confusing.

Also, I have to say I was impressed with the character Mercedes. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but she actually had drive and passion which I didn’t expect at first.  I’ll talk about her more in the Spoilers.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones 

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I thought the plot – a true revenge story, patiently told and even more patiently anticipated by the main character, Dantes – was fantastic. The way Danglars was scammed out of his money was hilarious, but let’s talk about Villefort.

OH MY FUCKING GOD. That was like the time Cartman made Scott Tenorman eat his parents, except it was 100% Villefort’s fault that all this crap came back to bite him (and, I guess, a bit his wife’s fault, but whatever). Watching Villefort’s downfall was so, so satisfying. That whole convoluted mess with the bastard child and the inheritance scheme between Vallentine and Edourd with Noirtier? Sheer genius.  F*cking brilliant.

There’s a bunch to talk about, but I want to focus on Mercedes a bit before I declare this review finished.  Anyway, Mercedes was left for decades when Dantes was wrongfully carted off to prison. Because this was Napoleonic France, of course she had to marry or else be completely screwed, so she wedded Fernand who had been part of the conspiracy against Dantes. She had a child with him despite not really liking him (she always liked Dantes and missed him), but Dumas made the brilliant decision of making the son not a piece of crap and by allowing Mercedes to remain attached to him.

Now, when Fernand commits suicide and Dantes helps Albert and his mother start anew, I was convinced that Dantes would get together with her.  I thought it would be a sweet reunion.  BUT NO. Instead Dantes marries his young slave, Haydee. WTF. Unsatisfying. Apparently some plays or musicals have the ending I wanted, not the one Dumas wrote, for which I applaud them.

Next week:

I’ll be reading some of the OG YA books – Alice in Wonderland. A YA book with such staying power has to be fantastic, right? Right???

 

32 thoughts on “Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

      • trentpmcd says:

        I often have problems with names when I read, though as I’ve aged I have gotten better. That begin said, I re-watched the entire Star Wars saga over the last few weeks and still have no idea of any of the names in the sequels. OK, I finally got Rey and Ben (named for Obi-Wan), though I have no clue as to his Sith name. Why isn’t it Darth something?

  1. Chelsea Owens says:

    We read this for book group last year. The women went on about the language and such and …I realized I’d accidentally read the condensed version. Dern.

    What did you think of the prison friend? I can’t even remember his name.

  2. Almost Iowa says:

    Now, when Fernand commits suicide and Dantes helps Albert and his mother start anew, I was convinced that Dantes would get together with her. I thought it would be a sweet reunion. BUT NO. Instead Dantes marries his young slave, Haydee. WTF.

    I am curious as to whether the ending made perfect sense to mid-19th century audiences. Theirs was an honor society, whereby (and this is just my guess) Mercedes and her son were “tainted by betrayal”. To them that might have been a very big deal.
    The most instructive part of reading classic literature is gaining a glimpse into how people who are foreign in time and space think entirely differently than we do.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      Hmm… this is a good point. I wonder, too, if the French ideals of the day would have matched the American ones. Marrying your slave here was a big social faux pax, and marrying for love rather than for arrangement had definitely become normal by this point. Would be an interesting thing to know!

  3. Jade M. Wong says:

    I found it amusing when you said you could keep up with Chinese names but had trouble with the French ones in this book 😂. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed this book! Looking forward to your thoughts on Alice in Wonderland!

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    I read most of Dumas’ works in the original when I lived in France… there is a subtlety to the use language that tends to get lost in translation… but loved the depth of the characters. Nothing wooden about them at all, though if you watch some of the Hollywood interpretations, you’d be forgiven for thinking them just a bunch of stereotypes 😉

      • Sue Vincent says:

        French is a language where flowery passages sit naturally… there are things you can say in that language that seem overblown in English 😉

      • H.R.R. Gorman says:

        I wonder what types of things translated from English are “too much” when translated to another language? I know when playing Japanese video games and watching Japanese TV, so many things seem over the top. Chinese as well has the tendency to seem too intense when translated to English.

        Or perhaps our language is just naturally reserved?

  5. theceaselessreaderwrites says:

    One of the great literary revenge chronicles in the Western Canon, right up there with Wuthering Heights. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold, the most excellent modern version of the genre that I’ve read. Although it might be helpful to read the first 3 volumes of The First Law series first, it’s not necessary so to do.

  6. robertawrites235681907 says:

    I have read this book, H. but many years ago. I have the audio book but am not getting much time to listen lately as there is always someone around when I am not working, writing or blogging. I need to drive my car to work every day, the audio books was the one and only benefit to being in the office – smile!

  7. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I’ve heard great things about this book, but haven’t had the courage to pick it up. Sounds good though! I might have to wait for a long drive to get through it. Thanks for sharing your recommendation.

  8. AK says:

    Interesting take on the book. I really liked it as well. The Haydee stuff felt sort of tacked on, as though her story had been taken from another novel Dumas was working on or something. I know there’s that connection with Fernand there, but it still didn’t feel quite like part of the story.

    I do feel pretty bad for Mercedes at the end. I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect her to wait around for him forever when for all she knew he was dead, and in any case she didn’t know about Fernand’s part in his betrayal. Dantes returning to her also could have fit into the novel’s theme of forgiveness and repentance that he comes around to at the very end. I can see why Dantes might have soured on her after so long and after everything that happened to him, though. The whole thing with Haydee is still a bit weird, even if she’s not exactly his slave in spirit but only legally.

    After reading this, I tried out Three Musketeers, but it lost my interest about ten chapters in. I should try picking it up again sometime. It just didn’t immediately grab me in the same way Monte Cristo did.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review, and I agree with much of your analysis!

      I haven’t planned to read Three Musketeers anytime soon. It looks interesting, but I also think it might be like “A Tale of Two Cities” which starts out horrible and picks up speed like a lot of old serials used to do.

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