Beware: I’m not exactly subtle about what happens in this book. If you’re thinking about reading it, or you are in the process and looking forward to the end, I’d advise leaving right now. If you don’t, don’t come crying to me when you run across a spoiler.
Back at the beginning of the year, I vowed to read more classics. And I was pretty good for the first two or three months (translation: I read two or three classics), but then like the rest of my plans for the year, I kinda forgot all my good intentions. So when Heather and Andi announced a readalong for The Count of Monte Cristo, I was all “ooooh, sign me up.” Because I’m easily influenced like that and I thought I’d feel all virtuous for reading another classic. Plus, I’d earn bonus points because the sucker is 1462 pages long. That’s like the equivalent of 3 good sized other classics! (The only time I can conveniently do math is when I need to justify something.)
I’m pretty proud of myself for finishing this puppy. It’s interesting, for the most part, but there are times (many times) when Dumas lets his story drag on. And on. I actually really enjoyed the first third of the book, and the last 200 pages. The middle, however, is a bit of a blur.
But what’s it about, you ask?
And we’re not just talking about getting back at your brother for tattling to mommy. We’re talking hard-core, carefully plotted revenge that takes years (decades! a thousand pages!) to play out. There are times when Edmond (our revenge seeker) gets a little carried away, and times when his alternate identities seem a bit far-fetched, and times when all of the multiply named Frenchmen get a little confusing, but despite all of that, I have no regrets (not that I plan on running right out to buy The Three Musketeers).
Oh, you’re still wondering what it’s about?
Well, there’s this guy. We’ll call him Edmond Dantès for now. He’s a nice chap, loves his daddy, and his girlfriend, too. He returns home from sea all excited to marry his love, Mercedes. But three jealous guys (Caderousse, Mondego, and Danglars, who I prefer to call Manny, Moe, and Jack) conspire to have him arrested and poor Edmond is tossed in jail (actually, it’s a big, bad-ass fortress) where he languishes for years. While he is languishing, he meets Abbé Faria, who teaches him all sorts of useful shit (seriously, the guy is like an olden times Martha Stewart) and also tells him of a fortune hidden on the itty-bitty isle of Monte Cristo. After Edmond finally escapes and claims the treasure (it’s okay, the Abbé gave it to him), he uses his new-found wealth to create a new identity for himself. He becomes the (wait for it) Count of Monte Cristo! And also the Abbé Busoni, Sinbad the Sailor and some other English dude whose name I can never remember. And he sets forth to wreak havoc on the lives of Manny, Moe and Jack. As well as Villefort, the guy who falsely imprisoned him to save his own bacon.
Suffice it to say, havoc ensues. It just takes a while to happen.
And then there are two pages of regret. The End.
But the havoc. Oh, the havoc. The Count was meticulous in his research, and his ferreting out of deep, dark secrets, and his laying of traps. While it was a bit tedious reading all of the set-up and how everyone played their parts perfectly (except for that time when they all thought the Count was a VAMPIRE…that was funny), it was absolutely fascinating to watch everyone fall apart. And I was still surprised by how total the devastation ended up being. Death! Madness! Suicide! Murder! For example, while I totally knew Madame Villefort would do something with the poison as soon as I read about the Count explaining its uses to her, I never expected it to go so far! And then all high-and-mighty Villefort gets his and rushes home to repent, and Edward! OMFG! And the final encounter between Danglars and Luigi Vampa! And, and, and! It’s all terribly fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way and I feel a little bit guilty for actually enjoying what happened to Manny, Moe, Jack, and Villefort, but also a bit shocked at how far Edmond took it all.
So. Final thoughts? Worth it if you manage to survive the tortuous middle.