**spoiler alert** Reading The Count of Monte Cristo was, as expected, a riveting experience. I love this book fiercely, even though previously I only**spoiler alert** Reading The Count of Monte Cristo was, as expected, a riveting experience. I love this book fiercely, even though previously I only ever read abridged versions (quite unknown to me). In the end I decided to go for an English translation instead of for a German translation, which would have been my native tongue - but the Oxford edition was the only one where I felt sure it finally was the full-length text of the novel.
Monte Cristo starts out with Edmond Dantès, a young sailor, returning to Marseille to marry his beloved Mércedès. But even though his future looks very bright indeed, many people are jealous of his achievements. Danglars who wants Edmond's position as the ship's captain, Fernand the fisher who's in love with Mércedès, Caderousse the greedy drunkard and Villefort who needs to hide his father's implication in a plot to bring back Napoleon so that the son can keep climbing up the career ladder; they all take their part in a conspiracy to take Edmond down, and they succeed admirably. On the verge of marrying Mércedès he gets shipped off to the Château d'If, a prison fortress in the sea off the coast of Marseille, where he rots in a solitary dungeon for years. By accident he meets the Abbé Faria there, a learned man who educates Edmond and tells him of a secret treasure. Edmond makes his escape a changed man who has sworn revenge.
The larger part of the novel is devoted to the Count of Monte Cristo, who is, of course, Edmond in disguise. He returns to Paris rich and cultivated after having travelled the world, with no-one - or almost no-one - the wiser as to his identity. This is where the novel starts in earnest for me. Time and time again I fall prey to Dumas' ability to sketch people, show their ambitions and sorrows, something which is kept to a minimum in what I regard the set-up to the plot (that is, Marseille and the Château d'If). Monte Cristo seems superhuman in his abilities: to see in the dark, to dominate feared Roman bandits, to counter every strike that is verbally and physically made against him and turn the cards in his favour time and time again. It's quite interesting how Dumas aligns him with Byron's narratives in this regard (especially Lord Ruthven, who apparently was a Byronic vampire of some kind), marking Monte Cristo as a Romantic hero.
But underneath it all the Count is still undeniably human. His quest for revenge is that of a wronged man who has suffered an unimaginable fate (which, as it turns out, wasn't for ever, but it might as well have been), and the means by which he exacts his revenge are such that the men he pursues only ever fall through their own vices and misdeeds of the past. The novel isn't simply Romantic, it displays a large Realist strain as well. The book is thick, at almost 1,100 pages, which leaves ample room to follow the affairs of the acquaintances of Monte Cristo as well, a younger generation, the sons and daughters of the people Monte Cristo is either indebted to or on which Monte Cristo wants to avenge himself. In its layered narrative and many focal points Dumas manages to achieve a magnificent portrait of Paris' upper classes of the time as well as an unforgettable group of deeply faulty characters that you can't help but sympathise with. The entanglement of joy and sorrow, past and present in The Count of Monte Cristo simply enchants me again and again.
The only letdown came from rather an unexpected front and as such shall not be reflected in my rating: This Oxford edition was riddled with typoes. Wrong punctuation and accents, even a missing word or wrong name here and there, could be found throughout the text. The introduction on the other hand gave me sheer joy and the notes were very helpful and added quite a lot to the reading experience by expanding my knowledge of what Dumas was referencing....more
It's always fun and relaxing to read Bridget Jones, I just can't deny that - and don't even want to. I'm curious how exactly I will incorporate the boIt's always fun and relaxing to read Bridget Jones, I just can't deny that - and don't even want to. I'm curious how exactly I will incorporate the book in my Austen paper, but I think this highlights interesting aspects of how Jane Austen is received today....more