I'm surprised that no-one has done a reworking of this book with Milady and Richelieu as the heros, and the Musketeers as the villains. It wouldn't ta...moreI'm surprised that no-one has done a reworking of this book with Milady and Richelieu as the heros, and the Musketeers as the villains. It wouldn't take much of a twist at all. With the exception of one event, the former are no more villainous than the latter. That is, unless, you take Dumas' word for it. In that case, Milady is pure evil, and the tale is one fit perfectly for kids. Fortunately, the story he tells is richer than the gloss the narrator sometimes tries to put on it.
Let's look at the characters:
Richelieu is the first minister of France, and Louis XIII most trusted advisor. There is currently a Protestant uprising in France, and Richelieu is charged with quelling it. Louis is not that interested in managing tedious things (like his country), so this responsibility falls with Richelieu. Now, Anne of Austria is queen. But she's also a member of the family of France's primary enemy, and she is in love with the Duke of Buckingham, a direct enemy of England who would gave aid to the French insurrectionists.
Richelieu's actions in the book are directed at exposing Anne and Buckingham, which directly supports French interests. Thus, the affair of the diamond studs was actually a matter of state. Richelieu was simply trying to show the King what was really going on, and what could jeopardize his interests as King. Mme. Boncieaux, the Musketeers, and the Queen, are all acting in only there personal interests, and against the interest of France. What the do is probably treasonous. (Certainly Anne's affair with Buckingham was treason. The efforts to thwart the cardinal exposing her treason border on treason, but were probably enough).
Despite all this, Richelieu's one wish throughout the book concerning D'Artagnan is that he would want to make him his own man. The King does nothing for D'Artagnan. The Queen gives him a ring, but never even finds out who her hero is. Even de Treville only gets him an appointment in the King's guard. But Richelieu becomes his main benefactor. First, his order makes D'Artagnan a Musketeer, granting his fondest wish. And later, showing grace and humor in defeat, Richelieu gives him a commission as Lieutenant in the Musketeers (which is apparently a big deal, since twenty years later he still holds the same rank).
And yet, Richelieu is the evil mastermind of this book?
Now, let's take our heros, the Musketeers.
Porthos is a bit of an oaf. As for his honor, when he's wounded in a duel, he lies about it and says he twisted his knee. He lies about his mistress. His great ambition in life is to marry the wife of a lawyer so he can get her money. While wounded, he holes up in a room in an inn, refuses to pay and nearly brings the innkeeper to ruin, while threatening to kill anyone who tries to move him or interfere with his convalescence.
Aramis is a bit better. He merely lies about his love interest. The main complaint I can make about him is his willingness at the beginning of the book to kill D'Artagnan over the dropped handkerchief. In this instance, it's Aramis' lies about the handkerchief that bring on the appointment for the first duel.
Athos is the heart and soul of nobility. And yet, when he learned that his wife had been branded, he simply hung her by the neck and left her for dead. When he tells his true name to another man before dueling, he also tells him that its too bad, because now he will have to kill him, and then does. (I may be wrong, but I think this may be the only person who actually dies in a duel in this book, so it is kind of a big deal.) And on another occasion, Athos also takes over an inn and nearly ruins it, drinking and eating almost all of its provisions without a thought of paying for any of it, and accusing the innkeeper of having wronged him solely because the innkeeper had been mislead by agents of the government.
And D'Artagnan: the main issue I have with D'Artagnan is his love life. He loves Mme. Bonciaux. She's married to his landlord (whom he never pays, and from whom he steals a fortune). He also loves, at times, Milady. And very quickly, he also professes undying love for her maid, Kitty. He uses Kitty to spy on Milady. He then rapes Milady (unless you think having sex with someone while pretending to be someone else is consensual). He does this within the hearing of Kitty, his other love. And he also takes a valuable ring from MiLady under false pretenses.
These are our heros? Well yes, they are amazing hero' and extremely fun to read. But they are rough, thoughtless, terrible to women (excepting maybe Aramis), and probably treasonous on at least two occaisons.
Now let's turn to Milady, who is the great villain of the book. She was a poor girl who got put into a convent. As a nun, she got involved with a priest. The two had already taken vows, so they needed to escape. The priest stole the sacristy and was caught. He got branded and served time for his crime, but escaped. His brother was the executioner of the branding. The brother tracked down Milady, and on his own, branded her as well. The priest ended up killing himself, and of course the brother blamed Milady for the whole thing. Every wrong can be traced to the wiles of a woman, right?
Milady, despite her many handicaps, then raises herself to a position where she manages to allure Athos. When he finds out, however, that she had been branded (falsely, by the way), he hangs her and leaves her for dead. Somehow, she escapes. This is one resourceful woman.
After that, and the timeline is not too clear, she raises herself yet again, this time even higher and becomes the wife of Lord de Winter, and an agent for Richelieu. OK, there's something shaky about marrying an Englishman and being a French spy, but its a totally cool thing, and makes for a great background for a book in which she would be the heroine. Lord de Winter dies, and this is also supposed to be one of her crimes, but its a crime for which there is no evidence at all.
In the affair with the diamond studs, she merely does her duty and serves France. The abduction of Mme Bonciaux was a harsh measure by Richelieu's secret police, but not anything especially villainous or out of the ordinary, especially when you consider that Constance clearly puts her duty and devotion to Anne above her duty to France.
Following that, she simply gets defeated, insulted, and abused by D'Artagnan. He pretends to be her lover under cover of dark, rapes her, takes her ring. And then he forces himself on her again, in a bargain, in his true self. When he reveals that the two lovers are one, she gets more than a little miffed and vows revenge. Being a woman, she can't challenge him to a duel and kill him honorably, so she tries other ways to exact vengeance.
In one of the most remarkable parts of the book, she's given a commission to assassinate Buckingham to shorten the siege at La Rochelle. Taken prisoner by her brother-in-law, in five days time using only her brains and her voice, she turns her jailer inside out and converts him into her worshipper, and also convinces him that his greatest desire in life is to kill the Duke, which he does. So with everything stacked against her, she accomplishes her mission and manages to escape. This is an amazingly smart and resourceful woman.
So, take away the vengeance that she finally does exact on D'Artagnan, by poisoning Constance, and almost everything about Lady de Winter is both admirable and badass. (She even carries around a cyanide pill before they had cyanide pills, and keeps it in her ring.) She's a woman and can't run someone through with a sword because she feels insulted, so she uses the gifts that she has brilliantly, and she's no more selfish in the use of her gifts than anyone else in the book. Yes, she's the true villain of this book. But she's also the strongest, most interesting character and the one that made it most worth reading for me.
And I wonder if that's one of the great ironies of the book. Dumas keeps telling everyone to watch out for her because she's evil but totally seductive. And I've come out seduced.(less)
Thoroughly charming. The star is the narrator, who tells the story with such ease and grace that she could probably make any story a delight. It's the...moreThoroughly charming. The star is the narrator, who tells the story with such ease and grace that she could probably make any story a delight. It's the story of a mouse who falls in love with a princess, a rat who becomes disillusioned and vows to get revenge against the princess, and a simple minded girl who is the tool of everyone she encounters.
My only qualm about the book is that it started as an old fashioned fairy tale, and then veered into a fable at the end. The difference: in a fairy tale, we are left to draw out our own conclusions, more or less; but in a fable we are hit square between the eyes with a moral at the end. I prefer fairy tales. Here, I was not thrilled with the ending, but I don't judge books by their endings, and here the journey was almost perfectly enchanting. (less)
I liked this book even more than the first two, and I found the ending almost completely satisfying. Mostly, Shusterman has done a wonderful job at cr...moreI liked this book even more than the first two, and I found the ending almost completely satisfying. Mostly, Shusterman has done a wonderful job at creating a fantastic world, and then filling it with a host of memorable characters, from Ally the Outcast, to Mary Hightower the Skywitch, to Nick the Chocolate Ogre, to Mikey McGill the one true monster of Everlost, and even down to more minor characters like Jix, Jackin Jill, Milos and even ones like Speedo or Moose and Squirrel.
There are points of the book where Shusterman is just showing off and having fun, and these are truly funny. One that comes to mind is a short account of Vary's misadventures since the first book, when he flips from Atlantis to Pompeii to the Titanic, and so forth, and gets kicked out of each. It's hilarious stuff.
In this book, Mary becomes almost wholly evil and unlikeable. But Shusterman never loses sight of the fact that she is actually a tragic figure in the old sense. She was destined for greatness but is the victim of her own tragic flaw. In her case, the main flaw is her absolute certainty that she is right, and Shusterman seems to hint that this might be the main source of evil in general.
Most of the end of this book takes on the same flavor I imagine Nick to have: bittersweet. But that is my favorite kind of chocolate, and it fits well with this kind of book as well.
There is one fairly serious flaw I found with the book, but it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of it: (view spoiler)[The skinjackers wipe out a town by causing a toxic gas cloud that kills the population. They then, if I'm reading correctly, burn down the town so that large parts of it can cross to Everlost. Here's the problem: the toxic gas would have killed all their fleshies, so they would not have had anyone to use for burning down the town. I may have misread this part, but I don't think so, and if I'm right, this is an unusual hole for a writer who is as obviously careful with his world as Shusterman has been here. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a beautiful book. The prose is simple and graceful. At times it's poetic, at times powerful, and at other times touching. The story is simple,...moreThis is a beautiful book. The prose is simple and graceful. At times it's poetic, at times powerful, and at other times touching. The story is simple, true, and feels inevitable. The characters are believable, as are the situations. For what it is, the book is a little gem, and brilliant on its own terms.
I have a few quibbles about the book. The structure is deliberately episodic, and this means that decisions taken in one chapter don't often lead to obvious consequences in later chapters. Instead, the book works like a series of finely etched tableaux. Thus, if Young Ju does something dangerous in one chapter, that doesn't mean that there will be consequences to her actions later in the book. As storytelling, this at first appears to be a bit strange, but it ends up working in the overall structure.
A second quibble I have with the book is that it sometimes felt to me like the author was being a bit too careful. Some of her metaphors seemed a bit too studied for me. The worked a bit too perfectly. This characteristic was impressive, but I think it also added a level of reserve that may have hindered the book some. To be fair, I thought it worked fine here, but I began to wonder if I would grow tired of the same excessive care if it appeared in a longer book.
Finally, for the quibbles, I thought that the voice of Young Ju was sometimes perfect for her purported age, but in first and second grade, I had the feeling that she was just too smart for someone that age. Having her voice grow as she aged was an audacious undertaking, and for the most part I think An Na carried it off amazingly well. But there were a few points where I got stuck on a word or an idea. As you can see, these are true quibbles.
On the plus side, there are several very moving scenes in this book, and they are scenes that will stick with me for some time to come. Foremost among these is a chapter in the book where Young Ju's father plays "The Blob" with his kids. He captures them with his strength, and because the blob never lets go of what it captures, he holds fast to them. They struggle, scream, laugh, and giggle, and come out of it sometimes with bruises and sprains, but they love this game. It's the only time they ever get to hug their father. I found his chapter both beautiful and touching. It stands on its own as a vignette, and it also works as a microcosm for the entire book (sorry about the spoiler).
This is a very, very impressive first novel. It's rare to find prose that is both as simple and as powerful as what Na delivers here. I will definitely be looking forward to her future work.(less)
I just wrote a long review of this book, and Goodreads or the internet ate it. Grrrr... Here are the high points of that review.
Three years to read th...moreI just wrote a long review of this book, and Goodreads or the internet ate it. Grrrr... Here are the high points of that review.
Three years to read this. Of that, almost the full time was stuck on the first two parts of the second book, which seemed both dull and pointless. It ended up that it was just dull, but necessary to understand his ideas on morality.
First book - Understanding. It blows up the idea that there's a foundation in reason for induction, causation, the persistence of objects, and even for the idea of the self. This is radical skepticism at its finest. It's even more amazing that Hume presents these arguments in a way that is cogent, and engaging. There are few writers of philosophy who write better than Hume, and none of them are also systematizers. The systematizers tend to be insufferably dull (Locke) or unreadable and incomprehensible (take your pick, but Heidegger is a good example).
Second book - the bog. It's about the passions, and it couldn't be less passionately presented. Pride, humility, love, hate. If the first book awoke Kant out of his dogmatic slumbers, I would have thought that the first parts of this book would put him safely back to sleep. The curious thing here was that, after destroying the idea of causation, Hume spends most of this book focusing on causes for the passions.
The book takes off again when Hume gets to the will. He tries to reconcile free will and determinism. I wondered why he bothered. Since causation has no foundation in reason, but rests on human custom and habit, it doesn't seem necessary to me to then try to reconcile it with free will. It can also rest on other customs and habits. If the two seem to contradict each other, I don't understand the big problem. Neither of them has a foundation in reason anyways, so why get troubled over a seeming contradiction. It would have been enough to say they rest on different customs, and people are irrational.
Third book - Morality. He does a great job of showing that justice is not natural, but an invention of men. He's less good about showing the basis for morality, and this stems from his being less rigorous here than in the first book. For Hume, all perceptions are either ideas or impressions. With causes, he showed that causes are not based on ideas, and also showed that there is no impression that corresponds to a cause. Thus, no causes. He doesn't do the same with moral perceptions. He does show that moral perceptions have no basis in ideas or reasons, and then abruptly concludes that they must be impressions. I think he could pretty easily have argued that there are no moral impressions either. And I'm not sure why he didn't. Perhaps the religious climate at the time precluded him from being as radical a moral skeptic as he was a skeptic when it came to the understanding.
I also found it odd that he bases all moral judgments on an appreciation of character. He has argued elsewhere quite convincingly that its impossible to know a cause from its effects. But in morality, all of our judgments come from just that process. We only see the effects of a person's character, and never the character itself. That, we only infer from those effects, and that is just what Hume has argued against elsewhere (famously, in his argument that we can know nothing about God from our observation of the world, if indeed God created the world.)
Finally, even though Hume tries to explain morals to us, it looks like he could not bring himself to show any true moral distinction. At bottom, for him, morality is just another species of pain and pleasure, and he doesn't try to show in what manner it differs from other types of pain and pleasure. Indeed, towards the end of the book, he admits that he can't draw a sharp distinction between morality and other natural attributes, such as intelligence.
There are many other quibbles I have with this book, but I am dumbfounded that he wrote it when he was in his twenties. It's as well written as I think a book of this type and scope can be. The ideas are truly challenging, even 250 years later. Anyone interested in philosophy or the scientific method should read at least the first book. I'm actually a bit embarrassed that I haven't read the whole thing before. And now I wonder where I should turn next. What would make a suitable encore? (And not Kant, I've already read the Critique.)(less)