Ernest's Reviews > A Prisoner of Birth

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer
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's review
Jul 26, 2011

liked it

This book is effectively a contemporary retelling of Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo. As a result, I am torn between liking this modern update or being disappointed at a retelling that does not offer anything new and has a broad ending known to those who are familiar with the source work.

Archer is a great writer. He has the ability to construct developed characters and a well crafted plot. This is again evident here, with tight descriptions of characters and a plot that while broadly familiar, still manages to capture interest. Particular mention must be made of the well constructed court scenes.

However, I have several reservations about this book. Danny’s machinations as Nick are well plotted and crafted, but there was always a believability issue with Danny portraying Nick. Once that was overcome, the plot generally progressed with little problem. But that issue is not easily overcome and even after I had initially accepted it, this question refused to completely die. To his credit, Archer dealt with this the best way he could.

Additionally, that it is based on The Count of Monte Christo means that as the broad structure is known, the rest of the book must be of a greater quality to avoid it being merely a retelling. I am not sure Archer fully achieves it in this work. This is not because the other aspects of the book are merely fine or bad; indeed, the rest of the book is of a high quality. It is because the central narrative tale of the original story is so strong that I question whether it would be possible to construct a wholly successful story knowing the eventual resolution.

In the end, this is still a solid book. Its problems are perhaps inherent given the nature of the book. This does not excuse any problems it has, but allows one to understand why they happen. While Archer has written better books with larger narrative tension and pull, this is still a solid book

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