Aubrey's Reviews > The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

The Black Count by Tom Reiss
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Aug 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 4-star, reviewed, non-fiction, reason-for-history-class, first-reads, r-2012, r-goodreads
Read from September 24 to 30, 2012 — I own a copy

4.5/5

Fascinating person, exciting time period, amazingly well researched writing. The prose could use some work, but hey, this is the uncorrected proof. Taking that into account, the work done so far is simply extraordinary.

I will admit it, I had no idea that the famous author Alexandre Dumas' father was so. Well. Larger than life, really. And the time period that he lived in that enabled him to reach such heights was almost as unbelievable. Before reading this, the extent of my knowledge regarding the French Revolution could be nearly encompassed by books like Les Misérables, A Tale of Two Cities, The Eight: A Novel, and other historical fiction that loved to mention the guillotine. Not exactly comprehensive, as none of these books touch on the hugely successful and extremely paradoxical civil rights movement that accompanied this tumultuous time.

In fact, most of the other books focused on illustrating the rampant bloodthirst running through France, but this book was especially successful at drawing connections between the politically motivated guillotine and Stalin's USSR. It was disconcerting seeing how both historical periods had a penchant for conspiracy and execution; however, it must be said that France managed to maintain some measure of humanity due to its acceptance of mixed races on all levels of society. Without this, Alex Dumas, the 'Black Count', would be as fictional as his son's protagonist, Edmond Dantès.

It's simply a travesty that no one has heard of this man. From the sounds of it, he very well single-handedly kept the Revolution going, while managing to not succumb to its political machinations. Throughout the book, General Dumas goes through life conquering armies despite overwhelming odds, yet he never loses his humanity when dealing with captured villages and other non-fighting entities. Many times he was willing to place the blame on those under his own command, as his goals were freedom and fair play for all, not just victory for his side. You don't get people like that nowadays.

Also, major kudos to the author. If he had dictated Alex Dumas' life, the book would've been half as long, if that. Instead, he chose to lay out all the historical background necessary before setting Alex up, so when the main character does something, the reader knows exactly why and how this relates to the bigger picture. I'm a big fan of this, not only because it's so much easier to know what's going on, it also offers many amazing snapshots full of juicy historical tidbits. For example, I now know what led up to the creation of Haiti, as well as the fact that Napoleon was a major twat. Not to mention how the US really got over the whole colonies business. Liberty or death is one thing, but if you forget to mention the fact that the whole of Europe, especially France, basically fought Britain for you, it's a bit cheap.

So. Read this. You learn so much, whether your interest is the man or the history. Either way, it's definitely a story to be remembered, especially since it actually happened. That always makes things cooler.

PS: Before I forget, I got this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
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Quotes Aubrey Liked

Tom Reiss
“GENERAL,
I have learned that the jack ass whose business it is to report to you upon the battle of the 27th [the 27 Nivôse, i.e., January 16] stated that I was only in observation throughout the battle. I don't wish any such observation on him, for he would have shit in his pants.
Salute and Brotherhood!
ALEX. DUMAS”
Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo


Reading Progress

09/29/2012 page 203
46.0% "GENERAL, I have learned that the jack--------["jack---"] whose business it is to report to you upon the battle of the 27th [the 27 Nivôse, i.e., January 16] stated that I was only in observation throughout the battle. I don't wish any such observation on him, for he would have shit in his pants. Salute and Brotherhood! ALEX. DUMAS"
08/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Marsha This book is eagerly awaiting to be read by me, as soon as I finish Reiss' The Orientalist, which is fascinating history and teaches me so much about a forgotten period.


Aubrey He's a very good author for that sort of thing. I hope you enjoy this book, it has a lot more of the same wonderful style of writing concerning history.


message 3: by Zorena (new) - added it

Zorena You've hit my soft spot. I love history and I especially love rollicking good history.


Marsha Aubrey wrote: "He's a very good author for that sort of thing. I hope you enjoy this book, it has a lot more of the same wonderful style of writing concerning history."

I really like this author's style and such detective/research. The Black Count will be birthday gift in June, but I have to read it first. I want more of this type of historical writing. Any other recommendations? thx


Aubrey @Zorena: You've hit the jackpot with this one then. Hope you enjoy.

@Marsha: I'd recommend The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, if you haven't read it yet. It's what made me start appreciating good historical nonfiction in the first place.


message 6: by Kiof (new)

Kiof DITWC is a rare, universal modern classic. It did not make me go deeper in that genre, but you're making me think I should...oh, all the many wondrous things I have not read


Aubrey To be honest, DitWC was amazing, but fiction is still much more attractive to me. The only reason why I got to TBC so soon after was because of the giveaway. So you're not alone on that note.


Marsha Aubrey wrote: "@Zorena: You've hit the jackpot with this one then. Hope you enjoy.

@Marsha: I'd recommend The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, if you haven't ..."


Oh, thanks!!


message 9: by Warwick (new)

Warwick I now know what led up to the creation of Haiti, as well as the fact that Napoleon was a major twat.

Encyclopaedic. I like it.


Aubrey Heh, of a sort, Warwick. Most assuredly of a sort.


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