I’m relieved and pleased and sorry and a little sad to see the back of it. It’s been a good companion over the past three weeks. I will miss it.
When I started reading The Count Of Monte Cristo I didn’t know a great deal about how the story would progress beyond the first twenty chapters, which I’d already read. I’d seen the film, the one with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce, but I soon realised that this would be of no help whatsoever. The book and the film bear only a passing resemblance to each other, as Wikipedia so wryly notes:
“[The film] follows the general plot of the novel…. but many aspects, including the relationships between major characters and the ending, have been changed, simplified, or removed; and action scenes have been added.”
As a result of this I think I was sort of expecting a straight forward story about betrayal and revenge but in the end it wasn’t really the swashbuckling adventure I’d imagined. There was a lot more to it than that. Our hero, if you can call him that, can be cold, calculating and unscrupulous. He can be frequently cruel and he doesn’t really care who gets hurt as long as justice has finally been done. Half the time I didn’t know whether I wanted him to succeed or not. As a reader you start to wonder whether his obsession with revenge has obscured his natural sense of right and wrong. It becomes a story that’s as much about a man trying to find peace as it is about vengeance.
I think it’s funny the way that you almost forget that the Count is really Edmond Dantes. It’s a bit a like you get wrapped up in the myth he creates for himself. It helps, of course, that Dumas takes such a long time to confirm the Count’s identity, so for much of the book you can’t really be sure who he is (although you have strong suspicions). In the meantime you’re forced to go along with the mystery until you almost start to believe the lies the Count tells to others and to himself. You forget about Dantes and get swallowed up in the myth of the Count’s extraordinariness, this ‘exceptional being’ (as he so modestly puts it), an avenging angel sent by God himself. It’s cleverly done I think.
I enjoyed this book hugely. It was so readable and involving that I didn’t really feel like it started to flag until the very end (those final few chapters felt a bit flat after the drama of the preceding ones). But for such a long novel the pace was pretty steady. I guess that’s probably down to the fact fact that it was originally published in instalments and you can see the evidence of this everywhere: in the absence of lengthy descriptions, the characters who pop up and disappear again, the plot threads that are left hanging for chapters on end, the corrections added at a later time… (My favourite being: “We had forgotten to say that Jacopo was a Corsican…” ). These aren’t huge issues at all – I think they’re part of the book’s charm – but I can understand that if you like your books concise and neatly constructed then this might be a little distracting.
In summing up there isn’t a great deal more to add, besides that I highly recommend The Count Of Monte Cristo to all. If you’re interested in my earlier updates on this book then you can read these here:
It’s Alexander, dumbass! (Chapters 1-14)
Le Comte est trop grand pour mon sac (Chapters 15-35)
Sacre blog! (Chapters 36-86)
I’ve tried not to make them too spoilerish but watch out just in case.