Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: The Count of Monte Cristo is Alexandre Dumas' classic tale of revenge and adventure. The young sailor Dantes is fallaciously charged with treason and loses his fiancé, his dreams and his life when he is locked up for thirteen years on the island prison of Chateau d'If. Mentored by another prisoner, Dantes finally escapes the prison, reinvents himself as the Count of Monte Cristo and begins to exact his revenge on the people who set him up.
Original publication date
Now, this is going to be a tricky one to review. What to say about a book so well loved, so widely read, so generally revered? Well, let's start with the basics, the bits most people already know. The novel opens with young Edmond Dantes, on the verge of becoming captain of his merchant ship and husband of the beautiful Mercedes, being betrayed by his jealous friends and thrown into jail for his alleged support of Napoleon. During his fourteen years in the terrifying Chateau d'If, he meets a 'mad' old abbe, who introduces him to the world of learning and tells him about a secret treasure that he wishes Edmond to have should he ever escape. Well, escape he does, and is reborn as the Count of Monte Cristo, using his incredible wealth, power and intelligence to bring justice down on the heads of the three men who condemned him to the dungeons.
This book is so many things: it is epic, complex and exciting; it is heartbreaking, sorrowful and romantic. It touches on the heights of emotion, society and the human condition, as well as the depths of despair, corruption and depravity. I found myself speeding along in breathless excitement as Edmond's true identity was revealed to each of his tormentors, and felt the full horror of the tangled webs he wove to destroy them one by one. It made me ponder the relationship between wealth and power, between knowledge and power, and the way that faith can save someone's life but also, if they don't take care, lead them down a path swathed in darkness. The Count's lesson for jealous Danglars, for example, was deeply satisfying - whereas his quiet destruction of Villefort's entire family was devastating to read. Of course, all this is terribly unlikely and deeply dramatic, but that is part of its charm - this is escapism at its finest!
Quite simply, this is a masterful novel that drew me in gently then refused to let me go. The characters are wonderfully drawn - I even got a bit of a crush on Dantes, fallen angel that he is - and the story seeps forward deliciously, bringing everything slowly into focus as the scattered elements of the Count's plans draw together. This is definitely going to be one of my top reads of the year and one of my favourite books ever! Read it!
"Yes," answered Maxmilian; "but I feel sure he has an excellent heart, and that he likes us."
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexndre Dumas is a singular novel. I can think of no higher praise than to say it now ranks as one of my top
This review will be unconventional as I have shared my thoughts with you along the way. Please forgive my rambling stream of consciousness praising this magnificent novel.
Dumas is a master of character. This is present in Edmund Dantes/The Count himself. We begin with a simple man who is good and loves his simple life. After prison, his education by the Abbe, and his immense fortune, we have a magnanimous man on the surface, but a cold, seething man underneath. The mask of The Count reminds me very much of Batman and how Bruce Wayne is the mask. Dantes is a man who has everything the world says is success: knowledge, power, fame, riches. But in all of this he is driven by revenge. Thankfully, ultimately, he is not consumed by it. In fact, he takes just as many pains to bless those he loves as he does to cause the downfall of the those who wronged him.
Dumas is a master of character. There are many characters in this book, major and minor. What amazes me is that Dumas gives every minor character a moment in the spotlight. An example of this is a scene in which Albert de Morcef, Fernand's son, challenges his good friend Beachamp to a duel over an item which appeared in one of his newspapers. This scene could have been short as Beachamp could simply have accepted the challenge. Albert is insistent that his father's honor has been impugned. Beauchamp takes extra care to try and deter his friend as the item got into the paper without his knowledge and that he cannot confirm or deny its truth. Beachamp skillfully, and lovingly, delays the duel long enough to resolve the issue. This scene, and others like it, show the love that permeates the novel. Whether is it romantic love, filial love, the love of a friend, or the love of a mentor, Dumas make this love inescapable.
I'll wrap up by saying I loved that every bit of this book is central to the plot. There is little if any fat here. Every tangent that Dumas leads us on rounds back to the central story and bares on The Count's machinations. And, his machinations are great. This is the long con. The Count knows all. The Counts see all. At least, we are lead to believe this into the final pages of the book.
I cannot leave without sharing that John Lee performed this book as a master of his craft. He uses multiple accents, of Italian, French, Arabian, and British. They are seamless. He builds dramatic tension so well and expressed anguish in such a way that I cannot help but get a lump in my throat. I would also say that this is my favorite audiobook ever. Lee's performance is so well rounded and so rich that I say it should be held up as a definitive example of the craft.
I think the majority of people will be familiar with the tale of Edmond Dantes; his betrayal and subsequent imprisonment, his re-education and escape followed by his quest for vengeance on those responsible and so I will not detail that here. When I started this book it was with the thought that as it was so long I'd have to intersperse maybe a couple of other, lighter novels in between but after making a start I realised there was absolutely no need for me to even think of picking up another book in the meantime. Yes, there are slow moments in the story as we are introduced to the large cast of characters and how they all fit together but the last 400 pages just fly by as the well laid plans start to come to fruition. There really is something for just about everyone here with a tale of love, adventure, morality but at its heart is the tale of cold-blooded revenge.
If, like me (prior to the last couple of weeks), your only encounter with this story is through other versions then I would certainly recommend reading an unabridged copy of the original as, for instance, the 2002 film changes and misses out large chunks (as it must do) of the narrative and you do not get the full effect through that medium. A superb book that now leaves me with just one problem. How do I follow that?
Perhaps from now I will just refer to this book as The greatest story.
Most people know the basic premise of The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantes, a sailor who is beloved
“The unhappy young man was no longer called Edmond Dantes – he was now number 34.”
Edmund’s time in jail is so beautifully written. I felt his despair in every bone of my body. The sheer horror of what happened to him chilled my blood. Dantes was jailed for 6 years, considered mad and completely isolated before he heard the voice of someone other than his jailer. Just for one moment try to understand the absolute torture of that kind of solitude. The hope that he got from the mere thought of someone in the cell near him stopped him from committing suicide.
“Seventeen months captivity to a sailor accustomed to the boundless ocean, is a worse punishment than human crime ever merited.”
He spends years wasting away and when he finally meets a fellow inmate; their connection is so deep and profound that it truly renews his spirit and gives him a reason to live. He spends years learning from Abbé Faria only to lose him after he becomes his second father. He manages to control his grief and think on his feet and after 14 years in jail Edmund is able to escape.
Instead of immediately racing to the island to claim the treasure Abbé Faria told him about, he spends time working on a ship. He gains the respect and love of those he works with and bides his time. When he finally gets his fortune he proves that once again he’s in no hurry. Throughout the whole book Dantes’ patience is mind-boggling. He does his homework, learning all the history that unfolded during his 14 years in prison. He then focuses on rewarding those who were loyal to him. Although his father died of starvation and his fiancée married another man, there are still a few people who he wants to anonymously thank.
Dantes old boss Morrel is one of my favorite characters in the book. He is such a good man. He understands the true meaning of loyalty and Dantes remembers him and spends much of his time out of prison repaying that debt. Morrel fought hard to get him released from prison and when all his attempts fail he tries to care for Dantes’ father. He not only paid the funeral expenses when Dantes’ father dies, he did it with the full knowledge that Dantes was considered a Bonapartist and he would be judged harshly for it. In turn Dantes saves Morrel and his entire family in their moment of need. Just when Morrel is in the direst of situations, Dante swoops in and saves them, but he keeps his identity a secret.
“Be happy, noble heart, be blessed for all the good thou hast done and wilt do hereafter, and let my gratitude remain in obscurity like your good deeds.”
When he began his schemes for revenge things got a bit confusing. It was the one part of the novel that was a bit of a struggle for me. He takes on multiple aliases and secret identities, but at first we don’t know the new character is still Dantes. We’re also introduced to many new characters with little fan fare and it was hard to figure out who was who for awhile, but if you hang in there it all makes sense pretty quickly.
I can’t even explain to you how satisfying it is when Dantes starts revealing his true plan and we see his long-awaited revenge finally come to fruition. He slowly inserts himself into the lives of his betrayers, earning their trust as an unknown stranger. The cyclical nature of the book is delightful. For each character there is a fitting end and it’s so satisfying! Both those who are good and evil get their just desserts.
I loved how Mercedes and Albert found out the truth about Dantes situation and how the rest of their story concluded. The scene between Mercedes and Edmond just took my breath away. After his time in prison he had become so hard and calloused, yet with only a few words she still had the power to make him melt. Some corner of his heart never stopped loving her and the same was true for her. Their love story was a tragic one, but there was beauty in it too.
Dantes calculated the perfect revenge for each of his betrayers. Fernand stole his love and the family he would have hard, so his punishment was the loss of his family. Danglars’ motivation for betrayal was greed and jealousy and so he lost his entire fortune and was forced to learn what hunger truly was like. He was the worst of the villains, goading the others into their acts of treachery, and his fate was equal to his crime. Villefort acted out of a loyalty to his father, but also out of a desire to protect his own reputation and future. You could almost understand it if it was only out of love for his father, but in the end it was really a selfish decision. So it was only fitting that Villefort's doom come from within the household he tried to protect. He lost his family and the respect of his entire community.
In the midst of this tale of revenge there are a few beautiful stories of love and redemption as well. Maximilien Morrel’s love of Valentine de Villefort, Valentine’s devotion to her disabled grandfather and Haidée’s love of Dante are all powerful pictures of devotion in their own ways. It’s incredible that in addition to creating such a thrilling adventure story, Dumas also gave the book wonderful characters with depth that will stay with readers forever.
BOTTOM LINE: Read it! It’s a long haul, but unlike some long novels, the majority of the book flies by and it keeps you interested throughout. Many older classics that take time to get into and adjust to the language, but this one starts off at a run and doesn't let go. Besides one small section in the middle that dragged for me, I couldn't put it down. Curl up with this brick of a book and you won’t be sorry.
“In politics, my dear fellow, you know, as well as I do, there are no men, but ideas – no feelings, but interests; in politics we do not kill a man, we only remove an obstacle, that is all.”
“There are, indeed, some things which appear so impossible that the mind does not dwell on them for an instant.”
“The overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; misfortune is needed to bring to light the treasures of the human intellect. Compression is needed to explode gunpowder.”
“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”
The first third or so sort of plods along seemingly without rhyme or reason, and I admit that I was starting to wonder when the damn Count was going to show up and kick some ass already. However, what at first seems like one pointless tangent after another is actually a set-up for one of the biggest mindfucks in the history of literature. The Count of Monte Cristo is one bad ass mofo that will rock your face off. His plans for revenge border on the comically insane, fortunately none of his enemies are Batman so everything goes off without a hitch in the end. Come to think if it, The Count of Monte Cristo is like what would happen if Batman and the Joker were really the same person. Holy sh*t, I just blew my own mind.
The prose itself is solid but I thought there was remarkably little of weight contained within these
The shift, from the start of the story (up to Dante's escape) and from then on to the novel's conclusion is also quite jarring. The beginning is full of insight into Dante's frame of mind and feelings but that is cut off as soon as the Count of Monte Cristo persona takes over. I found this very frustrating. There's very little for us to emotionally feed off of because we have no idea what the Count is thinking. Of course, it's sort of appealing that he's so above ordinary men by this stage but that leaves Dante's character rather flat for most of the novel. I've read short stories with more character insight than the entirety of this book! Whilst we're on the subject of the Count's greatness - yes, his plans all working out nearly perfectly and him being so in charge of everything is sort of attractive - but it's also a little bit boring once you realise that the Count's basically got everything covered and sorted. For instance - was the plot line with Valentine really supposed to be in doubt? That seemed dragged out for rather petty reasons to me if it weren't.
Another failing of this still fun book was that Edmond's revenge felt anti-climatic every time. Because Dumas races along so fast (like the Count himself) and the characters are rather flat the satisfaction that ought to be felt is rather minimal. There's nothing in the way of an epic confrontation when the Count finally reveals himself - everyone seems to gasp in horror and disbelief, run off and that's about it.
As I said at the start this is a fun novel but it's not the sort of literary beast that you usually associated with most nineteenth century classics (perhaps that's a good thing for some people?). It's an enjoyable read that I was able to get through with ease and speed because of its simple writing and furious pace. But a lot in the story did seem simple and convenient and although I was happy at the outcome it didn't feel as monumental I'd hoped it would when starting out on the journey.
The Count of Monte Cristo was fun but ultimately inconsequential. If you want a doorstopper of a novel featuring an outstanding lead character fighting through life and having an epic showdown with his nemesis that isn't always predictable (except for him making the ladies swoon) then try Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi. Now that's monumental.
The first 200 pages or so focus on the betrayal and
There were parts of this book that, while still great fun to read, felt like maybe we were losing the plot a bit, but sticking with them always brought us back to our story with greater insight into how everyone was connected. The chapters in Rome were a bit like that at first, and I am still scratching my head at the tales of the gang-raping bandits that were thrown in there, I don't think that was needed to introduce Vampa. Everyone has a rich and often salacious backstory, and we get all the details.
The revenge is fantastic because everyone's downfall was of their own making, secrets brought to light and dishonors uncovered. I suppose it would have been a much shorter book if they were all just killed after the prison escape.
I know it's a sign of the time it was written, but I did not like that the Count had slaves, or the circumstances of getting them, especially Ali. It seems that part of the immense wealth of the Count had to be shown through his possession of "exotic" things, and people....That certainly sours you to him for a while. He also is changed in his quest for revenge, and through parts of the story you start to wonder if he also turns into a villain in the end. I greatly enjoyed how the story was resolved, though I have to imagine Valentine is furious with the deception.
This is a classic I will revisit, I don't think I've enjoyed myself so much with a book in ages.
This was a great book and adventure. It not only had a wonderful suspenseful tale, but it had all the deep questions of the soul in it. Very good pondering.
The story follows Edmund
The book is separated into volumes, but I would separate it into six thematic sections: before prison, during prison, recovering from prison, rewarding friends, building revenge, and closure. Each one has a different feel to it. The revenge section is by far the longest, and perhaps the slowest - but by then, I was hooked, and I liked waiting for the hammer to fall on the count’s enemies.
Recommendation: Anyone who loves a historical fiction, adventure, or suspense. This is also a great read when you only have time for a chapter or two in one sitting.
Feels: Well-rounded, exciting, colorful. Satisfying (lots of revenge and wish-fulfillment).
Favorites: The side characters are fantastic, and I’m a sucker for good villains. The thing is, no one is “the evil villain” - they’re regular people, and you understand them even as you hate them. I also loved the way storylines intertwine, but without cheesy parallels. A lot of modern books/TV/movies tie the story up in a perfect little bow, everything symmetrical and no loose ends.
Least favorites: The ending was satisfying, but it did feel a little rushed.
Writing style: Just as elaborate as I was expecting, but surprisingly easy to read, once you get used to the names. The perspective bounces around to different characters/locations every chapter or so, letting you see each new event in a slightly different light. You see the Count as himself in one chapter, then you meet a “mysterious stranger” in the next (with a wink and a nod from the author). Dumas doesn’t always tell you what the count is doing, so much as he leads you gently down the path to figuring it out yourself.
I doubt I need to do a summary. Monte Cristo is famous as the ultimate novel of revenge, and rightly so. The reader is
And then it drags. It drags for a fairly hefty portion of the book. We are introduced to new characters and shown enough of them to get a feel for their personality. We see the vast wealth of the new Count of Monte Cristo (of whom the reader but not the characters of the book know the real identity). And boy is he wealthy. The immensity of it all is pounded into our heads until we are sick of it. The many and frequent descriptions of his exotic Oriental property, food, and slaves also starts to get old after awhile. We all know he's plotting something, especially when he begins to get close to those responsible for his imprisonment, but we don't know what. There's a lot of set up that leaves the reader wondering "Well, when he is going to get on with ruining their lives?"
And then, approximately two thirds of the way through the book, he "gets on" with it and the books becomes a page turner you cannot put down. It devours your life and leaves you with an aching wrist from holding up this nose breaker of a book but still wanting more.
What I most enjoyed was Dantes's transformation. He's a lovely, generous character in the beginning but when he returns as the count, he is despicable. Believing to be acting as God's emissary, he excuses his actions through religion. He's cold and ruthless, ruining his enemy's honor, destroying their fortunes, and driving away their families before doing away with them. Even knowing what he's been through, at times it was hard to sympathize with Dantes. But at the same time, it was even harder to sympathize with his enemies. Most of the time, I pitied the innocent family members of Dantes's enemies. They were the ones unjustly punished.
Eventually, Dantes has a paradigm shift after one of his schemes leads to the death of an innocent boy and he realizes how his need for vengeance has been controling him. It's a tear-inducing moment when he forgives Danglars, the chief instigator of his own ruin, and allows himself to love and be loved again.
This book is beautiful. Yes, it's long and at times even tedious. The characters are not always likeable and sometimes, you hate them all. I would recommend having other books on hand to break this one up when you start to feel a bit overloaded. But it's all more than worth it in the end. Upon finishing this book, I immediately went back and reread favorite moments. This will be a book I keep by my bedside so that the tragic, yet always hopeful, life of Edmund Dantes is never far from reach.
I guess the fact that I read an entire novel of hardly under 1300 pages without being bored shows that this book has stood the test of time. Even though the set of characters remain in Paris for a good 800 pages, one never feels like skiping ahead because any detail could be a
This book has perhaps restored my faith in the 19th century novel. The perhaps now absurd focus on upper class is not bothersome after a page or 50, and it shows that one can get used to any style of prose. Monte Cristo and the entire set of characters are truly memorable, and even though they come across as a bit romanticized, they strike the heart and manage to appear as realistically as fiction allows.
Edmond Dantes is wrongfully accused of a crime and thrown in prison without trial to be forgotten, after overcoming both mental and physical anguish and befriending a fellow prisoner, and finally he is able to escape. Thanks to his friendship Dantes knows where a potential hidden treasure is located and finds it to be real, and using it begins finding out why he was thrown into prison and chart is path to revenge through fortune and hidden identities. Yet what this quick synopsis omits is the numerous and fascinating major and secondary characters that Dantes interacts throughout the narrative.
Originally published in serial form, Dumas was paid for how much he wrote and one would think that The Count of Monte Cristo might be riddled with meandering subplots that never go anywhere and/or have nothing to do with the central plot. But Dumas instead wove a tapestry of beauty with every word he wrote; instead of making meandering plots he described scenes and events in rich detail that it brings the story even more alive in the reader’s imagination.
If pressed to find anything negative to say about this book, the easiest answer would be cultural references that are almost 170 years old. The only other negative was the completely different societal norms that were in Parisian society in the 1840s compared today’s. However both of these ‘negatives’ can easily be put down to a piece of fiction that was contemporary when it was written but now can be seen as historical fiction with the passage to time.
The Count of Monte Cristo needs to be read in all its unabridged glory to fully appreciate why it is a masterpiece and classic. Dumas’ literary tapestry is a delight to behold once finished with the last page and makes the reader think about when they’ll have time to reread it in the future.
There are many