While I was in the U.K, I happened to hear about a nice bookstore named Blackwells in Oxford. Having an endless love for literature, I decided to hop by and give it a try. Little did I know that m soul (and my wallet) would soon be sucked away by it. My friends soon had to warn me that bringing as much weight as I was (even if it was books) is illegal. I promptly said, that, if necessary, I would through all the rest of my belongings away and arrive only with the clothes on my back and my precious, precious books. In all, I bought about 30 books, all classics of literature from the Blackwells Classic section. (yes. They have a Classics section. Beautiful) And please, do not ask how much I paid for all them. I dont know and I dont wanna know.
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But now that Ive started to work my way through my new library, I figured it was time to write a new book review. God its been ages. And what better way to go than with this timeless old classic, the Count of Monte Cristo, a work so famous the almost everyone is at least sure to know of it.
The books plot is very famous. Often copied. Never bettered. A young sailor named Edmond Dantes seems to have all the luck in the world. He is engaged to a beautiful girl named Mercedes, who loves him passionately. His boss likes him. And, he is about to be made captain of the Pharon, a supreme honor for one so young.
Unfortunately, success will always draw the envy and hatred of others. In this case two others. Dantes co-worker Danglars who lusts after the Pharon himself, and Mercedes cousin Fernand, who lusts after her. Together Danglars and Fernand hatch a plot which brands Dantes as an agent of Napoleon, and thus lands him in federal custody. And of all days it happens on the night of his wedding.
He is still hopeful of getting off quickly, so as to get back to the festivities. And at first luck seems to again smile on him. The Chief Prosecutor, named Villefort, is getting married as well, and feels a lot of sympathy for young Edmond. He believes that he is innocent and is on the verge of letting him go. However, Villefort is soon terrified to realize that Dantes has come into contact with information that might discredit him. He smiles at Dantes, and asks him to go with some nice men for a while. These men take him to the Chateau Dif, a notorious prison just off the coast.
All is not lost though. For he makes a friend in the prison named Father Fariah. Everyone believes Fariah is mad when he says that he knows the location of an enormous treasure, but he is not mad. When he dies (after teaching Edmond science, law, and culture among other things) he bequeaths to Edmond the location of the treasure. Edmond escapes the prison and finds the treasure. Now, empowered by wealth, and able to take revenge on those who have wronged him, he rises again as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo, determined to bring ruin to all his enemies.
The plot for the book is naturally fantastic. It works very well as sheer entertainment. There are all the elements for a rousing adventure story. There is the daring escape from prison, the discovery of a massive treasure, encounters with bandits, revenge. All the sort of things you would find in an adventure book like 1001 Arabian Nights (characters in the book actually make frequent reference to Nights). It is very exciting, with lots of twists and turns as we see how Edmond slowly works his way into the lives of his prey, concealed beneath a new cultured façade and limitless money. We feel a great deal of suspense as he spreads his nets and begins to set the traps for each of the evil doers. But each time we think we know what is going to happen, something explosive occurs, and the situation is entirely changed. This book would work well as just any other old mystery or adventure story.
It also has great characters in it. There is someone for almost everyone to relate to. Parents can relate the father like figure of Fariah as he steadily grows to love Edmond and tries to make him happy. Many will relate to Mercedes, with her overwhelming love for her son and her devotion to making him happy. Others will relate more strongly to the anger and the lust for revenge that Edmond feels. He is initially a very sweet character, entirely unsure of what happened to him. But as he learns from Fariah, gradually he begins to understand that he was not just the victim of fate, but that individuals marked him out for destruction. He becomes bitter and cold towards the world. He is still able to put on the façade of happiness, and indeed has an almost magnetic power to draw people to him, not just because of his fabulous wealth. But he is driven by a need for revenge and one suspects all the trappings and artwork that he surrounds himself with as Monte Cristo are simply for show and do not really make him happy. And many will be able to relate to the two young men of the piece, Albert and Maximillian in their quest to sort out their place in the world and their willingness to latch on to an older role model to show them the way.
The book is also impressive because there is more going on beneath the surface than simply an adventure story filled with great characters. There are indeed many lessons in the book. One of them is indeed the notion that revenge is hollow, and will not bring happiness. In the end, Dantes feels more fulfilled helping others with his great wealth that damning his enemies with it. There are also warnings from Dumas (the author) for mankind not to get to full of itself. He warns that no matter how smart and powerful we become, one man is not God and do not have his power to be judge, jury and executioner to men, no matter how terrible that person may be. As Dantes says in the end Pray sometimes for the man who, like Satan, though himself for an instant Gods equal but now acknowledges that God alone possesses supreme power and infinite wisdom.
Are there any problems with this book? A few. Most of the reviews Ive read suggest the version most people have read is about 500 pages. Suck it up, I say, for the one I read clocks at 1092 pages. This is the original, uncut, unabridged, version. And let me say, it needs to be cut. Sorry. Had to say it. The first 200 and the last 300 pages of the book move at a lightning fire pace that keeps the heart pumping and the pages turning. But the middle of it can be very tedious sometimes, and the author sometimes requires an extreme amount of back story even for the most unimportant of characters. At least a couple hundred pages could be cut out to make a book just as, if not more effective in getting its message across, and also quicken the pace. I have no problem with reading a big book (I loved every bit of War and Peace. So much so I wanted more.) But longer is not always better.
But, other than that, this is a great book. It deserves to be read by all people, and is a good beginners classic, because it is not too heavy (in a non literal sense) I think everyone would find something to like here, and I recommend it to all.
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