The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas – 1854
Read by John Lee – 47 hours
(Oxford Edition – 1130 pages)
Rating – 10
I enjoyed this book far far more this second round with it than my first time. The characters and story line were clearer. basically it’s a story of revenge which carries the protagonist and his enemies into all manner of twists and turns. It never lets up for the whole page-turning 1100+ pages.
Part I – (more or less) Young Edward Dantes is an wonderful young man, idealistic, loyal, hard-working and in love with a woman who sincerely loves him in return. The girl’s parents will not approve of their marriage, furthermore, she is betrothed to someone with money and position. Dantes is making nice progress at work but due to a conspiracy of envy, is arrested and put in an island prison but escapes and gains access to unbelievable wealth.
Part 2 starts where Dantes grabs hold of a need to seek revenge on those who conspired to put him in prison and leave him there for (15 years?). During this time his beloved has married the man of her parents’ choice, his friends – employer – have fallen on hard times and those who convicted him gained in wealth. So Dantes acquires property and sets up some revenge scenarios. This is fascinating.
*** Also, the female ex-princess now slave, Haydee enters the plot – and with her there arrives a certain amount of “orientalism” – the idea that the East (Arabia, Persia, etc.) is mysterious, murderous, drugged up and seductive. It’s East against West – the West being personified in our (super-) hero, the Count of Monte Cristo. There are frames and stories which are frames for stories ala Scheherazade.
But the Count of Monte Cristo (Dantes) is no upholder of the social order, he’s not a stabilizing element for a society under siege from several sources. The system of “manners” which Dantes seeks vengeance on (via the Villafort and Danglar families – Caderousse, some others) is based on money and the quest for money via marriage and business fraud and counter-fraud – to the point of murder. ***
The third part has the culmination of all the vengeance activities and Dantes finally wondering if all this murder and mayhem was worth it. But he finishes it up and escapes to his own happy ending.