Themes of Love The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This was actually my second read of the Count of Monte Cristo (the first one being at the age of 12 after having seen the movie and enthusiastically embracing the challenge of reading a monstrous classic such as this one), and I have to say that I was certainly able to appreciate it on a different level. Having a better command of the English language obviously helped, but it was more related to the fact that I was able to connect more directly with some of the themes of the book. Most 12 year olds have not experienced romantic love, betrayal, or revenge in any meaningful way (although to be fair, most people have not experienced any of these in the way our Count has!), and that made reading the book at a young age feel like a chore. I’m sure this trend will only continue as I get older, so if any younger readers out there feel like they’re trudging through the book, put it down for a few years and come back to it later! It will make a huge difference.
As far as the story goes, I found that I my expectations for the book had leaned too hard on what the movie presented. I know that movies are typically pretty different from their book counterparts, and I expected there to be medium-to-large subplots in the book that I hadn’t encountered before. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that some of the story had flat out changed – including some HUGE turning points in the movie. On one hand, that made the book more exciting to read, but I had been looking forward to reading through some of the movie events and was disappointed when they failed to materialize. With that being said, I would highly recommend that anyone thinking about reading the book treat it almost as a different interpretation of the movie’s story, as they end up being quite different (and both good!)
Personally, I felt like the story’s pace ebbed and flowed quite a bit. There were chapters that I was struggling to get through because they felt like filler, and other chapters that had me glued to my seat. As was typical with some of the longer “classics” that were written in the 18th and 19th centuries, the book in its original form was published serially in volumes – sort of like a recurring column/short story in a magazine or newspaper. I’m sure that the author was incentivized to make the story longer wherever possible, as each additional volume was another paycheck (I can’t actually verify that that’s true, just speculation on my part). There are literally parts in the book where characters will stop and say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that – could you repeat what you said?”, only for the first character to repeat it verbatim. Perhaps a bit too realistic for me! I also think that the sheer number of characters introduced in the book slowed character development and bogged the story down a bit, as it took considerable effort just to keep everyone straight – especially after having put the book down for a week or two here and there.
That being said, the good parts were VERY easy to read. It’s common to struggle through older English, but this particular translation did a great job making it more accessible (I am by no means a translation expert and some of the other reviews go into more detail here). The exciting parts of the story were a bit over the top, but I can’t fault the author for writing this in a similar style to his Romantic counterparts. I don’t want to say too much, but the end was EXTREMELY gratifying, given how long the story takes to build up to it. I also appreciated the additional depth (as compared to the movie), as it really grounded Dantes’ motivations and provided more detailed explanations of some of the story points whereas the movies had to make some logic jumps to fit within a reasonable timeframe.