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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Count of Monte Cristo
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on March 31, 2003
The Count of Monte Cristo has just about everything you could ask for in a novel: adventure, suspense, intrigue, betrayal, sword-fighting, and revenge. Here's a brief run-down on the storyline (I'll not give anything critical away). The year is 1815. Edmond Dantes, a young sea captain from Mersailles, France returns to port to be with his fiancé, the beautiful Mercedes. He carries a letter given to him by Napolean Bonaparte (currently exiled on the island of Elba off the coast of France) and charged to secretly deliver it to a well known Bonapartist who is the father of the current Deputy Procuror to Louis XVIII. Dantes does not deliver it but three of his friends conspire against him and falsely accuse him of treason, Fernand Mondego because he wants to marry Dantes' fiancé (Fernand's cousin), Danglars because of Dantes' recent promotion to captain over him, and Villefort because his father is the abovesaid Bonapartist, and wants no word of the letter to get out. Dantes is imprisoned for 13 years, escapes, and returns to Mersailles learned, sophisticated, politically and socially well connected, trained in nearly every art of combat, and wealthy beyond measure to take his revenge.
This book is long, about 1100 pages, and before taking on such a book people usually want to know if it's worth it. If you like 19th century French Revolutionary novels then the answer is a decisive yes. And even if you're not prone to picking up 200 year-old classic behemoths on a whim, this is still a good read. At its core, the story is a thriller, not an adventure tale. I went in thinking this was going to be The Three Muskateers (one of Dumas' other, perhaps more well known, stories). I was expecting constant excitement and swashbuckling adventure. And while there is a good portion of this in Monte Cristo, most of the book is dialogue...lots of dialogue. In contrast to someone like Hugo (Les Miserables), Dumas is not prone to diverging into 75 page monologues on say, the Battle of Waterloo. Instead, Dumas keeps the tension up constantly; there are always hidden agendas, secret plots, and characters so engaging and proficient in the art of conversation and cunning that you wonder if people like this actually exist. One of the most amazing features of the storyline is the sheer number and complexity of the relationships between characters. Just to give you an idea: Monte Cristo's servant, Bertruccio has a sister named Assunta who is the mother of an adopted Andrea Cavalcanti who is the biological brother of Valentine who is the daughter of Villefort who is the former husband of Renee who is the actual mother of Andrea Cavalcanti. Oh yes, and Valentine is the lover of a friend of a lover to the wife of the father of a girl who is betrothed to the friend of the man who is actually betrothed to Valentine! I kid you not! Altogether the characters comprise a tangled web that can make for a confusing read if you don't keep careful track of who's who. There is also a glossary in the back of the book that helps with many of the historical names and places. Monte Cristo is as much a history lesson as it is an adventure.
Much of the story takes place in aristocratic estate rooms or at fancy dinner tables. But interspersed throughout are scenes in caves, prison cells, tunnels, ancient ruins, dark alleyways, and of course, treasure hunting on Isle Monte Cristo. My favorite parts are the prison chapters (nearing 100 pages) because of the insight they give into Dantes' character. Most of the book, however, centers around Dantes' laborious and incessantly meticulous plots to bring ruin to his betrayers. Dumas devotes hundreds of pages to explaining in excruciating detail the Count's interactions with dozens of characters, all with the goal of setting them against one another so he can sit back and watch as each of his enemies inadvertently bring ruin on themselves through their own greed or sense of injustice. Indeed, Dantes' comes to believe that he is an angel of providence sent by God to deliver justice. He becomes self-absorbed, obsessed, and so removed from society into his own self-created legend that it is impossible for him to find any comfort in his actions or goals.
This story is a sweeping and powerful one. The character of Dantes epitomizes wealth, power, sophistication and determination. The recently released movie only hints at the complexity of the story. Many characters like Valentine, Caderousse, Andrea, Franz, Renee and others are completely omitted and Morrel, Danglars, and Vampa are reduced to rather minor roles. The movie is, for the most part, accurate up through the prison scenes and then the storyline and even the ending are completely changed (it's more of a philosophical, pragmatic ending in the book, not a classic fairy-tale one). Overall a great book, especially if you like a good thriller.
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on January 27, 2003
I just finished this book and I agree with all the positive comments previously posted. Just wanted to add a few thoughts.
This book was originally serialized in a French magazine back in the 1840s. As a consequence, there are repeated cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. Now I don't mind cliffhangers (hey, they move the plot along) but after 116 of these it got a little old. In addition, some of the character transformations seem implausible and Dumas gets some of his facts mixed up from the early part of the novel (I probably would as well).
I could pick bones about some part. What was the purpose of the whole Cucumetto bandit story? Maybe Dumas was saving him for later but he never does. They plot also needs a miraculous set of confluences to happen in say, well, every part of novel. Entertaining, yup, but at times I just said, "Oh come on now!" The character of Monte Cristo is a very interesting one. If he could ever hook up with Hannibel Lector, another guy who has the highest level of expertise in nearly every field and endeavor, the rest of us would be in big trouble.
Buy this book and enjoy it. It's really quite fun and you'll learn a lot about French history and culture.
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on January 8, 2003
A simple sailor, Edmond Dantes, becomes ship captain and wins the heart of one of Marseille's most beautiful women, eliciting jealousy amongst a shipmate (Danglars) and a friend (Fernand), who then use a loose connection between Dantes and the Bonapartists to have him arrested. After escaping, he transforms into the Count of Monte Cristo (with the help of an uncovered treasure), and infiltrates Parisian high society with the intention of ruining the men who unjustly imprisoned him fourteen years prior.
An interesting story with a lot of drama, but the Count is a bit larger than life, richer than the wealthiest man in Paris, extravagant, and omnipresent in a really annoying way. Rather than retaining the modesty of the Marseille sailor he used to be, he turns into this perfect, almost deity figure who can do no wrong, cures the sick, solves everyone's problems,walks on water, etc...
There are alot of detailed discussion about money in the novel, perhaps a sign of the times and the birth of capitalism. Money and politics are the tools used by the Count to get revenge.
This novel is definitely better than the movie that came out last year (distorted Hollywood [junk]) but it was not as amazing as I'd expected. By the way, I read the full, unabridged edition, but this was the only edition I could write a review for.
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on July 17, 2002
You are not getting the full story with this edition and I am afraid you miss a bunch if you try the fast food variety of this book. While you will get the basics of the story, you miss too much background for it to be believable. The abridged version takes you from a dirty convict one day to a suave and loaded Count the next without showing you the transformation. The story is too good to skip 800 pages!
Anyway...This is a really cool story! Not many of us know what it is like to be extremely wealthy and all powerful, but this book shows us this. After poor fisherman Edmond is thrown in prison for nothing, his fortune turns around and he escapes to the world again (after a decade and a half!) and finds trillions upon trillions (?) of dollars in jewels in gold that a fellow prisoner had discovered a map to. He spends alot of money over the next decade setting up the ultimate vengeance on those responsible for his earlier arrest. VERY ENTERTAINING THROUGHOUT!!! You will get an early view of not only early 19th century Paris but also a beautiful panoramic from life along the Mediteranean to the Catacombs of Rome. A truly sweeping narration!
5 stars for the story!
3 stars for this edition!
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on March 5, 2002
The Count of Mote Cristo is a really exciting and fabulous story; I really enjoyed the book while reading it. The main character Edmond Dantes is about 21 years old, and for him, life is just full of success. He is a successful merchant and is about to be promoted to captain of a ship. At the same time, he is also about to marry a beautiful young girl whom he has loved for a very long time. But amidst all of these happy things, misfortune strikes, and Edomnd Dantes finds himself to be a prisoner in the Chateau D'If for life. He is a prisoner because he is betrayed by his so-called "friends" and rumored to be a servant of Napoleon Bonaparte. However, something miraculously happens, so read it to find out.
Although this novel is usually thought of as a story of revenge, it has an even deeper meaning than that. This story not only warns people who betray others, but it also promotes love, friendship, and most of all hope. When the Count of Monte Cristo comes back and seeks revenge, he also meets some friends on the way that move his heart. Some of his friends become poor and have a sad life because of his imprisonment long ago, but they still hope that he will return and they wait for him day by day. The count rewards them in a secret way, and shows how important it is to have hope in one's life even when there looks like no hope. So when you read this book, keep in mind that there is more to it than just vengeance.
This book is very pleasant and I finished it in a couple of sittings. It will definitely put you on the edge of your chair and you will hardly be able to put the book down. This book is for all kinds of people, but it is especially for people that think life is hopeless, because as this book will point out, nothing in life is ever hopeless.
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on February 8, 2002
Last year my grandfather recommended this book to me. I snorted, thinking, yeah right, I highly doubt I'm gonna read a book like The Count of Monte Cristo any time soon. But after I picked up the novel and actually started to read it, I slowly became more and more fascinated with the plot. As a 12 year old reader I struggled with parts of the book, finding them dull and tedious, but the struggle is worth it in the end!
Alexandre Dumas creates a fabolous tale of revenge and hate in which Edmond Dantes, a young sailor in love, is betrayed by three men of power. Edmond wastes 13 years of his life in the Chateau d'If, a terrible prison in which Edmond loses faith and all chances of ever being with his love again. While there, Edmond learns of a treasure buried on the island of Monte Cristo, and creates a master plan to seek revenge on his enemies, if and when he escapes.
I highly recommend this book, and if you're too lazy to actually pick it up and read it, at least go and see the movie!
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on January 28, 2002
I would give this book 4 1/2 stars if I could. It is truly engrossing. As many previous readers have warned it WILL keep you up nights when you should really put it down and go to bed to wake up for the morning meeting next day.
This story is wonderfully imaginative and intricate. One third of the way into the book (and I'm talking about the Modern Library version with all chapters intact), you wonder why there are so many chapters that ostensibly have little to do with our hero Edmond Dante aka Count of Monte Cristo. The details of where Caderousse end up with La Carconte, the chapters on Luigi Vampa, the chapter on Franz d'Epinay's first encounter with the Count of Monte Cristo? I was slightly baffled as to why Dumas would include them? But I soon understood that every character, no matter how minor, plays some role in the story (either because they become an important instrument later on in the Count's revenge) or they serve to tell us something about the Count (as in Franz d'Epinay's case).
From the beginning of the book until Edmond's escape and discovery of the treasure, the reader is well-involved in his story and his life. After he finds fabulous wealth, the reader knows nothing more about this character's inner life. Everything we know about Edmond (and the Count) from then on, is through others. There is a switch in perspective that should be effective but I found it detracted from the story. Dumas does this of course to convey a sense of mystery surrounding the Count, mystery that is absolutely crucial to his success in gaining revenge. But this sudden break from a mostly single perspective (Edmond) to many, many perspectives about Edmond is distracting, and really breaks the story into two stories rather than one cohesive long tale.
The other criticism I have for this book is the amount of repetitive descriptions. I was at times irritated in the beginning at the numerous "tremblings" and "pale with tremblings" written about Fernand. Later on, Dumas drums into our heads how "mysterious" and "cryptic" and "indecphirable" the Count is. OK, we get it!!
Overall, though I can't criticize much a book that kept me up till 2am for 10 solid days. He certainly did something right! The story is well-thought out, intricate as the plot and subplots can be they tie in (sometimes TOO perfectly) and the characters are well-drawn. And just when I catch myself writing the story off as an action-adventure novel, I run across some of the most exquisite and beautifully noted observations on human behavior I've ever read.
So suspend your disbelief (some of the hyperbole on the superiority of the Count and the heroism of certain characters made me roll my eyes), believe in love (for Mercedes more than Haydee (????)), forgive some of the incredulous moments (agree about others' questioning of Edmond's readiness to throw away his revenge plans when he was so close to suceeding and his sudden remorse at the end is also a stretch). Put all those little criticisms aside, do NOT see the movie that just came out, read this book! It is worth the time investment and sleepless nights.
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on January 25, 2002
I had previously kept way from Dumas novels thinking that they were about swashbuckling and helpless maidens. Since I decided that I should read more classics this year, I picked up this book. Since the film should be releases soon, I figured I should read it before seeing the film might ruin it for me.
That being said, this book was an exceptional story, and lives up to the acclaim. Rather than recount the plot, I will give a few reasons for my 4-star rating. The action begins immediately. While some books walk into the story, this book has significant plot development in the first few pages. Contrary to my preconception, there was really no fighting in the book. The action comes as the Count's intricate plan of revenge unfolds. Dumas does a great job of combining narration with introspection. While unraveling the plot, he provides insight into the emotions and personalities of his characters. In addition, the book isn't mired by excessive language. All in all this is a great story that should appeal to both men and women. I was able to read all 508 pages in a week of leisurely reading.
On a negative point, this specific edition contains numerous typographical errors. Somone favored the letter "A" over "S" and many words are misspelled. If that is important to you, I would suggest you try another edition.
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on June 23, 2000
In this romanitc novel events do not develop quite as quickly as in another very famous Dumas classic, The Three Musketeers. A young Catalonian sailor, Dantes, is unjustly accused an imprisoned--his enemies believe for life. However, he gets an education in prison from Faria who also reveals to him the secret of the enormous treasure hidden, of all people, by Ceasare Borgea. The young sailor miraculously survives his daring escape, obtains the treasure, and uses it to inflict dreadful punishment on his enemies and to reward those who tried to remain loyal to him. Dantes, who morphs into Count Monte Cristo and, along the way, into a cast of supporting characters, sees himself as an instrument of vengeance in the hands of God, whose name he constantly invokes (too often perhaps). But his faith is peculiarly non-Christian, since he harbors earthly hatred and a burning desire for revenge, and has no intention of forgiving his enemies, until they have been reduced to utter misery. Hence all the trappings of the Orient in Monte Cristo's retinue, his furnishings, and even his eating habits--remember he refused to eat when he met his once beloved Mercedez. He is not ready to be merciful and forgiving. Dumas mentions, kind of warily, that Dantes at one instance, toward the end of his vengeance, did reflect that perhaps he has gone too far, but overall, it's still a nice romantic story of love, hate, and ambition where God and faith intervene on behalf of Earthly justice.
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on May 19, 2000
Hi, I am from Glendale, California and I attend school at Clark Magnet High School; anways, I started reading The Count of Monte Cristo when my Mom refereed me to this book and at first I was kind of skeptical about the fact that this book was really long and was translated from French. Then really got into the book and finished reading it, in a week. This book is filled with philosophy, ideology, divinity and almost every other kind of study that has to do with our everyday life. Dante, who is the main character and the hero of the book is a mastermind of planning his attack though he waits for years and years and trusts god as his usher through the process of him taking vengeance on the people who have done him bad. I know that there are many translated versions of this book, but I have read the one translated by Robin Buss. The font on this book is very small and hard to see, but still if you can not find others, I would advise anyone to read this book. I personally think that this book is a little bit too complicated for a teen audience, but don't let my words stop you if you want to try this book. Alexandre Dumas has written many fiction novels including The count of Monte Cristo , but a think this one is his best novel and one of my favorites also. If you really want to read this book and comprehend every detail, I suggest that you take notes and write down all the names because there are people who bounce from section-to-section and some of them have many identities.
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