I started reading this book at the end of January 2014 and finished it over a year later. I can’t remember if I have mentioned it before on Bernie and Books but it is my reading challenge this year to read 15 books over 700 pages long. I needed motivating to read the huge intimidating books that sit on my shelf like War and Peace and Bleak House which I am currently half way through. The Count of Monte Cristo was the first one I have finished and it’s probably because I have been slowly chipping away at it for a long time. I read it hard copy but also as an audio book. It really helped me get through some of the longer tough sections as I could do other things as I was listening or read in places I wouldn’t be able to read the hard copy. I’m gunna employ this strategy across the board with the 700 pages+ books because it really helped me with The Count of Monte Cristo.
Anyway the book. Edmund Dantes is wrongly imprisoned in le Château d’If for being a Bonapartist. After 14 years he escapes with the help of an Italian Abbé who leaves him the fortune of his previous master which is hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Dantes then spends another ten years plotting the downfall of the men who framed him. That summary makes it sound very straight forward but it really isn’t.
There are so many characters and they all have similar French names or are referred to by 3 different titles that you need a character list as a bookmark so you don’t get confused. Seriously if you want to tackle this epic novel it will make everything so much easier. And I really recommend you do because the plot is amazing. It is one of the richest stories I have ever read. Things that appear to have no significance come back around and surprise you then characters from long ago reappear and change everything.
It is supposed to be a story about revenge but really I feel like it is more about the way our actions effect others. The characters who care for other people are the ones who are rewarded. Valentine’s devoted care of her Grandfather, Morrel’s care of Dantes, Mercedes love for her son; these are the important actions much more so than any cruel act of revenge.
An element of this novel that I enjoyed is the opulence of the Parisian aristocracy. I could just picture the grand rooms, the silk dresses, the huge diamonds. It seems almost a fantasy it is so grand. It is such a contrast to the beginning of the novel where we meet the humble, hard working Edmund as he returns to Marseilles. And then the oppression of le Château d’If which I once visited on a school trip and let me tell you it is everything it is made out to be in the novel. These wonderful settings are brought to life before your eyes so expertly.
French literature is notorious for being long winded and yes this is a very long novel which progresses very slowly but it is so detailed and absorbing. It isn’t really a novel it is a saga, if it was written today it would probably be made into a series of books because the narrative is so richly woven. If you want to read this novel I suggest you do so over a long period of time taking it slowly, absorbing every detail because those details make the most spectacular picture.
Would recommend to: read one chapter at a time.