I feel exhausted, completely and totally exhausted. Why? I just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Believe me, it was fun but it was also a lot of work. I’ve read many longer books, but even some longer weren’t as much work. Further, now I have to sit down and think of what to say to you all about it. Oh well, here goes.
(Note, for those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 6th for Scott Turow.)
I’ll start off by saying that I’m going to talk about this one a little bit differently than I usually do when sitting down to do a longer review. Exactly what I mean will be evident shortly, but I think there is no other way for me to cover The Count of Monte Cristo.
There is probably no need to cover the basic overall of this particular volume. Most people who have never even read Dumas know what this is about; The Count of Monte Cristo is the first thing people think of when they think of a revenge story. Hell, even The Simpsons did a short version of it. Still, this is the story of Edmond Dantes. A good and industrious young man, a few undeserved enemies are jealous of him. Through their machinations he loses everything he has and is unjustly imprisoned for what is to be the rest of his life. However, he makes a friend of an imprisoned abbot. The abbot teaches him and tells him where a treasure is buried. Dantes escapes and goes about revenging himself on those who did him wrong.
Of course, this is wildly simplified. There is just no way of explaining how overly simplified this is. Really, no soap opera on Earth has had a more convoluted and complex plot structure. Dumas is the beginning and end word on this sort of thing, and he managed to keep it all corralled much better than any soap opera ever did.
I mean, he doesn’t just kill his enemies. He makes them suffer, and he makes them suffer in ways that take years and years and years to come about. Thousands of tiny events and happenings have to line up, some because of Dantes and some not. Really, the first hundred pages or so are a record of dramatically unlucky things happening to Dante (assisted by a few jealous persons) followed by the rest of the book being a record of how unlucky his persecutors find themselves (helped along, of course, by Dantes).
Seriously, there is a great argument here that Dantes just acts for god. I mean, his enemies have already built Dantes’ revenge into their lives by the time Dante comes on the scene again. He just has to find out where to push and everything goes right into motion. He barely has to even try. Things just work out. Of course, up until that turning point in the book the same could have been said about Dantes, and he had done nothing to deserve it. If the latter portion is Dantes acting as the instrument of the divine will, is not the former the capricious and unjust divine punishment of an undeserving soul? Am I going to hell just for asking that question?
I don’t know, but I do know it was pretty damn complicated. Even now I can barely keep track of it all.
That is where we come to the part about how I’m doing this review different from I do for other books. One thing you will notice is that I haven’t mentioned a single quote yet. Nor will there be one. Normally I like to cite, if not heavily, to the text I’m considering. However, how would I do this here? What portion of The Count of Monte Cristo could I cite that would demonstrate what I’m talking about? A single paragraph wouldn’t suffice, nor a single page or chapter. There are simply too many threads. To give one example would necessitate talking about hundreds of others. Pulling one thread would just cause the whole thing to collapse. As such, I give you none and just tell you that this is the case.
Really, I actually did enjoy reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I admit, it did feel like a bit of work. However, despite that, I did have fun. It was amazing to see just how meticulously and intricately Dumas had set this all up. That’s why, even though I found myself shouting “Just fucking kill them already!” as I read, I would not advise reading an abridged copy. There is just too much you could miss, and you really need every bit of what is there if you are going to bother reading this book. ‘Nuff said.