The Delicious Monte Cristo

The Count, from one of the film renditions of Dumas’ Novel. The book, although less sultry, is definitely just as pleasing.

On the Count of ‘Monte Cristo’

I wandered upon «The Count of Monte Cristo» somewhat by accident. The title was familiar to me only in passing–I was under the impression it was an Italian story from the early Modern era (whenever that is, my gut had vague whisperings about the 1700s). Reader, I will announce with no shame that I was entirely wrong on both accounts! Horribly, horribly wrong.

The story was serialized by French author Alexander Dumas, and published in the French newspaper _Le Journal des débats_ between 1844 and 1845. [1] The book is something like a soap opera, with cliffhanger endings, stark moralizations, and vicarious thrills aplenty.

Although the book (or at least my condensed MacMillan collector’s edition) runs to several hundred pages, the story is entirely too straightforward to offer a synopsis without spoiler: a virtuous man is deceived, deprived, and imprisoned for fourteen years. Upon his escape, he is rich, educated, and worldly and exacts a most elegant and delicious revenge upon those who wronged him.

That said, the book is thus over.

O, to think that, dear reader, you would be sorely mistaken. For the beauty of Monte Cristo lies not in the events, but the story itself. To read along with our wronged hero is to take part in his multifarious triumphs, to be vicariously rewarded with the delivery of revenge that is entirely justified and masterfully executed.

On So Perfect An Escape

Dumas’ tale is a perfect evening or weekend read for anyone who enjoys classical prose–if you are not a fan of Ye Old Timey language, you might want to sit this one out. That said, as «Monte Cristo» was written for a general audience, the language is grand but rarely verbose, and the story is easily followed and honestly just good fun.

I don’t think I have so thoroughly enjoyed a book for the pure story in months. If one is willing to suspend disbelief, and relinquish modern judgements for a work nearly two hundred years old, it is a perfect literary escape.

[1]: So prolific was Dumas, that one critic labelled him “Alexander Dumas & Co, novel factory.” Sourced from Marcus Clapham’s afterword to the Macmillan Collector’s Edition (2017).