Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas (1844)

I enjoyed reading Dumas’ epic tale of revenge but after I turned the final page of this lengthy book, I have to admit I felt underwhelmed. Sure, I was never bored or restless while reading The Count and I found Dumas’ prose thoroughly readable but he took an awfully long time to get where he was going. And even then, the payoff was less than anticipated.

I tried to keep my expectations low but after all, it’s The Count of Monte Cristo, hailed by friends and critics alike as one of the finest, most exciting adventure novels of all time! (Their exclamation mark, not mine.) I loved The Three Musketeers and was fully prepared to be swept away by this book and while I was never bored, I kept waiting for more to happen.

Let me put it another way: there’s not a single sword fight in the entire book!

The Count of Monte Cristo is the quintessential revenge story. On the eve of his marriage, Edmond Dantes is falsely accused of treason and railroaded into a prison sentence for life. He escapes from his rocky Alcatraz and spends 800 pages setting in motion a complex web of vengeance, most of which consists of coaxing other characters around the chess board, orchestrating financial ruin, and generally hastening them toward their own despicable ends.

But never, ever, not once does Dantes (aka the Count) ever pick up a sword nor swash a single buckle. The Count is severely lacking in the action department, which is frankly half the reason I paid a ticket to this show. There are some great, almost riveting scenes, some humor and a few spectacular deaths, but I won’t be returning to The Count of Monte Cristo the way I probably will to D’Artagnan and company.

I do have to mention one character I found utterly fascinating, that of Noirtier, an elderly man who suffers a paralyzing stroke. Able to move only his eyes, with which he can communicate, he remains a pivotal character throughout and his interactions provide some of the best suspense in the story. A clever and gripping plot device.

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