The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

My good friend Arjun recommended this to me.

I listened to the version read by Richard Matthews, a British reader and he read it very well indeed.

Of course the book was originally written in French and I know not who did the translation that I read, but it was as if the book were written in English. One choice they made that, to my mind was the right choice, was to keep names and titles in the French, for example the Procureur du Roi, monsieur de Procureur, and so on, rather than the Royal Prosecutor. Knowing a little French, I had no trouble with this, but I wonder how it would have read to someone with no knowledge of French? It reminds me of my reading A Clockwork Orange and being a Russian speaker; my experience of that novel was not the same as it would be for non Russian speakers.

Anyway, enough of that. Arjun is of the opinion that it is the best book he’s ever read. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it was very, very good. It’s the first and only Dumas novel I’ve read, and may in fact be the first French literary novel I’ve read. The tale is a simple tale of revenge for a wrongful imprisonment. The Count himself becomes almost God-like in stature; he seems to be omnipotent and able to influence people to do his will. In fact, that aspect seems a little unbelievable, sort of like Jason Bourne of 18th century France, but with Jason Bourne you know you’re reading make believe as it’s so far fetched. The Count seems much more credible than Jason, but he loses some of that credibility as his powers and knowledge increase. How, for example, could he possibly learn to speak so many languages like a native in so short a time? Language is something that I know something about and I know how far-fetched that really is. But, once disbelief is suspended, the novel becomes great.

At some 30-odd hours, you would think it would be a little dull in parts, and to be honest it is, but at the same time it is easy to listen to. I was a little worried at the morality of the Count and his taking revenge with such little humility and sympathy, but the ending assuaged that fear of mine and he redeemed himself admirably. I think I can say that without a spoiler alert.

All in all, I’m very glad that I read this book and I would heartily recommend it. I give it four.