Title: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Page count: 874 pages (Wordsworth classics paperback)
Rating: 4/5 stars
At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal: to finally properly tackle some of the really big books on my TBR. The first book ended up a choice between Don Quixote and The Count of Monte Cristo. I think I might’ve flipped a coin or something (I don’t particularly remember the choosing process), but in the end, Monte Cristo it was.
And what a great first Big Book of the year! Let me give you the Goodreads summary first:
The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great thrillers of all time. In 1853 William Thackeray wrote to a friend: ‘began to read Monte Cristo at six one morning and never stopped till eleven at night.’. Falsely accused of treason, the young sailor Edmund Dantes is arrested on his wedding day and imprisoned in the island fortress of the Chateau d’If. After staging a dramatic escape, he sets out to discover the fabulous treasure of Monte Cristo and catch up with his enemies. A novel of enormous tension and excitement, Monte Cristo is also a tale of obsession and revenge. Believing himself to be an ‘Angel of Providence’, Dantes pursues his vengeance to the bitter end, only then realizing that he himself is a victim of fate.
First off: I have no clue how mr. Thackeray apparently just kept on reading like this. Did he finish the book in a single day? Because it took me 6 weeks to finish, and whenever I got more than 30 pages a day I considered it a very successful day of reading. The book isn’t the easiest to read if you’re not used to not only the older style (it’s a 19th century French book translated to 19th century English) but also the much fancier way of talking that the characters use.
But I will readily admit: despite the struggles (at first) with the language, this was a roller coaster of a ride, calm parts and all. It even starts off amazing, I was hooked from the beginning. The story is set up really well, and it definitely read like an action movie.
Unfortunately, after the first 200-or-so pages, the story suddenly changes to a different character, the count doesn’t show up for a while, and everything turns very confusing. I kept wondering how all of it was related to the actual story of the count, and at some points I even considered giving up. But since I was over over 300 pages in at this point, I figured I was at the point of no return, so I decided to just keep going.
And oh boy, once you start connecting the dots and seeing where the story leads? You can feel the tension start building up slowly, so so slowly, but it just keeps building and building until at the end it’s impossible to put the book down again. I may or may not have hugged the book while sighing dramatically when I finished it.
The Count of Monte Cristo is an intricate and exquisite story, and though at times it leaves you wondering what is going on, it’s definitely worth it. I can see why it’s considered one of Dumas’ best works.
At times, it does get hard to keep track of all the characters though. Not only are there a lot of people, they also tend to have double names, nicknames, you name it. I won’t deny that I’ve had to look up who’s who several times, right up until the end (pro tip: you might want to keep a list).
Still, despite having finished the book about 10 days ago at the time of writing this, I’ve found myself strangely missing the book and its characters, especially the count. I rarely feel this much sympathy and understanding for characters like these, but oh, Haydée, and Edmond, and Valentine, and Maximilian. I’m genuinely a bit sad that I won’t ever see them in a different story.
So do I recommend this book? I mean, I’m not sure how to make it more obvious that the answer to that is an emphatic yes. It’s long, it’s daunting, it’s challenging, but it’s also worth it to push through.
Bonus points for the book: a legit lesbian couple (not with as many words, but they share a bed and one of them is used to dressing up as a man and they literally run off together. Doesn’t get more obvious than that). This book is also the biggest book I’ve read, at least as far as I can remember, so there’s a fun little bonus fact for y’all.