Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Count of Monte Cristo

I was very glad that Lisa picked this book to read this month. Jonathan had read it years ago and was telling me how I needed to read it. Let's just say, I've never been one very keen on the classics. Until recently. Perhaps I avoided them before because they were "school work" and that, of course, was to be avoided at all cost. I much preferred to read my own books, away from the curriculum suggestion list. However, I now have to admit that I missed out. The good news is -- there is time to catch up. My husband, being an avid classics fan, seems to have read just about everything I haven't. Now is the time to even the score.

Years ago I had tried reading The Three Musketeers by Dumas but was unable to finish it. I don't remember the exact reason I stopped reading, but the subject matter was beginning to bother me. I wasn't sure what to expect with The Count, but I happily sped through the pages.

I hardly know where to begin on a review of this book because the story line was so indepth and the characters all so complex. Yet, despite the events and occasional name/title changes, it was very easy to follow. Jonathan had told me that we weren't allowed to watch the movie version (2002) until I had finished reading the book precisely because the book was much more complex and he didn't want me to miss out on anything important. We watched the movie upon completion of the book and now I understand what he meant. Now, I suppose, the only way I know of to review the book is to compare it to the movie.

Where the book presents Edmond Dantes as a rather naive character until Abbe Faria, Dantes' fellow prisoner, sparked connections in Dantes' mind regarding how it is that he ended up in prison. The movie just makes Dantes out to be an idiot (who stupidly accepts a letter from Bonaparte himself!) and only realizes his stupidity after it is too late. And although Faria's part in the book lasts but a moment (when you consider the actual length of the tale) you can feel his presence throughout. Faria's character,encouraging Dante to learn and to grow in prison and not to seek vengeance for himself when out, can be felt through the entire book. The movie makes Faira out to be little more than a treasure map to the future Count's riches instead of a deeply loved and respected friend.

The book does not separate Dantes' faith in God from his actions for a moment. Although at times misguided, he keeps God in the forefront of his mind. In the movie, he curses God (and you'd almost wish he'd die). The book offers redemption and a future beyond the pain of Dantes' past. The movie leaves you with a longing towards the two hours you lost while watching it. (Except if you are just enjoying down time with your husband, of course.)

The "good guy" characters in the book are noble, to the point where you desperately wish Dantes' life hadn't taken the turn that it did early on. Yet it leaves you feeling satisfied that all that can be made right, has been made right. The movie is deplete of nobility (in the true sense of the word). But then that's Hollywood for you. I made the decision following the movie that someone, somewhere needs to change the rules for allowing a movie to be "based on the story by..." and instead relabeled, "based loosely on the story by..."

I thought the book was wonderful. I enjoyed the way that Dumas was able to tie together about five different tales and show how they were all intertwined beyond a brief glance at any individual character. The way he wove his character's pasts in and around each other was amazing. While on the surface his story appears complex, in reality its a simplistic "It's a Small World After All" piece of work. But you'd never know it while in the middle of reading. Each revelation leaves you racing forward in the book to see how everything will play out. The movie? Skip it. The book will entertain you far better.


At 11:01 PM, Blogger BLF said...

I'm still knee-deep in this one, but I like it so far. I'll post something profound (or not) as soon as I finish it, which will be by the end of this week. Here's hoping.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Haven't had a chance to re-read it this time around yet, but I'll comment on it before this post grows old. I read it a few years ago and definitely enjoyed it, although I didn't think it was one of his strongest books. Ironically, it was by far one of the cleanest - while I enjoyed the plot twists, intrigues, and witty dialoge of Queen Margot or The Queen's Necklace far more, I found his other novels far more french in their level of scandal. Count is pretty restrained, as I recall.

Which is why the butchering by the movie so annoyed me! I agree with everything you say about the movie, Carrie - not worth it! It has some cleverish lines and a few good swashbuckling scenes, but the characters are utterly ruined and the nuances of the morals completely lost. In the book, the slow plot for vengeange unwinds delicately and subtly; in the movie it's pretty obvious and rather flat. And the tale of redemption is a powerful one - forgiveness and regeneration win out over revenge, as one comes to realise one's powerlessness to mete out justice on a grand scale.

The one thing that annoyed me the most about the book was how it ended, and that directly opposed to the movie, which of course has the main character getting back together with his old squeeze. I didn't like the hint that Dantes and Haydee got together.

I loved how quickly the plot moved, especially in the beginning. I remember being struck, 50 pages in, that all the action so far had occurred on one afternoon!

One futher silly thing about the movie: teaching someone to fence using bits of straw!!

At 11:15 AM, Blogger BLF said...

Well, I gave up. I was 800 pages into it and realized there was just no way to finish it in time. I'm surrounded by all the books I need to pack, so I felt a little guilty taking so much time to read. But I did skim to the end, and I have mixed feelings about it. All in all, I like the story, although it comes across as a bit too sensationalist to me. Highly entertaining, but not great literature. I like the character development and the intertwining of their lives in such a creative way. It's like an early 19th-century version of Alias.

The one thing that did bug me was the rather stereotyped portrayal of women. Mercedes wasn't so bad, and Valentine had a little personality, but the other women just seemed kind of silly to me. Really--no one talks or acts like that (of course, in some cases, the men weren't much better). And what's up with all the hysterics? I'm happy to say that I've never gone into hysterics in my life, nor have I fainted, and I don't intend to start. I wonder if women really acted that way, or if that was just the general perception of them in Dumas's world, so that would be what readers expected. I'm guessing that Jane Austen had a far more realistic idea of women, which is why her books are so much more enjoyable for women.

Anyway, it was a fun book (that parts I read, that it), and maybe I'll get around to reading all the way through it some time.


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