At more than a thousand pages, The Count of Monte Cristo is probably the longest and one of the most daunting books I’ve ever taken on – and one of the most rewarding.
I’m not saying it was easy. I started listening to it two summers ago while I was working a desk job, then picked up the hard copy and, with many books in between, finally finished it this past summer while driving home from a week at the beach. But it was worth it.
Now if you know me, you know you’d be hard-pressed to find a book that features pirates, political intrigue, sword-fighting, historical subtext, and a dash of romance that I wouldn’t like, and The Count of Monte Cristo has all these things and more. Being a connoisseur of this genre of novel, I can, with authority, tell you that this one leaves all the others in the dust.
Since I was young I’ve been a fan of the movie adaptation of this book, so I went into this book already knowing the plot. But the movie did not prepare me for the way the story would come alive when I read it. Dumas weaves the stories of so many characters together in a way that’s so intricate that you will audibly gasp when you make the connections, although you might need a character list to keep them all straight – who knew one man could have so many different names and titles??
For me, what made this book so much better than similar ones was the character of Edmund. The story follows him through so many years, through so many changes in his life, and as the reader you see the impact that all of these events have on his character.
He starts out as a young man so full of life and ambition, with everything going his way. His character is so endearing and so likable that I think I fell in fictional love a little bit. But then one little word changes his entire fate, and he’s sent away for life, accused of a crime he did not commit to save the reputation of a selfish man.
You see the changes Edmund’s character undergoes during years in the Chateau d’If. He begins to harden, and you see that no matter what he tells the Abbe, if he gets out he will make the men responsible pay for what he has suffered.
Although there is an antagonist, there is not necessarily a “good guy.” When reading the story, you realize that you’re rooting for this man who is bent on taking revenge by any means necessary. You get glimpses into the man he was before, but you realize that no matter what happens, Edmund Dantes is gone, replaced by The Count of Monte Cristo.
While Dantes rides the moral middle ground, there are some characters that are truly evil who you have no qualms about rooting against, and then there are some that are truly good for whom you only want the best. Each character has his or her own personality and brings something different to the story. Dumas’ tale is probably the most intricate that I have ever read, and each detail is woven in so expertly that you’ll be guessing until the very end. In an age where less seems to always mean more, take time to get so lost in a story that a thousand pages later you won’t want it to be over.