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The Count of Monte Cristo – Book Review

tcomc-ra-button* CONTAINS SPOILERS

Revenge is a dish best served cold, indeed! I had mistakenly assumed The Count of Monte Cristo would be a simple open and shut case of revenge: (i) hero is wronged and then believed to be dead; (ii) hero plots his revenge; then (iii) hero rises from the ashes in funky costume and takes out his enemies. Obviously, I’ve watched too many movies with that basic plot formula. Once I started reading chapters about other characters, I started thinking to myself, “Um, where the heck is this book going?” Revenge is sometimes not that simple.

Since this was my first experience with Alexandre Dumas, I realized I had to be as patient as Edmond Dantés who plotted for ten years against the men who stole his life, to see how the author was going to unravel his iconic tale. And what a tale! To me, The Count of Monte Cristo was basically one big soap opera. It was fun following the lives and loves of the upper class of Paris with the Count of Monte Cristo pulling strings behind the scenes. Each chapter taking place at the opera or a lavish ball or inside someone’s opulent mansion made me think Dumas perfectly created the template for TV dramas like Gossip Girl (shows I just eat up with delight!).

Without a doubt, the Count is the most interesting character in the book because of his transformation from good guy to dubiously questionable guy. I enjoyed the plots and subplots concerning the book’s many other characters, but I didn’t care for anyone in particular. I admired Edmond Dantés in the beginning as an honourable character, but wondered if he was too good to be true. Sure enough, after ten years hiding in the shadows, Dantés is full of wrath and morphs into the sinister Count of Monte Cristo. Oh, he’s charming and intelligent with very deep pockets, but still a raging monomaniac. Oh, he has a soft spot for the sons of people he once loved, but he still wants his enemies and everyone connected to his enemies to suffer without mercy. The Count is truly a complex fella.

Initially, I wanted our hero/anti-hero to see his plan through. I thought it would be very satisfying to see his enemies get their just desserts after destroying Dantés life. However, I was only left conflicted. After the death of two enemies, madness for a third and bankruptcy for the last, I was pleased for the Count but sad about the lives that were ruined in the process; in particular, the woman Dantés formerly loved and her son, plus all of the innocent people who died. I believe it’s these feelings, as strong and painful as the desire for revenge, that Dumas wanted to stir up in his readers.

The Count is ruthless in his actions until the very end, but then questions whether he went too far and here we catch one last glimpse of the man who used to be Edmond Dantes. It didn’t surprise me that the Count would have a moment of second-guessing himself. What else are you going to do when you no longer have a purpose? What else when there’s nothing left but to survey the damage? In the end, the Count decides his conscience is clear and he can forgive himself and his enemies in order to move on with his life. With this last act, he buries away Edmond Dantes forever which I thought was a fitting end to the story.

In conclusion, The Count of Monte Cristo lives up to its legacy of a tantalizing tale of resurrection and revenge. A pleasant surprise for me was how the story was very much a soap opera, a thrilling saga from our hero’s origins as a poor sailor from Marseilles to his imprisonment and daring escape, to the rise of the powerful Count of Monte Cristo and his dalliances with the elite of Paris. I don’t want to downplay the many themes centred around Dantés’ quest for revenge, such as the consequences of playing God (if you’ve got the time and money, hey why not?), but the book has plenty of satisfying hi-jinks for readers who like a little drama with their revenge. Adieu!

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16 comments on “The Count of Monte Cristo – Book Review

  1. Juliana @ Epilogues
    December 3, 2013

    I can’t read this because this book is high on my TBR list, but I will come back after I’ve finished it to see what you thought! Another classic down for you. 🙂

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 3, 2013

      Thanks! It was a long one, but I pushed through and enjoyed it. Look forward to hearing what you think. Now back to The Moonstone …

      Like

  2. Ekaterina
    December 3, 2013

    Ah, your wonderful review reminded me how I was feeling while reading it! 🙂 I especially liked “from good guy to dubiously questionable guy” – nicely put! Also, the comparison with Gossip Girl is unusual and surprisingly fitting, if you stop to think about it 🙂

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 4, 2013

      Thanks! I almost took out the Gossip Girl part because it’s just a random thought, but I couldn’t get it out of my head how every episode takes place at a big party or event. Have you seen the movie version of the book?

      Like

  3. Rick @ AnotherBookBlog.com
    December 4, 2013

    Great review. I wonder how you’d feel about the film version that came out in 2002. I absolutely love it, but it’s different from the book. Most notably, how the story ends for Mercedes and Albert. As a movie adaptation, I think it’s fantastic, and many of the changes for the movie I actually prefer. Impressive that they took a 1000+ page book and condensed it into 150 minutes. If you ever watch it, let me know what you thought.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 4, 2013

      I haven’t seen the movie yet, so it’s very interesting to hear that the ending is different and you like the changes from the book. I’m planning to watch the movie over the holidays, so I’ll definitely share my thoughts.

      Like

  4. lauratfrey
    December 4, 2013

    This is the first review of The Count that’s made me want to read it! I was intimidated because my sister got stuck somewhere in the middle and DNF’d. But you had me at Gossip Girl.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 4, 2013

      It’s a long book, probably longer than necessary, but it’s one juicy drama. I love imagining how scandalous it must have been when first published.

      Like

  5. DoingDewey
    December 5, 2013

    What a very thoughtful review! I think your comparison to a soap opera was very apt. I also shared your transition from rooting for the count to get his revenge to considering him a character of dubious goodness. For me, that made the book a lot less enjoyable since I like to have a character I can empathize with and an unquestionably happy ending. So not my favorite classic, but I think it’s a classic for a reason and well worth the read. It’s quite an adventure 🙂

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 5, 2013

      I usually like a character I can empathize with too, so I went back and forth a lot about whether the Count’s action could be justified. Since we get to know the people he is manipulating, I felt really conflicted because the Count wanted revenge for actions from the past but he was dealing with men who had changed with time and his actions were going to affect their families and people they loved. You’re right, it’s a great adventure and with many complex layers underneath the surface.

      Like

  6. hamlettethedame
    January 17, 2014

    Great review of my second-favorite book! It really is rather soap-opera-ish, isn’t it? Partly because of the crazy cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter. I think this was serialized, as most of Dumas’ books were.

    And I think you’re right — Dumas’ point here was to show that revenge feels fun at first, but it’s really very hurtful, both to the person who is wreaking vengeance as well as for people connected to those feeling the avenger’s wrath.

    I really dig your observations!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      January 17, 2014

      Thanks so much! I enjoy a good soap opera, but there were times I was wishing Dumas would just get on with it. But overall I liked the book.

      Like

  7. fingerprintale
    January 3, 2015

    What a review! I personally love The Count of Monte Cristo. I just read it last month and I think I found myself feel a little sad about the end.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      January 6, 2015

      I think I was sad too at the ending. Maybe because after all the years of waiting and plotting, he was alone?

      Like

      • hamlettethedame
        January 6, 2015

        He wasn’t alone — Haydee stayed with him.

        Like

        • ebookclassics
          January 6, 2015

          You are so right! I don’t why I forgot, but I have this picture in my mind of a man completely alone in the world.

          Like

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