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Watch The Film or Read The Book? =========================
I came across this book by accident on a secondhand stall. I had already seen a couple of film versions and thought it would be good to read the original.
I wasn't expecting the book to be so very much better than the films, but it was. There is so much more detail in the book, and the filmmakers had changed the plot as well.
The Plot =======
I'm not telling you too much of the plot because I don't want to spoil the plot for you.
Basically it is set in the Mediterranean in the Napoleonic times, and the handsome hero Dantes returns after a long while at sea to marry his fiancee and is stitched up by his rival. He ends up in jail and then spends the rest of his life plotting and gaining revenge.
The plot has many things - a love story, a tragedy, a thriller, with lovers, plotters, pirates, brigands, and overall the book has many lessons to teach us.
Dantes was consumed with the desire for revenge so much so that he could not enjoy his good fortune when it eventually came to him .
The Style =======
Dumas writes in a narrative style, describing the action in enormous detail. He wrote not long after the period in which it is set, so although to us it is a period piece, to Dumas it was present day. The writing however is not dated at all and you would not guess it is so old.
The plot moves along quickly and rather like reading say, the Da Vinci Code, you will not want to put this down.
It is a 'colourful book' that conjures up images readily as it takes you to many places to meet all types of people.
It does have the disadvantage of being a long book, and hence thick. Also, the story has many characters with foreign names that you just have to get used to, and remembering who is who can be tricky early on in the book.
Which Version? ============
The book was originally written in French, and if you can, seek out the original English translation. The language is superb, and makes you realise how much we have lost in literature today.
The copy that I have is 'the First English Edition in book form 'With twenty llustrations, drawn on wood by M. Valentin, and executed by the most eminent English engravers,under the superintendence of Mr. Charles Heath. In two volumes. Vol. I.[II.] London: Chapman and Hall, 1846'. It comprises two octavo volumes. iv, 464; iv, 464 pp.
The first English edition was published in 1846 in red morocco-grain cloth, with the covers decoratively blocked in blind, spines lettered and tooled in gilt in compartments. My copy is well-worn, and the gilt lettering has pretty much worn away, unfortunately, but it is to be expected when one thinks of how many hands have held the book over the last 150 years!
You would be lucky to come across another like this, but whatever the edition the read is the important thing.
Do not be persuaded into reading an abridged version, it just won't be as good. Seek out the full works in paperback form, such as Oxford World's Classics.
Not to be missed, this book should be compulsory reading for everyone!