Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Title: Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Length: 1462 pages (about 400 read in 2013)
Published in: 1844
Genre: fiction, classic
ISBN: 9780679601999
Source: 
personal collection
Reason for Reading: A
bout 8 years ago, I read this book for a project at schools. It was an abridged edition and I didn’t read as I should’ve–I actually skipped the middle third and used Cliff’s Notes. But when I actually read the end, I decided it was my favorite book. So I reread it about a year later. To this day, I claim this is my favorite book of all time. But I thought I should read the unabridged version, just so I can say definitively that the abridged edition of COMC is my favorite book of all time (this is twice as long and clearly boring in parts).
Rating: N/A (as I’ve already said, the abridged version I’ve read is a 5/5, but this lengthy tome would be 0/5–I don’t think it’s fair to rate it, since, without it, I wouldn’t have my favorite book)

Summary (from Signet Classic):

For nineteen-year-old Edmond Dantes, life is sweet. Soon to be captain of his own ship, he is also about to be married to his true love, Mercedes. But suddenly everything turns sour. On the joyous day of his wedding he is arrested and–without a fair trial–condemned to solitary confinement in the miserable Chateau d’If! The charges? Faked! Edmond has been framed by a handful of powerful enemies. But why? While locked away, Edmond learns from another prisoner of a secret treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Edmond concocts a daring and audacious plan: escape and find the treasure! But it is years later–long after Edmond has transformed himself into the Count of Monte Cristo–that his plan for revenge begins to unfold. Disguised as the wealthy count, Edmond returns to his native land to find his enemies–and make them pay!

My Thoughts: I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But this was way too much! I prefer the watered-down Signet Classic edition I have. Although I did just realize something. In The Princess Bride (the movie, at least, can’t remember if it’s said in the book), the grandpa tells young Fred Savage’s character , “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” when he describes the book. Now, aside from the giants and monsters, this perfectly describes COMC!! When I started reading this book last January (that’s 2012!), I was sort of breaking the book into chunks to discuss it. I wrote up two posts on here, to which I’ll give you the links. But that plan soon fell through, so it really is only for the beginning of the book. (I guess when I stopped was when it started getting boring!) So here’s: The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 1} and The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 2}. I think that’s pretty much where I’ll draw the line of the discussion.

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Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, Julia Denos

TitleJust Being Audrey
Author: Margaret Cardillo
Illustrator: Julia Denos
Genre: children’s non-fiction (biography)
ISBN: 9780061852831
Length: 28 pages
Published: 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 5/5
Challenges/Resolutions: none

Summary: I think the best summary is a trailer for the book that I found on YouTube.

My Thoughts: You may already know that I love Audrey Hepburn. I can’t really remember where I came across this children’s biography, I know it was somewhere on the internet, possibly Pinterest. Regardless, I’ve read lots of biographies about Audrey, but never anything addressed to an audience of children.

Truth be told, I wasn’t very thrilled about the content. It was hard to place a specific reading age to the book. It seemed too general for an older elementary age, where one might do a little research to write a paper on Audrey. But it had some words that were too complex for younger elementary age. What saved the book, in my opinion, were the illustrations. There are so many photos of Audrey floating around now because she’s become a big icon to today’s young woman–I’m proud to say that I’ve been inspired by her for 15 years, not just the past few 🙂 Anyways…I do get bored seeing the same images of Audrey over and OVER again. These illustrations were simply amazing–you can see them in the trailer. Denos didn’t just copy the same exact image, but took popular outfits of Audrey and posed them slightly different, to make brand new pictures. One weird thing about the illustrations were Audrey’s eyes. She was famous for her big, brown, doe eyes. Yet, in the book 15 of 25 pictures of Audrey were drawn with her eyes closed. But, I guess, I’d rather have lots of lovely pictures with her eyes closed than to have poorly-drawn doe eyes in every picture.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley {audiobook}

TitleBrave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Genre: fiction (dystopic)
ISBN: 9780792752257
Length: 8.5 hours
Published: 1932
Source: public library
Rating: 5/5
Challenges/Resolutions: Years of Books Resolution (2012); Years of Books Goal (lifetime)

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Community, Identity, Stability” is the motto of Aldous Huxley’s utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a “Feelie,” a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today–let’s hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren’t yet to come.

My Thoughts: I think it is fair to say that this is one of my new favorite books. Yes, I tend to LOVE dystopic novels. But I hadn’t realized that people were writing such stories 80 years ago! But, this just goes to show you that dystopic stories are fairly timeless. As it’s always a look at a future world, writers can create any type of society they want and no one can say it won’t happen. So this book, written in the 1930s, reads practically like any other dystopic I’ve read.

There was only one part of the story that I thought dated it a little. And that element was actually a pretty major difference from most other dystopics I’ve read. There exists in this story a population of people from before the transition to “utopia”. Those people are called savages, because they haven’t been civilized or, especially, conditioned. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book like this where everyone wasn’t forced into the new order. It isn’t like some characters that have always lived in the “utopia” who just want to revert back to a better time and freer state of things–the savages weren’t ever changed. This dates the book because the savages are described as Native Americans. If this book was written today, the “savage” would be very different. (Another slightly dating element is the way time is related. It takes place in 632 AF, After Ford. That would be Henry Ford. I have a feeling if this book hadn’t been written so soon after Ford’s huge success in the auto industry, that it wouldn’t be the way to refer to the year.)

 

The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 2}

~*~SPOILERS~*~

I chose for this second portion of the book to focus on Dantes’ prison stint. Therefore, it takes place from Chapter 8, The Chateau d’If to Chapter 20, The Cemetery of the Chateau d’If.

a little sad I don't have this edition--so pretty, and I love the duel on the binding

Synopsis so far (continued from Section 1 post): Dantes has been sent to prison, even though Villefort had promised to keep him from that punishment–the readers, of course, were aware of this scheme from the beginning. Villefort does travel to Paris as a result of that letter, resulting in two important events: an audience with Louis XVIII, in which he receives a medal of honor; and a meeting with Noirtier, his father, to warn him of his Bonapartist actions. Meanwhile, Dantes is imprisoned at the Chateau d’If, a prison filled with Bonapartist supporters. Be earns a room in the dungeons with his attempts to break free, but this is the best thing for him. It is in the dungeons that Dantes becomes acquainted with his neighbor, Abbe Faria, who had dug tunnels to escape himself. The two men become quite close and it is Faria who helps Dantes see who has wronged him to help him achieve entrance to the prison. And Faria, known as the Mad Abbe to the guards, tells Dantes of a treasure worth millions–but Faria passes away, leaving Dantes the chance for escape and to seek the treasure.

And the scene is set…

The first time I read this book, it was for high school and I was so “busy”. I skipped a lot of the middle of the story, picking it back up later (and being really intrigued, leading to my re-read of the entire abridged book). It was during this section that I put down the book. I have to be honest: this part of the book isn’t too terribly interesting. I tried to make the summary of this part of the book as interesting as possible and trust me–what might seem good in the summary is really and truly the only interesting stuff over a 150-pages.

I haven’t read much French literature from the mid-1800s, such as this book. But I hear French authors from the time period, such as Dumas and Victor Hugo, LOVE to include a lot of context. I did read The Three Musketeers–which is very different from the 1990s Disney movie–and I found it soooo boring, probably for this reason, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

I found the chapter devoted to Villefort’s conversation with King Louis XVIII the most monotonous. Nothing in that chapter was relevant to the story. All it did was move Villefort higher up than he thought he’d achieve, which could give Dantes a better reason to cut him back down. But there was a whole lot of nothing happening while Dantes was in prison, too. I did forget when exactly Dantes found out who had misused him, but Faria, with very little to go on, helped him figure out who did it and why this all happened. However, there wasn’t any scheming to get back at them, either. Hardly any scheming at all–the only sort of scheme in prison was how to get break out of prison. And, let’s be honest, in 1820s prisons, there weren’t a whole lot of ways to break out.

You might be wondering why I’m talking only about how boring this section of the book is. Well, I’m not exactly trying to make everyone want to read it. I’m just sharing my own thoughts on the book. I can totally see why, as a sophomore in high school, I couldn’t really get past this part of the book. But I know that in the end, the story is great, so I’m “suffering” through that part. I could just skip it because I already have a general idea of the story–but that wouldn’t be a true re-read. I’m rediscovering the book, good and bad parts.

The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 1}

~*~SPOILERS~*~

I have split up the book into uneven sections so I can discuss my re-read in parts. This first section ends with the completion of M. de Villefort’s examination of Dantes (Chapter 7, The Examination), which I think is a very significant moment in the story.

a little sad I don't have this edition--so pretty, and I love the duel on the binding

Synopsis so far: France, 1815. Nineteen-year-old Edmond Dantes is recently returned to port in Marseilles. His captain died at sea, leaving him, as first mate, in charge of the ship. He returns to his father, whom he dearly loves, and Mercedes, his young Catalane betrothed. While everything is looking up for Dantes, little does he know how his small successes in life have angered jealous men. Danglars, the supercargo of the ship soon to be captained by Dantes, feels he is better suited for a captaincy–or, at the very least, Dantes is not suited. And Fernand, cousin to Mercedes, wants her hand, extremely envious of the man she loves with all her heart. Set, at this stage of the story, in a France just recently rid of Napoleon (for the first time), these two men scheme to imprison Dantes for political affiliations due to the late captain’s last request for a docking at Elba and Dantes’ fulfillment of that request. Mercedes and Dantes are feasting their upcoming nuptials when Dantes is arrested. All would be for naught, if the deputy procureur who heard Dantes account–a staunch royalist–hadn’t been the son of a known Bonapartist to whom the letter Dantes carried was for. In the last scene this deputy procureur, M. de Villefort, tells Dantes he will have to imprisoned for a few days because of this situation, but he will attempt to free him as soon as possible; Dantes follows the guard from the house of M. de Villefort.

Now that the picture has been painted…

So far, there has been no tedious or boring part to the story. As soon as Dantes returns to port, two men who want what he will shortly have begin scheming to get those things. They are fairly warned by a long-time acquaintance of Dantes before they carry out their plot:

“…only people get out of prison,” said Caderousse, who, with what sense was left him, listened eagerly to the conversation, “and when they get out, and their names are Edmond Dantes, they revenge—–” (p37)

If a reader remembers any words from the beginning of the story, these are some of the most important. More than half of the book is dedicated to the vengeance to which Caderousse alludes in this single, drunken warning. I cannot remember how Dantes gets his revenge on Fernand and Danglars later in the book–one reason I have decided to re-read it–but wouldn’t it be interesting to find that the revenge on one is more severe than the revenge on the other. On one hand, it was Danglars who schemed up the whole thing. On the other hand, it was Fernand who got Mercedes, something I’m sure Dantes would have chosen over what Danglars got out of the plot.

I wonder what it is that caused Caderousse to hold his tongue when Dantes was arrested. Amidst the chaos of Dantes being escorted from his wedding feast, Caderousse confronts Danglars about the plotting the previous night:

“What is the meaning of all this?” inquired Caderousse frowningly, of Danglars, who had assumed an air of utter surprise.
“How can I tell you?” replied he; “I am, like yourself, utterly bewildered at all that is going on, not a word of which do I understand.”
Caderousse then looked around for Fernand, but he had disappeared.
The scene the previous night now came back to his mind with startling accuracy. The painful catastrophe he had just witnessed appeared effectually to have rent away the veil which the intoxication of the evening before had raised between himself and his memory. (p54)

Even though Danglars plays dumb to the whole plot, why did Caderousse not mention his suspicions to the authorities? Dantes was framed. True, he carried a letter to a Bonapartist conspirator, but his own political leanings and knowledge of what was in the letter were truly innocent. Because Caderousse did not bring forward the information that could easily have helped Dantes’ case, I feel that Dantes’ misery is, in part, his fault.

Danglars and Fernand–and Caderousse, depending on how you look at him and how he acts within the future parts of the story–are not the only men to wrong Dantes. The last man to cross Dantes is M. de Villefort, the deputy procureur who examined him upon his arrest. Had it not been for Villefort looking out for his career rather than actual justice, the rest of the story would have no purpose. Dantes’ imprisonment, which takes place in the first chapter of my next “section”, is all due to Villefort wanting to keep is royalist reputation clear of the besmirches of his Bonapartist father.

Quotes: These are quotes that I like.

“…so much the worse for those who fear wine for it is because they have some bad thoughts which they are afraid the liquor will extract from their hearts.” ~Caderousse, p36

Very advisable–those who have secrets are most afraid of liquor. (However inappropriate it might sound in the discussion of a serious classic, this reminds me of TV-show Seinfeld‘s character Elaine who opens “the vault” anytime she drinks Schnapps.)

“Man does not appear to me to be intended to enjoy felicity so unmixed; happiness is like the enchanted palaces we read of in our childhood, where fierce, fiery dragons defend the entrance and approach; and monsters of all shapes and kinds, requiring to be overcome ere victory is ours…” ~Dantes, p47

This last quote is very providential, as Dantes is describing that he worries because everything is so perfect for him at the moment. He wonders what will happen, because no person should have so easy and successful a life. I find myself feeling this way sometimes. There are no real hardships I have ever had to endure, and while there are small stressors to my life sometimes, I get anxious to know what is going to go wrong because I shouldn’t have such an easy life.