I have a goodly number of books classified under “favorite” for me. Timeless stories such as the Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, or Les Miserables are books I have often plucked off the shelf and re-entered with relish. One of such stories is The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas.
I had first heard of this book from my mother, who had time and again encouraged me to read it. Being young, however, and of the opinion that any book my mother recommends is dry and dull, I steadfastly rejected it with scorn.
It was only till my older brother consumed the book and eulogized it to the skies and when we had a 6 hour car trip ahead of us that I reluctantly decided to get both mother and brother off my back and try to read this long book about what I thought would be a sobstory of a boy in prison. So as we pulled off our driveway and began our all-day car ride, I opened The Count of Monte Cristo and began to read.
For about 100 pages, I felt justified in the pre-judgement of the book being a tragedy of a boy pining in prison. But the triumph of thinking so had come too late; I was already lost in the drama. I did not resurface for the rest of the road trip.
So, what is this book all about?
Written in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo follows the tale of a young man by the name of Edmond Dantes, a hardworking sailor whose faithfulness and honesty brings him all that is good in the world: money to support his ailing father, the love of the beautiful and sweet Mercedes, and the promised position of captain of his employer’s ship.
But his joy his short-lived, for he becomes the target of two jealous men: his fellow shipmate of his position, and Mercedes’ cousin of his betrothed. These two bring a false accusation against Dantes, and he is taken to prison on his wedding day, with a false hope that he would soon be released.
4 years later, in prison, Dantes unexpectedly meets a fellow inmate, one Abbe Faria. He is another wrongly imprisoned man who takes Dantes under his wing, mentors him in all that he knows, and conjures an escape for both him and Dantes, who he has grown to love more than a son.
The Abbe tells him of a treasure which lies hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. When Dantes manages to escape, he directs his steps to the island and finds all as the Abbe had said. He takes up the name of the island and seeks revenge on the men who ruined 14 years of his life by falsely accusing him.
The rest of the book he is known as “the Count of Monte Cristo,” and can hardly be recognized even by the reader as the irreproachable Edmond Dantes of the first few chapters.
I can hardly put into a summary the rest of the book, because I do not want to spoil any plot-twists or the ending (I even left out some key details of the beginning of the story to exclude spoilers), but know it only gets more complex and engrossing in the ensuing 500 pages, adding new characters, new dilemmas, and side-story arches–the plot twists are, by the way, the best I have ever come across.
Alexander Dumas does an impeccable job of character development, story progression, and keeping the reader glued to the pages. Dumas’ style of writing only adds to the thorough enjoyment of this piece of literature.
Once you pick it up, you cannot put it down–in fact, while writing this I opened up the book again to refresh my memory, and I was completely lost. My free time for the foreseeable future will now be consumed by returning to the pages of The Count of Monte Cristo. Excuse me whilst I am transported back within the walls of the Château d’If; the Abbe Faria is knocking to see if the jailer has left Dantes’ cell…