Ignore that recent movie adaptation (i.e. the same way thuggish joyriders adapt your car when they are done with it). This book isn’t about sword fighting. It’s about vengeance. And not vengeance just served cold – vengeance left to itself over a decade of being locked in a cell, of simmering about the people who profited from entombing you from the living sunlit world, and what you could do if you could ever got out.
Such is the sad fate of Edmond Dantes, unjustly locked up on an island fortress during the pro- and anti-Bonaparte times following the Emperor’s exile to Elba. A young man with a bright future (ship captain at twenty, and engaged to the beautiful Mercedes), the ship’s purser, the bride’s wishful suitor, and a money-grubbing neighbor team up with a corrupt prosecutor to accuse him and bury him. But Edmond is not to be buried forever.
He meets with a fellow prisoner, one who, in attempting to tunnel to freedom, hit Edmond’s cell by accident. The two become friends, the elder teaching the young Captain everything he knows about science, culture, society, history, language, everything (they have time). Eventually the old man dies, leaving Edmond with his final gift, the location of a fabulous treasure, more money than can possibly be imagined, buried since the time of the Romans on the spit-isle of Monte Cristo.
I won’t tell how Edmond escapes. But some time following, Paris is agog by the arrival of the fabulously urbane and debonair Count of Monte Cristo, so exactingly perfect that he is simply must be read to be believed. But it is our friend Edmond, who is out to reward those who showed him kindness before his burial, and to come down like a pile of karmatic bricks on those who wronged him.
The book develops around the idea of slow vengeance, a perfect measure of how hatred can fester. The count’s vengeance reaches far, eventually toppling his foes, one by one, like little dominoes.
So, yes, I really loved this book. It was exacting and perfect, a fine reward for advance readers who can bask in Alexandre Dumas’ efforts. Perhaps the end was silly to my modern eyes, where the Count proves a friend’s love by putting him through a pointless ordeal that would have likely resulted in a punch in the nose, rules of chivialry or not. But still, a great book with many scenes that will stick with you.
If you like your revenge served at absolute zero, this is the book for you.