I have a square fat two volume set of CMC which was a school prize–cheaply printed and bound, so not a physical object I’m deeply attached to, but I love the contents. Yay for Project Gutenberg epub on the Sony Reader! I read this very slowly, mostly on the elliptical trainer, and it’s transformative not to have to lug around a book that won’t stay open and gets in the way when you’re not reading it.
This must be the quintessential melodrama of revenge. As with Les Misérables, I read abridged versions in school and wasn’t missing much; moreover, with CMC the most interesting stuff is all in the first volume (Abbé Faria’s education of Dantès in prison, the escape, and the treasure island). I nonetheless enjoyed the full version (it had probably been a good 20 years since I last read it all the way through), especially the implausible but compelling intertwining of the lives of all Dantès’ enemies. Last time I think I picked up a little bit on the lesbian relationship between Eugénie Danglars and Louise d’Armilly; now it’s much more striking. Apparently this part of the story was glossed over in the English translation.
Although their relationship is considered scandalous, and Dumas mocks Eugénie’s lack of convention, ultimately I think one feels admiration and a certain sympathy for her. She is so strong-willed and independent; Albert would be miserable with her. When Benedetto, the con man to whom she was engaged, ends up in their room after all three of them have fled Paris–one of the few comic scenes in the whole book–the dissolution of her male disguise humiliates her, but she and Louise still make it to Brussels and move out of the book’s sphere. I guess that’s what I like about her: alone of all the characters, she resists Dumas’ Manichean narrative arc. She is her own person, neither fundamentally good nor bad.
Everyone else is pushed around the stage in a series of incredible coincidences, which makes the book feel like a hermetically-sealed environment, even though it spans multiple countries. Monte Cristo’s powers seem supernatural, so it was interesting to research the book’s references to Count Cagliostro and the Count of St-Germain.
Danglars wears a Breguet watch! How amazing–that product placement (or rather brand names used as a short cut to highlight a setting or a character) from 1844 still works. I was tempted to get an old cheap one on eBay, except there’s no such thing.
Not a great literary classic, but a great popular culture classic–very satisfying to me. I’m sure I’ll read it again someday.