I started reading this novel at the beginning of February 2012 as I write today is 23rd June (same year) so that makes it about five months since I started reading about the life and times of M. Edmond Dantès, better known as caped crusading The Count of Monte Cristo or to his friends. A record breaking time for me, I almost gave up on the book at one point but cooler heads prevailed and some friends persuaded me to persevere. I am grateful to them..
Unless you are a former cave dweller you are probably well aware of the basic premise of this novel. It is simply the story of one Edmond Dantès who, on his wedding day, is framed for a crime summarily sent to the infamous Château d'If prison where he was incarcerated for fourteen years. With the aid of an eccentric also falsely imprisoned scholar he made a dramatic escape and found a massive fortune which enabled him to reinvent himself and embark upon a highly elaborate scheme of revenge upon the people who engineered his incarceration and destroyed his life. A fairly straight forward plot outline for a book more than 1,200 pages in length. It is not exactly an easy read due to the length and the leisurely pace in some parts. However, by the time I finished it I understood why it is so revered among book lovers, even people who normally restrict themselves to reading science fiction and fantasy genre books love it. In fact, a century or so later in went on to inspire the scifi classic [b:The Stars My Destination|333867|The Stars My Destination|Alfred Bester|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1433671750s/333867.jpg|1398442].
However, as mentioned earlier I did almost give up on it at one point. Why? Because this book is not for the impatient, Dumas varied the pace of the narrative as he saw fit. The first part of the book which is set mostly in prison and the subsequent hair raising jailbreak is very riveting and fast paced. However, once Dantès is out of prison the story almost screech to a halt for me. The sudden change in pace really threw me for a loop. It is as if somebody whacked M. Dumas on the head and took over the project. What I did not realise at the time is that the slower post-prison part is needed for Edmund Dante to reinvent himself as the titular Count of Monte Cristo for the purpose of plotting his highly revenge, it is a dish best served cold after all. His plans are so damn elaborate that I had no idea where author was going with this narrative, there is a lot of sitting around being a cool cat, all debonair and fashionable. However, once all of the Count's game pieces are in place the thrill ride is back on!
There are many colorful characters in this book, the odious ones seem to outnumber the virtuous which is just as well because the nice characters tend to be a little bland and overly pious, fortunately the protagonist The Count is not one of them. He is something of a badass enigmatic avenging angel, who is probably the inspiration for Bruce Wayne hundreds of years later. The prose is quite elegant and often florid (the English translation that is), the story is outrageously melodramatic and sentimental at times but that is also part of the book's quaint charm, and it all add up to sterling entertainment which manages to connect with the reader's emotional core. By the end of the book it seems that revenge is not really a dish best served cold, it is best not served it at all. The denouement wraps up the proceeding beautifully and there is a sense of closure and redemption.
I expect that I will reread this book in a year or two and next time it will probably take me only a couple of weeks rather than five months.