I bought myself a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo many years ago. I have no idea why I did so. (Turns out it was one of those sneaky abridged versions that doesn’t state anywhere obvious that half the book has been cut out, but that is beside the point.) As I clearly haven’t made any progress with the written version, I got excited when I discovered my library had the digital audiobook of Dumas’s classic tale — read by John Lee, whom I knew to be good. The thing is 47 hours long, though, and it seems I wasn’t the only one interested in the digital version, so I had to wait through a few rounds of holds to get through the whole book.
Good news: It was worth the wait! It’s also the second book I’ve finished from my Classics Club list.
About the Book:
I honestly don’t know how to sum up this book without giving something away, so if you know nothing about it, plan to read it, and really hate spoilers of all kinds, maybe just skip this review. But really, I think the intricacies of the plot and the particulars of how each piece is accomplished are what make the novel what it is, far more than the overall arc of the story.
Still here? In that case…
Edmond Dantés, having just returned from a successful sea voyage, is on the verge of marrying the love of his life and being made captain of his own ship. Surrounded by the golden glow of happiness, he cannot imagine he has any enemies who would wish him harm. But there is one man who loves his betrothed and another who envies his place on the ship — and together, they set in motion a plan to remove the obstacle that is Edmond Dantés from their paths.
The rest of the book — of which there is a LOT — follows Edmond’s conviction, incarceration, escape, and (most of all) revenge.
It is madness. I can’t even put into words how much fun it is to grab this book by the horns and let it take you on its crazy, unpredictable ride.
To be fair — and this is a complaint I’ve seen in some reviews — it’s not entirely realistic. Every cog in the great machine of Edmond’s revenge turns flawlessly. Every scene and scheme goes the way he intends it to (with a single minor exception). Chance seems to smile endlessly upon him. The evil are punished, the good rewarded, and the irrelevant largely ignored — no exceptions. The plot and its characters can be a bit (ok, quite a bit) over the top.
But in my opinion, it’s a story worth suspending your disbelief for. The intricacies, the twists and turns, the chain of dominos Edmond spends years constructing, piece by piece, so that he can set off the chain reaction at precisely the moment of his choosing — it’s really fun. There are secret identities, startling connections, elaborate plots, and endless surprises. A few things are obvious or easy to figure out, but for the most part, you just have to keep going to find out how all the pieces fit together. And in the end, they do. It’s satisfying that way.
Yes, it’s long. Very long. But I do not understand how the book could possibly survive in abridged form (much less as a movie…though I have fond memories of the Wishbone version from my childhood…). It would have to be missing entire plot lines, and that would be very unfortunate.
John Lee did a commendable job narrating. It was one of those audiobooks that had me making up excuses to listen to just one more chapter. He had at least slightly different voices for the main characters (of which there are roughly a zillion) and accents for the foreigners, which always helps me keep people straight. His French pronunciations sounded way better than they would’ve in my head (thank goodness!). He doesn’t do women’s voices very well — but then, he doesn’t really try, so I have no complaints!
Sadly, nowhere can I find the translator for the edition I listened to. But whoever it was, s/he did an excellent job.
The Verdict: Excellent
The Count of Monte Cristo gets two thumbs up from me. It’s not the kind of book I usually go for, but it was so well executed that I couldn’t help but end up engrossed. Highly recommended.
If you do read it, go for the unabridged. It’s worth it. And I’d recommend going for the audio version, too!
What’s the last book you read (or listened to) that kept you on the edge of your seat and surprised at every turn?