The Count of Monte Cristo was my long-awaited pick for the category of "A book that intimidates you" for my reading challenge. The intimidating factor was the sheer page count; while I like long books, I was a bit concerned about the timing of this long book throwing off my count for the rest of the year. I mean, it took me almost a year to read my last very long book, Dragonfly in Amber. But the pressure of having a deadline helped me push through, and I managed it in a decent amount of time--though it did kill my reading numbers for September!
This is a classic, with a classic's story line: Edmond Dantes, in line to be promoted to the captain of the ship he works on, is struck down by the jealousy of one of his crew mates who, with the help of a man jealous of Edmond's relationship with Mercedes, Edmond's fiancee. Added into the mix, though unwittingly, is a crown prosecutor who hopes to hide his own connections to Napoleon in hopes of advancing himself under the restored monarchy. Edmond is thrown in prison, where he stays for fourteen years before escaping and seeking revenge on his persecutors with the assistance of a massive fortune he acquires on the tiny island of Monte Cristo.
I didn't really find this book that intriguing. I found the plot contrived, and that it relied too much on coincidence to move forward--for example, Edmond just apparently sails around the Mediterranean until someone just happens to invite him to Paris? What? How is that a valid plan for revenge? Also, it's repeatedly mentioned that people always comment on how freakishly pale Edmond is, and yet when he puts on a wig and a robe, no one can possibly imagine that it might be him in disguise! I also felt like it read like a kind of RP or fanfic, in which Dumas was continually going, "You know what would be cool? IF IT ALL GOT EVEN CRAZIER." The way that several of the plots tied up didn't really seem to make sense, either. We never find out what happens with Andrea, Danglars seems to get off lightly compared to the other people Edmond targets, and Edmond keeping Morrel, the son of the man who tried to help him, in sheer agony for a month before bothering to tell him the big reveal with Valentine. What? Some of this stuff might have worked better when the book was originally published as a serial, when readers might forget some of this ridiculousness between installments, but getting it all in short order made it stand out a lot.
The portions of the book that took place in the Chateau d'If, the recollection of what happened at Janina, and some other portions of the book were interesting, but reading about Morrel and Valentine swooning all over each other was not intriguing. Seeing Albert get duped at Carnival was amusing; hearing about everyone's costume changes for every day of it was not. It alternated between interesting and dreadfully boring, and Edmond lingers in the background for most of the book, taking away the intriguing main character who was so built up early on. We can see his machinations coming to life, but without seeing him actually do them, I felt like it lost some of the impact. I liked Edmond, even as he became bitter in prison and began plotting his escape and his revenge. I didn't really like the Count of Monte Cristo, who felt very one-dimension in comparison to his previous identity.
This book didn't overall leave me as a huge fan of Dumas. I might read more of him someday, but I won't be diving for another volume of his work anytime soon.
2.5 stars out of 5.