When I was in high school, the Bantam Classics abridgment of The Count of Monte Cristo was required reading, but somehow I missed that it was abridged (I must admit to feeling a bit cheated)… Years later I found a MUCH thicker copy of The Count of Monte Cristo in a used bookstore and decided then and there that at some point I would read the unabridged original! So, for the Adventure Classic category of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, I decided to read the complete unabridged The Count of Monte Cristo (I also listened to David Clark read it on Librivox, and he did an AMAZING job)!!! I must say, I was not disappointed in the complete unabridged The Count of Monte Cristo in the least!! In my mind Alexandre Dumas was the J.K. Rowling of his time! Yes, there are the obvious similarities…both have crafted excellent stories with all kinds of twists, turns, and subplots, not to mention references to classic works of literature, art, and science…both wrote their books relatively quickly and thus have some inconsistencies in them… But, perhaps the most important similarity is what led them to become excellent storytellers: hardship.
In J.K. Rowling’s case the hardship was poverty. In Alexandre Dumas’ case it was prejudice. Alexandre Dumas was the grandson of a slave, and while little seems to be mentioned about how this may have affected him personally, it is known that it made quite an impression on his father as a child, an impression he passed on to his son Alexandre (so much for the idea that all classics are written by rich, old, white dudes). This may explain some of the themes in his books: wrongful accusation, suffering, vengeance, etc. His books have withstood the test of time probably because these are themes that the average person can relate to, much like I expect J.K. Rowling’s books to also withstand the test of time because everyone at some point in their life experiences “dementors” that suck the happiness out of you.
After reading the unabridged The Count of Monte Cristo, I went back and re-read the Bantam Classics abridgment. In some ways it felt like watching a Harry Potter movie after reading the book…it was a bit of a let down. For the most part, the facts of the story were all still there with a few relatively minor subplots excluded. However, the heart and soul of the story seems to have been abridged out as well. The love we develop for a character lies in the details. When you abridge out those details, the reader is unable to understand the motivation for the actions of the character. The story may still be well crafted (as is the case with The Count of Monte Cristo), but the characters feel a bit deflated and some of the twists and turns may hold less meaning.
The Count of Monte Cristo will remain one of my favorite books; however, I must admit that there are certain times in life that it is more difficult to read a book so focused on wrongful accusations, suffering, vengeance, etc. Instead of giving you a summary of the book (and thus spoiling it for you), this time I have decided to include some of the quotes I wrote down from The Count of Monte Cristo that were most meaningful to me.
“God is always the last resource. Unfortunates, who ought to begin with God, do not have any hope in him till they have exhausted all other means of deliverance.”
“for in prosperity prayers seem but a mere medley of words, until misfortune comes and the unhappy sufferer first understands the meaning of the sublime language in which he invokes the pity of heaven.”
“to learn is not to know; there are the learners and the learned. Memory makes the one, philosophy the other.”
“let us agree that the word poison does not exist, because in medicine use is made of the most violent poisons, which become, according as they are employed, most salutary remedies.”
“in this changing age, the faults of a father cannot revert upon his children. Few have passed through this revolutionary period, in the midst of which we were born, without some stain of infamy or blood to soil the uniform of the soldier, or the gown of the magistrate.”
“Mercedes was much changed within the last few days; not that even in her days of fortune she had ever dressed with the magnificent display which makes us no longer able to recognize a woman when she appears in a plain and simple attire; nor indeed, had she fallen into that state of depression where it is impossible to conceal the garb of misery, no the change in Mercedes was that her eye no longer sparkled, her lips no longer smiled, and there was now a hesitation in uttering the words which formerly sprang so fluently from her ready wit.”
“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of the one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”