There’s nothing like a really great trip to the coast to make you forget to check your email, refuse to wear anything but sandals, and go to bed late and sleep in every day. But I am back from the wonderful world of sea and sand, and finally remembered to update the Reading Corner page (which, I am embarrassed to say, was behind by two books because I didn’t update it last week), and pick something for this month’s “book I started ages ago and am just now going to finish.” I am very excited to announce that for August, I am going to finally (after getting it as a Christmas gift from the boy two years ago) finish reading Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Culture, by Bram Dijkstra. On a slightly-related-but-mostly-not side-note, the remaining books in the list of books I have to finish all begin with the letter “C,” while the one I finished and the one for this month did not; I have come to the conclusion that I have a subconscious aversion to books that begin with the letter “C.”

The Count of Monte Cristo

While technically The Count of Monte Cristo could be alphabetized under “C” and not “T,” for the sake of my new theory I am choosing to ignore it–I can’t let such a great book disprove my crazy theories! Because this was a really, really great book. I cannot remember when I bought my copy, but I know this poor little book has been sitting on my shelf for as long as I can remember! I picked up this book because I wanted something fun and adventure-y after struggling through Guns, Germs, and Steel. Although I’m ashamed to admit, a large influence in why I picked up this book was because I enjoyed the movie (and the cute actor who played Albert), but the book was 100000x better than the movie! At 510 pages (the Scholastic Classics edition), obviously a great deal of the original story had to be left out to fit into a two-hour movie.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, is a classic story full of adventure, romance, vengeance, and political intrigue. The book moves between the picturesque seaport town of Marseilles, the historic ruins of Rome, and the cultured city of Paris, and each place creates a rich background of people, food, and culture. Against all this is the constant political threat and instability of the Napoleonic years in France (which, I will admit, I was rather ignorant of until I read this book and picked the boy’s brain for his knowledge on the history of France). The combination of mystery, adventure and romance, along with all the history and French culture, made this an impossible book to put down!

The story begins with the joyous return of the sailor Edmond Dantès to his father and beloved Mercédès. With the promise of becoming captain of the ship, Edmond and Mercédès eagerly become engaged. Sadly, these first four chapters are the happiest in the book. During his betrothal feast Edmond is arrested and falsely charged as a Bonapartist (supporter of Napoleon, who is exiled at the start of the book) and thrown into the dungeons of Chateau d’If. After years in prison, Edmond returns as the Count of Monte Cristo to enact his revenge on the men responsible for his arrest. The large majority of the book follows the adventures of the Count of Monte Cristo as he rewards friends from his old life and ruins politically/financially the men who took away his freedom and his fiance. With the unwavering belief that his revenge is morally justified (which I did not always agree with, as it often meant hurting innocent bystanders to get to the guilty parties), the Count was able to completely upset Parisian society and at last find peace.

I find books like The Count of Monte Cristo to be the reason why old books are still beloved stories over 100 years after they are originally published. While many aspect of society and culture have changed since the early 1800’s the story covers, the central themes of love, revenge and justice are still powerful motives in today’s world. The characters are beautifully created, the world Dumas describes is engaging, and the story progresses at a breakneck speed. I highly recommend this book for people who love adventure, pirates and buried treasure, long-lost love, political sabotage, murder, and vigilante justice.