"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
"No; his name is the Count of Monte Cristo."
"There is not a Count of Monte Cristo," said Debray.
"I do not think so," added Chateau-Renaud, with the air of a man who knows the whole of European nobility perfectly.
"Does any one know anything of a Count of Monte Cristo?"
"He comes possibly from the Holy Land, and one of his ancestors possessed Calvalry as the Mortemarts did the Dead Sea."
"I think I can assist your researches," said Maximillian, "Monte Cristo is a little island I have often heard spoken of by the old sailors my father employed. A grain of sand in the center of the Mediterranean, an atom in the infinite."
If you're wondering why I haven't posted here in so long, part of the reason is that "The Count of Monte Cristo" is a LONG book. It is so long, in fact, that it took me three weeks to read it.
This said, it didn't feel as long as some other, much shorter books I've read recently. "The Better Angels of Our Nature," for example, was much shorter, but I felt like I was reading it for months.
In the novel, Edmond Dantes returns to France after a long period spent at sea. He is warmly received after his long journey, but little does he know that his happy prospects are coveted by three other individuals, and these three men conspire to have him thrown into prison. Dantes spends the next fourteen years in a dark cell, and after his escape he returns to France styling himself the count of Monte Cristo. His desire to avenge himself on the three men dictates much of what happens afterward, culminating in his triumph over his former persecutors.
Compared to other novels by Dumas (and Auguste Maquet), I liked this one less than both "The Three Musketeers" and "The Man in the Iron Mask." It felt overlong to me, and some of the scenes seemed unnecessary. It is certainly well-written, but some of the characters grow tiresome, as do certain digressions into their shared history. Unlike "The Man in the Iron Mask" and especially "The Three Musketeers" - both of which flowed seamlessly from beginning to end, "The Count of Monte Cristo" stumbles a bit, despite moments of unquestionable greatness.
One of the most enjoyable things about reading a book like this is contemplating the long, long shadow it has cast over our culture. Reading it brought so many other books, movies, and even rock albums to mind. It is a vastly influential book, and should be read for this reason, if no other.
And besides its vast influence, it really is quite good. If you've already read "The Three Musketeers" and "The Man in the Iron Mask," I would highly recommend it.