Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: The Count of Monte Cristo is set in Europe in the early 1800’s, after the fall of Napoleon’s empire. Edmond Dantes seems to have it all. He is young, athletic and has a promising career as a sailor in front of him, not to mention a betrothal to his beautiful sweetheart Mercedes. However, betrayal by some of those closest to him rips this enviable life out from under Dantes’ feet, leading to one of literature’s most epic stories of revenge.
If you have a short attention span, look away now! At a whopping 1,276 pages, this tome is not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, for a classic this lengthy I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged it kept me. I was expecting to wade through tedious passages of description, but in fact, a great deal of action happened in just the first few chapters.
Having said that, the book is quite dialogue-heavy. Although the layers of meaning behind the characters’ words keep it interesting, it can also be easy to switch off if you lose track of who’s who. I found myself trying to flip back several times to refresh my memory. So for someone starting out reading this book, I would highly recommend keeping a notepad next to you and using it as a brief reminder of the characters. I think this would have helped me get the most out of the story, as it really is stunningly intricate!
I found The Count of Monte Cristo very suspenseful – the tension is sustained because as readers we often know more than the characters. However, the flipside of this technique is that it can make the plot a touch predictable in places.
The huge variety and range of the story are very impressive, in terms of both time and geography. It spans generations and takes readers from smugglers coves to Parisian high society. Something else that really stood out for me was how highly developed the characters are. There are hardly any ‘minor’ characters at all; instead, a meticulous back-story is revealed behind almost every name. This attention to detail makes the side plots just as immersive as the main story.
Despite the fact that The Count of Monte Cristo is essentially a tale of revenge, there are also touching moments of friendship, love and loyalty. These were a very welcome inclusion as they prevented the novel from becoming too bleak and disheartening.
I would urge you not to be put off by the slightly daunting thickness of this book. The Count of Monte Cristo really does have something for everyone, with forbidden love, scandal, betrayal, murder, and the odd duel thrown in for good measure!
‘I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper, than of a sword or pistol.’
Read if: you want to be taken on an epic adventure of love and revenge
For more information on the history of The Count of Monte Cristo and a useful character summary try this SparkNotes page.
Cover image courtesy of Goodreads.
If you have read The Count of Monte Cristo (or want to ask some questions before you dive in!) then please do comment below…