Tuesday, April 27, 2010
First impressions of 'The Count of Monte Cristo' (and a giveaway)
Perhaps it was overly optimistic of me to commit to reading The Count of Monte Cristo for The Classics Circuit Dumas tour this month. I'd really hoped to be done, or if not done, then at least be well on the way, by now. However, my reading hasn't gone at all as planned this month. I'm currently about 400 pages in, which means I still have about 800 pages to go! One of the reasons I haven't been able to read as much of The Count of Monte Cristo as I had hoped this month is because the book is just too darn big and heavy to lug around with me on my train commute, so I've only been reading it at home in the evenings, and I'm so sleepy these days that I never seem to get much read before falling asleep. But instead of cancelling my tour date, here are some of my first impressions of what I've read so far.
But first a little background about why I chose this book in the first place, especially since I often have a major fear of chunky books. Actually that's not exactly true. I quite often enjoy big tomes once I'm in them but it's the starting them that I shy away from. Their size simply intimidates me, so those big books tend to just sit on my shelves unread, and taunting me.
Back when we were living in England, at some point, Penguin had a 3 for 2 sale on their Black Classics. Who can resist a 3 for 2 sale, right? In general, living in England was a dangerous time for me. Every trip to a bookstore was filled with temptation. You have to remember, before our time in England I'd spent 4 years in Japan, where I hadn't really got on to the internet yet (no Book Depository), and English books were hard to come by, and expensive. Talk about a kid in a candy store! Is it surprising I went a bit book mad? Anyway, I digress. So I took the opportunity of the Penguin sale to buy a selection of classics I felt like I really should read someday but were still gaps in my literary journey. Dumas, Dickens, James, Cervantes, Tolstoy, and so on. Of course we've been back in Japan for almost 5 years now and there most of those books still sit, unread.
Fast forward to late last year when my husband suddenly decided, rather out of the blue, to read The Count of Monte Cristo. I don't remember now what inspired him but he up and bought a seven-volume set in Japanese. (Now why can't English books be so neat, and compact, and portable?) This was surprising because he almost never reads fiction, never mind European classics. He does read but it is almost exclusively non-fiction, primarily computer or business books. I remembered my neglected Penguin paperback and told him I'd read along with him in 2010. However, the new year came and I kept getting sidetracked with other books and reading commitments. Meanwhile, he went ahead and started, and has really liked what he's read. He has currently stalled at about half way (volume 4), not because he wasn't enjoying it, but due to having more work-related reading lately. He still wants to go back to it, and I still wanted to read it. The opportunity to talk about a book in common is such a rare occurrence after all. So when The Classics Circuit announced a Dumas tour it was the perfect excuse to finally pick up the darn thing. And here we are.
As for the story itself, so far we have conspiracy, wrongful imprisonment, dungeons, danger, bandits, treasure, mystery, intrigue...not a bad beginning! I only know the very general outline and nothing about how it ends up, so I can only guess at where the story will go from here. I've heard some comments from others that didn't like the path the main character took, but I'm looking forward to experiencing the rest of the story for myself, and am curious if the early momentum of the story will hold for another several hundred pages.
I'm also enjoying chatting about the book with H. Whenever he sees me reading it, he asks which part I'm at, and then we sometimes discuss it a little. Those of you with bookish partners, or spouses, might wonder what the big deal is but this is such a rare event for us. I don't have the chance to talk about books very often in real life. I suppose that even though it is very long, the fact that it is at heart an adventure story makes it a good Western (as opposed to Asian, not about cowboys) classic for H to start with. I'm pretty sure this story is much more up his alley than any of Jane Austen's novels would be, for example. We have almost a week off soon, for Golden Week, so we're hoping to both make some progress in our reading of The Count of Monte Cristo. So my apologies for not having a full review for you today but I'll post our further thoughts on the book later on.
The Count of Monte Cristo, specifically the Wordsworth Classics edition. Long story short, a while ago I found a cheap copy of the TV series on DVD (which we're very much looking forward to watching together once we finish reading) bundled with the book, which was considerably cheaper than the DVD on its own! So if you haven't ever read The Count of Monte Cristo but would like the chance to do so, please just leave a comment on this post, and I'll draw a name on the last day of the tour, Sunday, May 9th. Giveaway is open worldwide to anyone who has access to regular mail service.
Click on the button above, or the following link for the full list of blogs participating in The Classic Circuit's Paris in the Spring: Alexandre Dumas Tour. Thank you to the organisers for all their hard work putting The Classics Circuit tour together, and for nudging me to finally pick up this book.
Have you read The Count of Monte Cristo? Do big books intimidate you?
The small print: I purchased this book for my personal library. Links in this post to Amazon (including book covers) contain my Associates ID. Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission. For more information please visit my About Page.