For those of you who are still busy reading the newest Evanovich, Grisham, or Patterson book, The Count of Monte Cristo shows us that some of the most entertaining books may have been written as long as a hundred and sixty five years ago.
Originally written as a serial for a French newspaper, it was later collected into one volume that has had an amazing staying power in its place of origin and around the globe. It is still widely read by young and old today, and its popularity lies in the simplicity of the work. The story is so universal that we can all relate to it and in a way already know it: innocent man is imprisoned, an inmate tells him of a treasure, man escapes and plots revenge on those that locked him up. The book is really that simple, like an old tale passed down from generation to generation to teach a lesson.
What sets this book apart is how the author fleshes out the characters and world with such detail and passion that the book becomes a world in itself. It feels more like your reading an account of an amazing life story instead of a novel. It also plays on your emotions so well that when the tough moral and philosophical questions come into play, you’re not so sure what the right thing is. The main question posed numerous times in the book is this: If the law will not punish those who are guilty, shouldn’t it be the victim’s right to take the law into their own hands? In other words, is revenge just? However, like all good tales, we walk away learning the lesson, convinced that we won’t make the same mistake.
On a side note, although many people prefer to read the abridged version because of the book’s length (it’s a little over a thousand pages) I highly recommend reading signet’s new unabridged translation by Robin Buss. The new translation makes it even more accessible to the modern reader and contains notes that explain some of the history of France that occurs simultaneously with the story. It amazes me that people would prefer to read a cut down version when the book’s quality is very consistent.