on August 28, 2007
This review is for those who've already decided they want to read The Count of Monte Cristo (you won't regret it!), and don't know which version to get.
Short answer: see review title, duh!
The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite book, and I've read several translations, both abridged and unabridged.
The Buss translation is the most modern, and reads most fluidly. A quick example comparing this translation with the one found on Project Gutenberg:
PG - His wife visited for him, and this was the received thing in the world, where the weighty and multifarious occupations of the magistrate were accepted as an excuse for what was really only calculated pride...
BUSS - His wife visited on his behalf; this was accepted in society, where it was attributed to the amount and gravity of the lawyer's business -- when it was, in reality, deliberate arrogance...
Buss's work reads like the book was written in English. The two or so times that the work is nearly untranslatable, Buss makes a footnote about it (eg, an insinuated insult using the formal "vous" instead of the familiar "tu"). Other translations just skip the subtlety. The most common translation out there (uncredited in my version) reads like a swamp. Trust me, get Buss.
ABRIDGED V UNABRIDGED
Abridged versions of this book rarely say "abridged." You can tell by the size: abridged is 500-700 pages, unabridged is 1200-1400 pages. Go for the unabridged.
The abridged version is VERY confusing! Pruning 1200 pages down to 600 leaves a lot of plot on the cutting room floor. Suddenly, arriving at dinner are 4 new characters; it's very tiring to try to keep up with the hole-ridden story of the abridged versions. And you know where the holes are? Publishers "clean up" the book by omitting the affairs, illegitimate children, homosexuality, hashish trips, etc.
As an added bonus in the Penguin Classics edition, there's a wonderful appendix bursting with footnotes to explain all the 19th century references, and a quick guide to the rise and fall of Napoleon (crucial to the politics in the story).
Hope this helps. Get the book and start reading!
Warning: Do NOT pick this book up and start it if you have something that you need to do in the next day or three. You won't be able to put the book down, or if you do, you'll move zombielike through your everyday tasks while your mind stays with the adventures of Edmund Dantes.
The Count of Monte Cristo is a delicious book, full of intrigue, great fight scenes, love, passion, and witty social satire. Dumas has a wonderful grasp of human nature and a talent for rendering all the follies of man in delightful, snappy prose. I immediately recognized people that I know (yes, even myself) in his vivid characters, which made the book all the more engaging to me.
Some people might be put off by the size of the book -- it's a pretty hefty volume -- an tempted to buy the abridged version. Don't! I've heard from people who've read both versions that the abridged version is a pathetic, washed out shadow of the full novel. At any rate, as thick and impossibly long as The Count of Monte Cristo may seem when you open it for the first time, you'll feel as though it's far too short by the time you get to the last page.
on May 24, 2010
This book is an example of perfect fiction writing. Its length is 5 times the average book and it still was not long enough! The story, the characters, the settings and the emotions enthralled me for days. I could not put it down. I was living the book as it took me to France, the mediterranean, Italy and every home, cave and mode of transportation detailed in exemplary fashion by Dumas. Without giving away the intrigue... This book is the story of a wronged young sailor and follows his life as he is imprisoned due to the actions of 3 jealous men. He lives in prison for an extended period of time, meeting a man who gives him hope and a life beyond his dreams. He escapes the horrid dungeon and seeks revenge on the 3 men who took away everything he ever hoped for. This book is amazing, it will not disappoint anyone. I cannot believe I did not read it before. Thank you Kindle for allowing me the pleasure of reading this book for free, however, it is worth paying for and sharing with anyone who loves to read.
on January 1, 2003
I've reviewed this book before. I'm writing another review of it now so that it will appear on my list of reviews next to my review of the butchered 2002 screen adaptation of this epic work.
Alexandre Dumas's _The Count of Monte Cristo_ is one of the greatest novels of all time and in fact stands at the fountainhead of the entire stream of popular adventure-fiction. Dumas himself was one of the founders of the genre; every other such writer -- H. Rider Haggard, C.S. Forrester, Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Mickey Spillane, Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, John Grisham -- is deeply in his debt.
The cold, brooding, vampiric Count (born Edmond Dantes; known also, among other aliases, as "Sinbad the Sailor," Lord Wilmore, and a representative of the firm of Thomson and French) is the literary forebear of every dark hero from Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Pimpernel to Zorro, Batman, the Green Hornet, and Darkman. And the intricate plot provides everything any reader could want: adventure, intrigue, romance, and (of course) the elegant machinations of the Count himself as he exacts his terrible revenge on those who have wronged him -- thereby serving, or so he believes, as an agent of divine justice and retribution. Brrrrrrrr.
The book is also a good deal _longer_ than many readers may be aware. Ever since the middle of the nineteenth century, the English translations have omitted everything in the novel that might offend the sensibilities of Victorian readers -- including, for example, all the sex and drugs.
That's why I strongly recommend that anyone interested in this novel read Robin Buss's full-text translation. Unlike, say, Ayn Rand (whose cardboard hero "John Galt" also owes his few interesting aspects to Monsieur le Comte), Dumas was entirely capable of holding a reader's undivided attention for over a thousand pages; Buss's translation finally does his work justice, restoring all the bits omitted from the Bowdlerized versions.
The heart of the plot, as most readers will already know, is that young sailor Edmond Dantes, just as his life starts to come together, is wrongfully imprisoned for fourteen years in the dungeons of the Chateau d'If as the victim of a monstrously evil plot to frame him as a Bonapartist. While in prison he makes the acquaintance of one Abbe Faria, who serves as his mentor and teaches him the ways of the world (science, philosophy, languages and literature, and so forth), and also makes him a gift of a fabulous treasure straight out of the _Thousand and One Nights_. How Dantes gets out of prison, and what he does after that -- well, that's the story, of course. So that's all I'm going to tell you.
However, I'll also tell you that the 2002 screen adaptation doesn't even begin to do it justice. The plot is so far "adapted" as to be unrecognizable, except in its broad outlines and the names of (some of) the characters. Pretty much everything that makes Dumas's novel so darkly fascinating has been sucked out of it. It's not a bad movie on its own terms, but if you're expecting an adaptation of this novel, you'll be disappointed. And if you've already seen it, don't base your judgment of the novel on it.
on December 16, 1999
I first read the Bantam abridged Monte Cristo when I was 13 years old. Then, the next year, I saw the unabridged version and immediately bought a copy. Monte Cristo is an absolutely wonderful and wonderfully written masterpiece that tells the story of a young man that could be any of several people that you and I know. It is a story of injustice, despair, remorse, cruelty, misfortune, and evil. However, at the same time, the book manages to show that in the seemingly rotten world we live in there is hope, charity, love, honor, and purity as well. Edmond is one of the greatest dynamic characters of all time, innocently sent to face punishment that he in no way deserves. While enduring this unjust punishment, he meets a man and they become friends. Edmond learns from this man that everyone acts according to their own standards, and that everyone will eventually receive reward for the actions or crimes that they have committed, whether that reward be payment for honest living or pain in reparation for hardships forced upon others. Edmond then becomes that reparation, rewarding those that were his true friends, and exacting revenge upon those that caused him pain. A wonderful story, with excellent characters and an intricate plot. I would recommend this book for anyone that wants to laugh, cry, and triumph with a single character and his struggles. As the title states, this is one of my favorite books of all time, the only other that really compares with it is Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.
on November 27, 2004
This is a great book and I highly recommend it, but don't buy this enriched classic version of the book. It was good, but I felt like something was missing, and not until I finished the book did I discover that this version leaves out significant portions of the actual story. Nowhere in this book does it tell you that it is an abridged version, but it actually is. Buy a different version of this book.
on November 2, 2003
I agree with the reviewers that this is one of the best books ever written. I read this book as part of a book club and probably never would have read it on my own--having read many of the books of Hugo and Dickens and other writers of that approximate era. I love both of these writers but find them both at times cumbersome and stilted and really wasn't in the mood for another. However, I could not put the Count of Monte Cristo down. This book seems freshly modern in writing style compared to these superb writers. From the beginning it is a page turner--almost Harry Potter like in its ability to have action, adventure and drama on almost every page. If you read the unabridged version you will find some allusions to morality and the wrongness of revenge which I enjoyed. But what makes the book great is the grandeur of the writing, the tightness of a wonderful plot, filled with subplots, the development of the characters, and the constant magic of combining romance and adventure. It is the ultimate romance book. If you watched the most recent version of the movie, you might be disappointed at the lack of sword fights, but there is never a lack of adventure and suspense. It might be 1400 pages long, but it never disappoints.
on March 2, 2004
The introduction to this excellent Modern Library edition says, "The long journey of Edmond Dantes is one that we should all take at some point in our lives." I couldn't agree more. This novel easily ranks among the greatest epics--The Odyssey, Don Quixote, Les Miserables, War & Peace and The Brothers Karamazov come to mind as works of comparable scope and moral grandeur.
My only advice is: set aside some time. With 1500 pages, a complex web of characters (including many with shifting identities) and more than a few dispensible subplots, this unabridged edition is a challenge--albeit a rewarding one.
The novel tackles all the great themes: war, revolution, love, power, money, justice, evil, God. But in a word, it's subject is REVENGE. A good-natured young man of exceptional promise, Edmond Dantes is betrayed by his erstwhile friends, unjustly imprisoned by an ambitious magistrate, and left for dead by the woman he loves. The first three hundred pages of the story are fast-paced and almost cinematic, from the wrenching scenes of betrayal and imprisonment, down to Dantes' miraculous escape and rebirth as a remarkable new man, the Count of Monte Cristo.
The Count is part 007, part Stoic philosopher. He'll drop you in a duel, match wits with you in the salon, concoct potions from recipes in a dozen languages, be in three places at once, with three different identities, and exercise a kind of foresight and control over human events that we normally associate with gods and conspiracy theories. Oh yeah--and he's loaded, too.
Dantes burns with a desire for revenge, but it's an entirely different sort than the Clint Eastwood/Charles Bronson variety. Instead of blasting his way into Paris with a semi-automatic (or less anachronistically, with a really big sword), Dantes methodically plots the downfall of his enemies using even more lethal weapons: the evil that lurks in their own hearts.
All this takes a long time. There is a big drop off in intensity in the middle chunk of the novel, as Dumas transitions from the swashbuckling Napoleonic days to a more traditional European novel of manners set in the 1830s. A whole new set of characters are introduced. Later, we discover their relationship to Dantes' earlier antagonists--but for a time we are totally at sea. Meanwhile, Dumas launches various digressions that will occasionally cause the reader to wonder whether he was getting paid by the word (probably).
But don't despair. The last half of the novel gathers steam like a freight train, as Count of Monte Cristo moves in for the kill. The suspense builds--not because we wonder whether Dantes will get his revenge, but whether he can avoid turning into a monster in the process.
Ultimately, Dumas offers as sane and humane a message as you can hope for from 1500 pages of injustice and vengeance. In a novel where fortunes shift, names and titles are granted and extinguished, and identities are transformed on turns of luck, the old Stoic wisdom shines through. It's not what happens to you, good or bad, but how you respond to it, that determines true virtue in this world. One suspects this would be true even without an avenging Providence, even if Edmond Dantes' triumph were less complete.
on February 3, 2002
I first read this book in high school, and it is a great book. Unfortunately, this edition is, as far as I can tell, abridged, so it doesn't have the full story. I just finished reading this edition, and based on what I remember from my earlier reading, as well as conversations with another person who has read the work, this edition leaves things out. While I can find nothing indicating that this edition is abridged, I think it is, so I would suggest finding the full version if you are truly interested in the book.
on November 12, 2002
This is one of the greatest tales of revenge of all time. We owe to Dumas's skillful hand a narrative rivaling WAR AND PEACE, a vast collection of characters and tales within tales, all finally ancohered together upon the dreadful downfall of Edmond Dantes and his in some ways equally dreadful rebirth as that mysterious agent of justice, the Count of Monte Cristo. It is a fascinating story, providing thrills -- but not at the expense of shallowness -- and provoking thought -- but without affectation.
My only piece of advice to the reader is to take a few notes on the characters, since they disappear and reappear, and sometimes are referred to by different names and titles. However, for what it is worth, I was able to follow the story closely enough to thoroughly enjoy it even without notes, and despite occasionally being forced to set the book down for a few weeks between chapters.
Because of the size of the book, the Modern Library Classics edition is especially useful, having comparatively large and legible print, decent spacing between lines, and, most importantly, a flexible spine which allows it to be set open on a table without creasing or cracking.