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The Man in the Iron Mask (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 25, 2003
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About the Author
Francine du Plessix Gray is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and the author of numerous essays and books, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life, Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, and Soviet Women. She lives with her husband, the painter Cleve Gray.
- ASIN : 0140439242
- Publisher : Penguin Classics (March 25, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 496 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780140439243
- ISBN-13 : 978-0140439243
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Grade level : 12 and up
- Item Weight : 12.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.92 x 5.06 x 0.88 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If you are expecting the story as told by Hollywood, forget it. While I haven't seen the latest version with Leonardo DiCaprio (forgive me if I spell it wrong), I looked at the reader reviews and was quite surprised at how different the book is from Hollywood's version. I also recall a movie done in the late 70's/80's that is nothing like the book as well. I would pick it apart point by point, but that would include spoilers. The Man in the Iron Mask is actually the last third of a huge novel by Dumas originally titled The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Because of the size of the book, English publishers have divided into three books, The Vicomte de Bragelonne (Oxford World's Classics) , Louise de la Vallière (Oxford World's Classics) , and The Man in the Iron Mask.
Suffice it to say that TMITIM is the final chapter of our heroic Musketeers, as well as Raoul, the son of Athos. While we all know the story of Louis XIV's twin and the plot to substitute him, that is a minor part of the whole story, as the action then becomes centered on the aftermath of that plot and Louis' revenge. It has been a grand, glorious ride reading this series, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere and The Man In the Iron Mask. And do have your box of tissue handy for the last 20-30 pages. You'll need it.
One side note, some people are purchasing this as a stand-alone book, which it is not. You could probably get away with that, but you'll spend so much time looking back at the footnotes trying to figure who is who I doubt you will enjoy the story as much. Also, this version didn't have the list of characters that the VDB and LDLV did. Go for broke and read the whole thing, it's well worth it.
"The Man in the Iron Mask" is actually the third part of Dumas' huge novel, titled "The Vicomte de Bragelonne."This novel was divided into "The Vicomte de Bragelonne", "Louise de la Valliere", and "The Man in the Iron Mask." Without having read the other two thirds of this extensive novel, the beginning of this book might be a bit confusing, however the thrill begins somewhere in the middle and is impossible to miss. The impression of the book most people have of this book is of a "jailbreak" story, based on it's title. This book, however, spawns from several historic facts: in 1661, Monsieur Fouquet, who worked for King Louis XVI was arrested for robbery. Also, in the same year, King Louis won over the heart of a young lady called Louise de la Valliere, fact which caused some fuss. In his story "The Man in the Iron Mask", Dumas transmits the undisclosed story behind these facts, which involves, of course, his Four Musketeers: Porthos, Athos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan. The story takes place when the four retired Musketeers are feeling a bit aged and have the strongest desire for adventure; a desire they fulfill all throughout the whole of the novel.
This book regards a mission. The mission the Musketeers Porthos, Athos, Aramis, and D' Artagnan had: to save an innocent man's life, and to consequently save France from a selfish, arrogant ruler. Two birds; only one shot. It begins with Aramis, now Bishop of Vanes visiting a mysterious prisoner in the Bastille, Philippe, as his confessor. Dumas communicates and details this scene impeccably: "Doubtless the scrutiny the prisoner had just made out of the cold, crafty, and imperious character stamped upon the features of the bishop of Vannes was little reassuring to one in his situation." Aramis sees that he has nothing to confess, for his only crime was being the King's twin brother. The prisoner did not even know his true identity, therefore, Aramis reveals it, along with the plan he has come up with, the plan that was to turn his life in-side out: to take him out and to give him what he is the rightful owner of by switching the lives of Louis and Philippe, to arrest the king and substitute him with his brother. The novel frames Aramis' fascinating and complex plot to make this work, as well as how the other Musketeers fit into it.
The Man in the Iron Mask is the name given to a prisoner arrested in France in about 1670 who was held in a number of jails, including the Bastille. No one ever saw his face. He died on 19 November 1703, during the rule of Louis XVI. The possible identity of this man has been thoroughly discussed and has been the topic of many books, for this masked, unidentified character has the power to automatically engage the reader with mystery and thirst for more.
Top reviews from other countries
Why in the world did Aramis tell Fouquet what he did right after? The man is suppose to be smart and it was the most stupidest thing to tell him when everything was still in balance and the stakes were still so high. All sympathy was lost with both characters after the stupidity of their actions and made the story unbelievable for me. Pretty much when the sub plot ended, found it very uninspiring especially concerning Athos and his son. I confess I read it as a stand alone book and so did not have any attachment to his son who I just know as some love struck loser where it was pretty apparent how it was all going to end which made his story so tedious to read.
Yes, the sad ending spoilt it for me too. Who like sad endings? Its like films without a happy ending never sells. The 'Titan' died 'cos his best friend even knowing his prediction of death, left him to it instead of staying with him. I just felt some of the characters acted out of character to force the plot to finish.
Saying all that it is still worth to read just for the first half of the book. I probably wouldn't have bothered to finish the second half.
The whole series is a simply marathon read but I have always loved marathon reads so that a writer, so long as,has the skills, can develop a theme to the full.
I only remove one star now because in my current (only second) reread because after all these years my view of d'Artagnan has changed. I really cannot any longer see him as the dynamic hero. Even thouigh my favourite in the books was always Aramis, I did as a child think d'Artagnan pretty wonderful. Now I am totally devoted to Aramis and his fascinating scheming and how he keeps steps ahead of d'Artagnan most of the time. Aramis is an ambitious schemer, a clever, dynamic and devious free-thinker with ideas that are partly for the benefit of whoever but also for the benefit in certain ways of France. During all these books, France has opposing political forces (in the stories as well as in real life). D'Artagnan is the good and mostly noble soldier (Dumas's musketeers are never perfect human beings, they have the warts too...) but like any soldier he is required to be blindly loyal to the King. D'Artagnan isn't always "blindly" loyal, but at times his loyalty is trying when it's only too clear that Aramis's scheme is far more sensible than whatever d'Artagnan thinks the King needs to know. So I become irritated often with d'Artagnan in these later books because of his loyalty and continually enthralled by Aramis's enterprises.
It's this rivalry that underpins the later 3 books, and in the end it leads to a finale that in some ways is simply supberb but in just a few ways is - in my view - unduly biased towards d'Artagnan. But of course, the Gascon who remains a musketeer all his life does seem to be the writer's favourite and I've heard that Aramis was very often not liked at all - I suppose because he defies and often outwits "the hero" who in real life was quite famous whilst the real life Athos, Porthos and Aramis (yes they all existed, with near enough those names) were not well known.
I quickly took sides from Twenty Years After onwards and it was never d'Artagnan's side. Aramis was the leader of events in my view, d'Artagnan the Royal agent trying to keep up with Aramis, Athos was the retired incredibly decent and noble gentleman, almost a recluse but for attending to his adopted son Raoul. Athos is almost too good to be true. Porthos was a lot of fun and very lovable and helpful to his friends and Aramis says that Porthos is the man in all the world whom he most loves.
The real life Athos was not a comte but a kind of nouveau riche - often identified by their string of titles such as the real Athos and Porthos both had. Athos was one of his titles. His first name was Armand (Dumas gave him the first name Olivier, not in the books but in a play he wrote later), and he died around age 25, probably in a duel amongst those quarrelsome young men. He may have served with Henri d'Amaritz (Aramis, called Rene d'Herblay in the books), who was of true noble birth although didn't have a title. The "old nobility" didn't always have titles. Their names/families/properties proclaimed if they were genuine old nobility - knights of old, and the like - of centuries back. Nouveau-riche type "nobles" like Athos and Porthos obtained a title (Porthos as Baron) through services in administration or whatever work for the community. Aramis retired from the musketeers in due course, returned to his lands and married. He also inherited a status of "lay preacher" - he was not in the priesthood. Isaac de Porthau was from an area called Porthau and a family of administrators and the like. Treville was a comte and related to all of the "four musketeers" one way or another. D'Artagnan, I think I remember rightly, was somewhat older than the others and may have met Athos before Athos died. D'Artagnan did quite late in life become Captain of the Musketeers. All four of these men were from the same area of France as Treville - Gascony. My information is from a fascinating book you can find on Amazon: "Four Musketeers: The True Story of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis and Athos"
Why have they been reissued? Nowadays comics are highly sophisticated. No child is going to respond to this!
They're more likely to put them off Literature for life!
I'm going to give this & few others to my 11 year-old nephew to see what he makes of them!