The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasUnabridged; narrated by Andrew Timothy; RNIB
The Count of Monte Cristo should be retitled The Art of Revenge or something of that nature. Alexandre Dumas’ massive novel weaves the fantastic story of Edmond Dantes whose life is destroyed after greed, jealousy and pride cause him to wrongfully spend 14 years in prison. Upon escape from the dungeon of Chateau d’If, he assumes the position of the Count of Monte Cristo and goes about the next ten years meticulously plotting revenge on the individuals responsible for his incarceration and the ensuing consequences of that imprisonment.
He sees himself as an agent of Providence to exact a righteous judgment on these people and their lives. Things don’t go exactly as planned at every turn, some for the worse and some for the better. It is a story of love, honor, filial piety and hope. But, don’t worry about it being sappy because it is also full of debaucheries such as murder, bribery, assassination, fraud, extortion, secret affairs, executions, bandits, extreme excess, drugs, suicide and more. Though, in many of these instances it is told in a way that would still be PG in today’s society because most of it is implied or not told in gory details.
Just like Hugo’s Les Miserables the tale interweaves the lives of each character in masterful ways. The story didn’t seem to drag at any point and was very engaging as I wanted to find out what happened next and how the Count reacted to the various obstacles and unforeseen consequences of his actions. At the end of the story, I still didn’t know how I felt about the Count and what he chose to do. In my heart, I know what he did was wrong, but I understand the reasoning he had as well. Then again I don’t really relate to a culture that considers suicide an honorable deed and duels are a part of resolving disputes.
Unlike Les Miserables, I wouldn’t recommend the abridged version. There are no pontifications on the cities they’re in or the way of life. It is just the story.
The end of the book sums up the wisdom of the whole narrative in the simple letter left by the Count saying goodbye to a friend. Here are some of the nuggets of truth:
“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die … that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”
“… all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,–‘Wait and hope.’”
And referring to himself he shares something that I had thought several times throughout the story:
“to pray sometimes for a man, who like Satan thought himself for an instant equal to God, but who now acknowledges with Christian humility that God alone possesses supreme power and infinite wisdom.”
Go and read this book. It is a classic that will remain a classic for generations. The themes are universal and timeless. You won’t regret the time it takes to sit down and read or listen to.Now, a note about the recording, it was inexpensive on iTunes, which is why I chose it. However, it wasn’t the greatest audiobook recording at all. The narrator wasn’t the best with voices and often used similar voices for different characters that could be confusing at times. I regularly heard him turning the pages too, sometimes very noisily, and a few times at very quiet moments I could hear people cough or talk in the background as if it was recorded in a public place. The narrator also adlibbed the chapter titles by saying things like “and now we come to chapter 23 of the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas” and “in chapter 57 we read about the room” instead of just saying the chapter number and title. There were a few mispronunciations as well, which could be due to the fact that it was a British dude saying French words. In the end though, the recording was made by a nonprofit organization, the Royal Institute of Blind People, which has a vast collection of audiobooks, braille books and more for those who are visually impaired. (I would think though that someone relying purely on their hearing would better be able to pick out the distractions of the recording and be annoyed by them than I who doesn’t have any sight impairment.)