Friday, 25 July 2014

What I've been reading: The Count of Monte Cristo.

*Checks date*
Still here, I'm afraid.

Eeek. Sorry.

So, I'm on the home stretch with this, and this post this contains spoilers. Also, much SQEEEEEEE!

Where have we got to? Well, the Count of Morcerf has shot himself (YAY!), Valentine is languishing from strychnine poisoning (which has at least cleared her of murder) Albert is adorable (but not particularly bright), the footnotes were written by an idiot and Maximilian Morrel is frankly a bit of a dick.

Oh. And Eugénie is a lesbian. In case you hadn't noticed. Or if you'd forgotten.

 Seriously, if I had one complaint with this novel (besides the chronic idiocy of the editor) it was the sheer iron-bar quality with which Dumas handles Eugénie's sapphism. Because we get it. REALLY. WE GET IT.

Other than that, it's fan-fucking-tastic. After a slow middle bit (blah, gradual bankruptcy, blah, medical details of minor characters we don't really care about, necessesary foundation laying for this bit, blah, Maximillian bloody Morell...) it's all kicked off. Four (count 'em, four) challenges to duels, three deaths by poison, two attempted suicides by honour and AT LAST, someone blows their own brains out from feelings of shame!

Oooooh! And, while we're at it, the honour code in this! All the clenched fists and the deathly pale expressions and the choice of weapons at some place of your choosing! All the fainting and the thrown gloves and sudden reversion to calling your friend, "sir" like it's an insult....It's so delicious, so sharp and complicated and brilliant...

And Haydée, Haydée.... Is she actually the first portrayal of a sexual submissive in literature? Because I am shipping so hard...

So, yeah, this is basically such sheer, sexy, ego packed brilliance that I have been grinning for the last 24 hours. It's better, even, that Three Musketeers. And Dumas is such fun! 

That's one thing I never really realised back when the only copy I had was an abridgement. Sorry to hammer on this theme, but the biggest crime of the abridged versions is how they cut all this to the bone. The important bit is that Dantès shames Fernand, so that's all they give you. They don't give you Albert's anguish, his dilemma, his pride. They don't show him almost chucking his glove at Dantès in a crowded opera house while his friends hang around him with, "Don't do it, Morcerf, really, not smart." (And, seriously, that is a wonderful piece of pacing and building tension, even for someone who knows what happens next.) Oh, you get that Haydée is beautiful and submissive, but you don't see her taking the initiative, you don't see her shouting down her opponent in court. You don't see her bear herself like a queen. Without this, she is a child with a creepy crush, not someone in what is a prototype D/s relationship.

So, after slashing away all this wonderful stuff, you get cardboard cut-outs racing around as much plot as you can fit into 300 pages (a plot whose elegance and complexity is utterly muddled by these cuts) and, reading this, generations of idiots have the audacity to call Dumas a cheap cliché-ridden hack.

And, yeah, it's a bit melodramatic, it's a thing of bold, broad strokes, but there is also subtlety and real passion there. Last night, I read a scene of such breathtaking and tragic intensity that I suspect it will be joining Renfield's desperate plea of sanity  (Doctor Seward's diary, 1st October, 4am, Dracula, Chapter 18) as one of the scenes I murmur aloud in breathless, heartfelt tones every time I read it...  This damn fool of an editor thinks Dumas is condemning Mercédès here, but she shines! She burns like falling star! Oh, these feelings, so lost, so painful, so buried beneath years of torment but strong enough to control them and.... Ah! Perfect. Perfect.

This is everything I ever want in book. This is just....

Actually, it's probably the reason I'm using so many exclamation marks. 

So, go on. Clear your reading diary and have some fun. It's the holidays.

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