Summer Reading Adventures – The Count(s) of Monte Cristo

Summer Reading Adventures – The Count(s) of Monte Cristo

bccountofmontecristoSome people think that summer is over after the 4th of July, but I disagree. We have the rest of July and most of August with daylight until 9 p.m. There’s still time to venture into reading a long book (or two), especially a classic that you always said you were going to read, but never have.

A book like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas.

Why do I bring this book up here? Because it was one of Charles’ favorite stories and one of mine, too. We read the novel out loud to each other and saw the movie several times. But, Charles first reading of the 1,000+ page work was when he was 9 or 10 before the start of World War II.  “I attended the third grade. I liked my teacher immensely; he encouraged us to read. . . My reading skills increased, and by the end of third grade—June 1936—I had read all of the books in the little school library. Then I started reading my father’s books, which required greater literacy; I had to read them twice to understand them better.” Charles told me one of those books was Hrabě Monte Cristo.

The book is a wonderful masterpiece full of intrigue, love, passion, social satire, and great fight scenes.  Set in the early 19th century mainly in Italy and Paris, it tells the story of 19 year-old Edmond Dantes, a handsome young sailor who is about to be married to the beautiful Mercedes. Dantes is also to be made captain of a ship and his future seems bright, but his success creates jealousy among his mates and wins him enemies.

Edmond’s good times end on his wedding day when he is falsely accused of treason and arrested. Despite his innocence he spends 14 years in prison on the island fortress Chateau d’lf without a trial for a crime he never committed. In prison, Edmond befriends a wise priest named Faria, who teaches him many languages and sciences and tells him of a vast hidden treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. The priest eventually dies and Dantes finds a way to escape. The rest of the story deals with how he carries out his plans for revenge.

bcblackcount2A companion to this remarkable story of “fiction” is the true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired Alexandre Dumas to write The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. 

That real-life hero is General Alex Dumas, the protagonist of The Black Count who is not well-known today, but has a familiar story because his son Alexandre Dumas used it to create some of the beloved heroes of literature. What’s even more incredible is the secret that the real hero was the son of a black slave who “rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.”

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in a bold campaign across Europe and the Middle East – until he met an enemy he could not defeat.

The Black Count is a riveting adventure story and a poignant story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son. It won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2013.

I highly recommend reading one or both of these books during the remaining days of summer!

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