I did it. I made it to the end of this never-ending book. And in all fairness, the second half went much faster than the first, and the last 20 chapters or so were downright spellbinding. But for all that, I'm still not sure I can forgive Dumas for that tedious build. I mean, technically, I started this monster in March, and hey-o, it's August. Oy.
Let's start by talking a bit about the author, Alexandre Dumas. He lived from 1802 to 1870, and he is one of the most widely read French authors. His works have been translated into nearly 100 languages, and his novels have been adapted since the early 20th century into something like 200 films. Although Dumas was wildly successful during his lifetime and came from an aristocratic background, he did deal with discrimination due to his ancestry although that didn't slow him down with the ladies. Despite being married, he had at least 40 mistresses and 7 illegitimate children.
Which brings me to one of my biggest hangups with The Three Musketeers. Even though it's historically the tradition of upperclass Frenchmen to go around having as many affairs as they want (as the author himself clearly had plenty of experience with), it certainly doesn't make it morally acceptable and, for me, it was downright repugnant. I could not get into any of the "romance" of The Three Musketeers because it was all extramarital. Ugh. It was very hard to have any sympathy for Madame Bonacieux's predicament, and I absolutely couldn't care less about any of D'Artagnan's heartbreaks throughout the novel. Same goes for the poor little Queen and her unfortunate lover Buckingham. About the only characters I could get into were Athos (what a rockstar despite his propensity for alcohol) and Monsieur de Tréville (not exactly a major character, but maybe that's why I liked him--I didn't know enough to give me a reason not to like him).
But getting back to some more facts about the novel itself, The Three Musketeers was first published serially between March and July of 1844, and, from what I understand, Dumas got paid by the line (hence that tedious build I mentioned earlier). The Three Musketeers was actually a collaboration between Dumas and Auguste Maquet who worked with Dumas on many of his novels. Although Maquet took Dumas to court in order to get authorial credit and more money, he never received a by-line (but he did succeed in getting more money).
The Three Musketeers follows our young Gascon gentleman D'Artagnan in his quest to become a Musketeer in the King's Guards. He secures the friendship of the three most famous and popular Musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and (although we have to endure a lot of buildup to figure it out) they ultimately work together against the diabolical Milady which is the main conflict and storyline of the novel.
Like I've said (several times now), the first half is long, wearisome, and (in my opinion) boring. It was very hard to stay awake anytime I sat down with it. The second half was much more entertaining, and at the end I couldn't put it down and even stayed up till midnight one night last week reading page after page until I just couldn't keep my eyes open another second. All in all, I could take it or leave it. As far as recommendations go, meh. If you are going to read it, stick it out because the end is very good. If you aren't going to read it, I really don't think you're missing much and you could spend your time on much better literary pursuits. If I had to rate this one, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars. Not phenomenal, not terrible.
Have you ever read The Three Musketeers or anything else by Dumas? What did you think? The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo are both on my shelf and my Life List, but now I'm not looking forward to them quite as much. I'll probably take a break from Dumas next year and maybe try him again in 2019. Has anyone read both The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo and, if so, is The Count of Monte Cristo better, worse, or about the same?