Monday, August 7, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : The Three Musketeers

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? 

8 comments:

  1. glad you stuck it out and finished it.

    i also really enjoy the athos character. d'artagnan's story is a great morality tale and coming of age story. i agree that the first half can be a lot of back and forth and following things that you don't really think will add up, but the second half totally makes up for it. the payoffs in this story are GREAT.

    musketeers is at the top of my dumas list, so if you had a hard time with this one, i really don't think you'll enjoy iron mask or monte cristo much.

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    1. You've read Iron Mask and Monte Cristo???

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  2. First of all, kudos to you for sticking it out! I totally bailed on the book after maybe 200 pages...which isn't even half (or a third, probably), and I thought I was doing well.

    I haven't read any other Dumas books, but I'm of the same opinion - if Three Musketeers was that difficult to read, I wouldn't even attempt the other two. Then again, you have a higher tolerance level for reading classics than I do. haha

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    1. I am determined to at least read The Count of Monte Cristo, and sooner rather than later. It's like my favorite movie of all time, and even though I know the book is very different, I still want to read it. Haha!

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  3. I think I got about a quarter of the way through the 3 Musketeers and "paused". Hopefully, I'll get back to it in a bit. Completely agree on the "love" stories. Accurate, though not particularly appealing. Good to hear the second half is better. That might be enough to get me to push through.

    I was required to read the Count of Monte Cristo, unabridged, in 9th or 10th grade, and I remember really enjoying it. If 15 year old me could do it, you can too :) I think it's a little shorter, if that's a consolation (my copy was a little over 500 pages). I don't think the build is nearly as slow either...more seems to happen along the way. There's a fair share of heartbreak in that one, but it's a little more legitimate. It's hard to get behind Dantes' all consuming quest for revenge, but it's really cool how he does it, and you do feel like some of them deserve it. The main part that was difficult for me was how many characters and families you have to keep track of. Several couples have kids who are engaged to each other, then each of the kids has someone they'd rather marry on the side - a little hope for true love. My copy had a list of characters at the beginning, and my sister created a chart of the couples when she had to read it, which is still in the front cover. The ending didn't make a ton of sense to me, but I should probably re-read it.

    I'd say The Count of Monte Cristo is worth your time to attempt. If you hate it, then don't bother.

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    1. I definitely want to read it. The movie adaptation starring Jim Caviezel is one of my favorite movies of all time. Have you seen it? I know it's very different from the book, but I think I would really appreciate the book. My brother has read it, and he said the same things about getting people confused. He kept one bookmark where he was reading and one in the notes in the back so he could flip back and forth when he got confused about who was who.

      Either way, I think I will probably take a break from Dumas next year and pick him up again in 2019. :)

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  4. I've read both Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Count of Monte Cristo (which I read twice). I remember struggling with Musketeers a lot. I was in either middle school or high school and had just seen the movie with Chris O Donnel. I remember wanting to like the people, but just couldn't and that it didn't grab my interest till way later.
    The Man in the Iron Mask I remember with indifference. It's brought me a sense of closure to the whole series, but I just never really like most of the characters. It was easier to read than Musketeers though.
    Since I've read it twice, it's pretty obvious that I really like The Count of Monte Cristo. Don't judge it by the movie though as they took major liberties when they made that movie. However, I feel that with Monte Cristo, Dumas actually was trying to say something about the truth of human experience. There's more to it than just an adventure story which is all I get out of the Musketeers novels. It does have its times that it lags a bit, but nothing like the other two. There are also a lot of characters to keep up with;so I had a piece of paper with the names and relationships written on it to help me.

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    1. This is the comment I was looking for. I just knew The Count of Monte Cristo had to be better, and I'm also glad to hear The Man in the Iron Mask was easier than The Three Musketeers. Thanks, Jess!

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