One of my favourite memories from school was spending an English class reading Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo simultaneously with the class-book, Jamila Gavin’s Coram Boy.
Somehow, I managed to follow along with the class reading such that when it came to my turn to read aloud a paragraph, I was in the right place and the pause no longer than anyone else’s when they’d forgotten it was their turn next. And then I went back to Monte Cristo.
The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the few extra-long books I am happy to read, although reading on the Kindle is something of a struggle. I prefer a physical copy. The one I read in that English class was my sister’s (or perhaps my mother’s, which my sister had adopted onto her shelves), bound in blue leather, if memory recalls, with the tracing-paper pages normally associated with Bibles. It was 1100 pages long.
It is a very vengeful story, the Count being the reinvention of humble sailor Edmond Dantès after having spent the better part of two decades imprisoned in Chateau d’If on trumped up charges of treason – accused by men who had reason to hate him, one a love-rival. He is arrested on his wedding-day.
Hearing of a large treasure on the isle of Monte Cristo from his neighbouring prisoner, Edmond plans an escape, which he duly puts into place and becomes the first to survive an escape from Chateau d’If and works his way towards Monte Cristo. Recovering the treasure, he sets about rewarding those who helped him, and destroying those who robbed him of the best years of his life and love, now all three wealthy and living in Paris Society.
On the one hand, finally good triumphs, as should happen in fiction, and the bad come to sticky ends one and all. On the other, like I said before, terribly vengeful. Edmond Dantès is not the sort of person to cross, and he likes very complicated and convoluted plans to get revenge.
I like it. Very much.