Monday, June 09, 2008

Ello's Celebrate Reading Pick: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas

Today, we welcome Ello as our Celebrate Reading Month Guest Blogger.

About the Guest Blogger: Ello was a practicing corporate and entertainment law attorney for over 15 years until she finally left it all behind to write and teach at a local university. Teaching is going all right but she's still working on the writing part!


When I was young, I wanted to be the Count of Monte Cristo. That was my dream. Not the being falsely accused, imprisoned in a terrible dungeon, digging a tunnel with a spoon and being throw into the ocean with a big weight tied to your feet. Noooo thank you. I'd like to skip that part and go straight to the fabulously filthy rich part where I come back as invented nobility buying large mansions and spending money like a monkey in a poo flinging contest. Oh yes, and the revenge part is pretty nice too. Manipulating society, finance and the law so masterfully to discredit, ruin and kill your enemies. Man I love this book. Oh yeah, there is redemption in there too. The Count actually learns to forgive………. but only after all his enemies have been destroyed. And the sheer brilliance of the book lies in how the revenge is carried out. The Count doesn't go and just kill his enemies, he finds out their flaws and weaknesses and causes their downfall.

How can you not love a book like this? Some people mistakenly believe that this is a children's adventure book. But this is no simple child's story. It is an adult tale filled with adult themes. The reason that this is one of the highest selling books of all time is because it is filled with adventure, passion, violence, love and justice as well as intrigue, betrayal, theft, adultery, presumed infanticide, torture, suicide, poisoning, and murder. It has a huge cast of characters and yet you have no problem following everyone because of how well the plot interweaves with all the characters. There is only one other book that I love as much as The Count of Monte Cristo and that is To Kill a Mockingbird. But Moonie threatened me with bodily harm if I spoke of more than one love so I shall stick with the Count.

So when did I come in contact with the Count and what has he meant to me? Here's where I get long winded so bear with me. When I was younger, my parents owned a series of restaurants and stores and I worked in every single one of them from the age of 10. Waiting tables, washing pots and pans, even cooking. If there was a job that needed being done, I was doing it. Not that my parents didn't have a staff. They did. But I was always part of the staff. It was hard work, and for a kid that had to go to school and come back home and fit in homework and studying during the slow periods before the dinner rush, life was hard. With me always working, there was not a lot of time to run around and play with my friends. An hour here and there was about all I ever saw of friends during the school week. So I lived for the days I'd walk over to the library and fill a shopping cart full of books that I knew I could read at night when the restaurant or store finally closed. Reading was my escape. I lived for books that would take me away from my daily life. I needed a way to forget how tired I was everyday. Books with adventure that swept me away helped me live through these hard times.

I also looked forward to the days when the babysitter couldn't come and take care of my little sister who is 8 years younger than me. Those were the rare afternoons I could stay at home, playing with her and watching TV. When I had to work at the restaurant, we'd come home too late for me to watch TV. But the afternoons were filled with great shows and the 4:30 afternoon movie on ABC. One particular afternoon, I saw an old movie of The Man in the Iron Mask. It was so good that the very next time I went to the library, I went looking for it. Instead, I found the Count. Reading it, I remember feeling a roller coaster ride of emotions. Happiness for the young Dantes, anger and shock at his betrayal, sad and depressed for his suffering, spiteful glee as his revenge took fruit and sympathy at his remorse. I raced through the book, desperately eager to find out what happened and when I finished I felt a terrible sadness to know that I could never again read this book with virgin eyes.

This is the book that made me want to be a writer. It is quite possibly the most amazing tale ever written by a masterful storyteller. As I work on an action sequence or I delve into the ramifications of a character's actions, my mind flits back to the Count and hope only that I can write a book half as wonderful as this one. And so I end my homage to the Count and Dumas and hope that if anyone out there has not yet read the Count, I have convinced you to give it a try.

20 comments:

Bernita said...

Wonderful, Ello!

Conduit said...

"When I finished I felt a terrible sadness to know that I could never again read this book with virgin eyes."

Surely the greatest compliment that can be paid to a book. I remember reading the foreword to a classic graphic novel (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - don't scoff, it's brilliant!) that had the line (I paraphrase): "If you're reading this book for the first time, I envy you."

Hmm, you have me yearning for some classic adventure...

writtenwyrdd said...

But...did you like the book???

Seriously, there is nothing so inspiring as a book that makes one so excited.

Lana Gramlich said...

You've just made ME want to be the Count, too!

Merry Monteleone said...

No offense or anything, but you suck, Ello... you just took my top choice and mentioned the one in closest contention...

No wonder you're my beta reader :-)

I loooved The Count of Monte Cristo. I actually read The Three Musketeers first, and adored it, but The Count is ever so much better and more layered...

Okay, off to pick a new book for Moonie...

pacatrue said...

Well, Ello, you already know how I feel about the Count as I've blogged like three times about it since you and I have been "hanging out." The good news it that I put the Count aside already as my essay, so I'm safe. Your post does make me realize that I have no idea how or why I read the book for the first time.

Charles Gramlich said...

That was indeed a grand book. And in a very weird piece of synchronicity, I was in the bookstore browsing this evening and I came upon an "erotic" retelling of the Count's story. I didn't buy it because I'd much rather have the original, but interesting that this book would appear in my awareness twice this evening. Maybe I better reread it myself.

Lisa said...

There are fewer things more inspiring to me than catching the fever of someone else's excitement for a book. Great post!

JES said...

If somebody opts not to recommend Mockingbird -- MOCKINGBIRD! -- because another classic is marginally better in some way, then I've seriously got to consider (finally, after too many times picking it off a shelf, skimming the cover, and putting it back) reading the first choice.

You did a great job of telling juuuuust enough to set the hook, Ello.

(Ditto Conduit's comment about "never again read[ing] this book with virgin eyes.")

ChrisEldin said...

A fabulous review!!! I haven't read this one either---I just scribbled it on my list. One click shopping.....

jason evans said...

Inspiring, Ello. :) It's always a treat to hear about the books that made people want to be a writer.

Jill Myles said...

My BFF is a huge Dumas fangirl. She's been trying to get me to read this one forever. I should give in and read it. It does sound pretty full of win.

laughingwolf said...

nicley done, my friend :)

i read it as a kid, methinks i'll do so again....

cindy said...

yay, ello! and restaurant work is hard. go you for being such a good daughter!

wasn't this made into a film? because i think i remember watching the movie, liking it, and then wiki'ing it. i need to buy the book now. thanks for the great post and rec, girl!

pjd said...

I will read it soon, as I've never read it before. How could that have happened?

Anyway, I have one question on your review:

spending money like a monkey in a poo flinging contest

Do monkeys in a poo flinging contest spend a lot of money? Huh. I never knew that.

pacatrue said...

To people thinking of reading, not all versions of the Count are equal. I'd definitely recommend on of the unabridged editions despite the fact that that will add about 400 pages more to the story.

Taylor K. said...

Couldn't be more happy with this pick. Been reading these reading picks wondering if it would be picked. Glad it was because it is also my absolute FAVORITE book. Had to read it for summer reading right before ninth grade, and I absolutely loved it. The movie with Jim Caviezal (I know I'm spelling that wrong) and Guy Pierce isn't half bad either.

JaneyV said...

You know - I've never read this one but I'm pretty sure that I've seen the movie. I have always got it mixed up with The Man in The Iron Mask which I also haven't read. Your enthusiasm is very infectious though!

I worked in a restaurant form age 14 - 18 and it is hard work. I only worked weekends and school holidays though - what a cissy!

Chumplet said...

I had an old copy of The Three Musketeers and I read it over and over again. D'Artagnan and his imperfections mixed with his relentless enthusiasm amused me and made me feel not so much a freak.

Demon Hunter said...

Wow, Ello. I just never read it, but now I will. Thank you so much! :*)