Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Three Musketeers

Title: The Three Musketeers
Author: Alexandre Dumas
List: Fake Facebook BBC Top 100
Worth reading? Yes!!

This book is another example of why the fake Facebook list of the BBC Top 100 is not all bad. Like The Count of Monte Cristo, which makes the BBC list at #44, this is an excellent adventure story slightly based on historical fact. Of course, the story is also very much in the news right now with the release of the new movie, which, based purely on the cast list, might actually be more faithful to the novel than other movies, but don’t hold me to that.

Anyway, who doesn’t know the story of D’Artagnan and the three musketeers? There have been so many movies based on the book or the characters that I feel it would be a rare person who does not have a mental picture of the musketeers and their “one for all and all for one” motto. I have definitely seen several musketeer movies, but I don’t think I was fully aware of all the intricacies of Dumas’ original novel. I don’t want to go into those intricacies now, but I will say that all the interwoven plotting of the principal characters makes for an exciting and fast-paced read.

Which brings me to my next point. I know someone who also read this book recently and had never before read a Dumas. This person was expecting a dry, dark, period piece that would be difficult to get through and was pleasantly surprised by the energy of The Three Musketeers. So much so that this person is now reading The Man in the Iron Mask and will, eventually, follow that up with The Count of Monte Cristo. Now, I had read The Count of Monte Cristo years ago, albeit an abridged version, and had enjoyed it as a fantastic, intriguing novel, which meant that I was not at all surprised to find The Three Musketeers so interesting. It is also not surprising that many chapters end on cliffhangers, because like many novels of the time, The Three Musketeers was originally serialized so Dumas had to make sure to keep drawing in readers week after week. Anyway, for anyone else who has fears about this being a dry novel only enlivened on film, put those fears aside because you will speed through most of this book.

You may have noticed that slight caveat, most. I will admit that there are slow parts, especially in the beginning where there is a lot of description. And perhaps this, in addition to the considerable length, is why there are abridged versions. But don’t give up and just start on an abridged version. This truly is a marvelous story, the slow parts aren’t that numerous, and I really think there is something to the theory that a story should be enjoyed as the author intended it… except that I definitely couldn’t wait to read the next chapter!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Title:  Where Angels Fear to Tread
Author:  E. M. Forster
List:  #98 on Radcliffe’s Top 100 20th Century Novels.
Worth reading?  Not really.

The title, Where Angels Fear to Tread, comes from Alexander Pope's phrase, "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." The title is apt, as this is a novel full of bad choices and failed attempts to influence those choices.

It all starts with Lilia Herriton, who has been under the thumb of her late husband’s mother and siblings until she has the opportunity to take a trip to Italy with a neighbor, Miss Abbott. There she falls in love with Italy and an Italian and makes a choice of which the Herritons disapprove. However, the Herritons are too late to change Lilia’s rapidly made up mind. Lilia later regrets her choice and comes to an unhappy end. This leads Miss Abbot to influence the Herritons to adopt Lilia’s Italian baby. The Herritons only comply with Miss Abbott’s suggestions for the sake of appearances, and the bungling pursuit of the adoption by Miss Abbott and the Herritons leads to another tragic ending.

The most redeeming part of the novel is the way it portrays Italy and Italians as exuding an irresistible charm. That charm is readily felt in the descriptions of the country and its inhabitants, but only when the focus is not on the main characters. I suppose the novel is okay, but there are many novels on my list that are much more memorable than this one.