Well, after almost 7 months of reading (off and on) I have finally reached the halfway point in the Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged). At 1465 odd pages, its more like having several books in one handy binding.
I must say though that I am really glad I switched to the unabridged version. A fantastic read.
How did I get here? This all started when someone made an offhand comment to a certain executive ThoughtWorker that his negotiation style was like something out of the Count of Monte Cristo. Not long after, I saw it on the 'cheap classics' display at one of the big bookstores and decided to buy a copy. It was only after reading the introduction that I realized I had an abridged copy (its still some 700 pages long or something like that), but I figured I'd start it anyway. I got about a third of the way in, and decided that I liked it so much, I wanted to read the unabridged, (because I knew I was unlikely to reread it in its entirety. So I set out to find an unabridged copy.
What I didn't realize was that was actually relatively hard to do. Unlke many of those 'cheap classics' that get butchered to lower the cost of the series, Le Comte de Monte Cristo went through that process on its first translation to English. It was this version I bought when I picked up the first copy (makes sense, its no longer copyrighted which is why its in the 'cheap classics' section along with outdated translations of other classics). So to get the unabridged version I had to pay more, but Amazon had it of course (that's the link over in the book list on the right of the page).
Another thing I didn't know before I started reading, was that TCOMC was originally published as a serial. It shows. Each chapter stands somewhat on its own, and its very long (Dumas was getting paid by the word you see). But here's the thing: Its not wordy in that 19th century sort of way -- in fact, it feels very modern -- instead the book strolls instead of hurries -- giving us time to take in the sights.
All of this is done amazingly enough without a huge loss in momentum and perhaps even more surprisingly -- without irrelevance. While the parts elided from the abridged version aren't critical to the flow, the depth and complexity of the story would be much reduced, and I am glad I switched.
And the story itself? Fantastic. Great drama, humor, adventure and of course intrigue. Its Romance in the classic sense, and along the way Dumas provides a great window on the times in a way a history of the mid-19th century France could not.
And the best part? I still have all the really exciting revenge bits to go. I'll let you know how it turns out next winter ;-)