The Greatest Story of Revenge: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo

Show Notes for Episode 2.2

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (Penguin cloth-bound classics edition)

This week, Jennifer presented her first Books We Love pick: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. This book is actually one of the books Jennifer has loved the longest. She first picked up this little number around the age of ten and loved it immediately. However, it has been a few years since she last cracked it open, and the distance has complicated her opinion of the book.

A fun coincidence this episode, Paige also loved The Count of Monte Cristo when she was younger. A sucker for some fictional vigilante justice, what Paige appreciated so much is that Dumas pulls no punches in serving his antagonists their comeuppance. In the real world, not everyone who is bad gets what they deserve – often, it seems like the exact opposite happens. However, Dumas was relentless in his pursuit of literary justice.

Wrapped in exquisite historical detail, Dumas presents the reader with questions that can still resonate with them today. What is the efficacy of the legal system? What role does divine Providence play, if any, in the pursuit of justice? And does any one individual deserve to take justice into their own hands?

Quick Links from the Episode

  • Jennifer was super excited to share some piping hot tea from last episode! She stumbled upon a very detailed web page debunking large portions of Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep.
  • Jennifer also discovered that Bill Gates puts his book notes online?
  • This week on Folio Facts, Paige featured the Morgan Library and Museum in New York which has the largest collection of block books in North America. To learn more about block books, the Wikipedia article is a good quick read. The Morgan does have a list of all their block books available online, unfortunately none of them have been digitized.
  • In addition to The Count of Monte Cristo, Jennifer relies heavily on information from Tom Reiss’ Pulitzer-prize winning work, The Black Count (this is an affiliate link from our Bookshop store, we do get a small percentage of this sale). To learn more about Reiss’ work, visit his website.
  • As mentioned in The Black Count, there is an Alexandre Dumas society devoted to the memory all three illustrious men of this name. If you are interested in learning more about the society or possibly even joining, check out their website.
  • Here is the Goodreads thread on whether or not Eugenie Danglars is a LGBTQ character. Not everyone agrees, but a lot of interesting points are brought up, which led Jennifer to conclude that she does believe Eugenie is gay.
  • This episode, BBE Bookstore featured Martha Well’s novella, All Systems Red. Linked is a copy available through our Bookshop store (affiliate link).
  • The Creatives’ Corner pick for this week was the YouTube channel, The Artisan Geek. Seji is a delightful host for this BookTube channel that boasts thoughtful discussions of relevant and interesting topics books including: Underrated Books on Race and Racism; Intentional Reading and How to Diversify Your Reading Material; and Reading Books By Problematic Authors. A must watch channel for any book lover!
This dapper gentleman is Alexandre Dumas (the novelist), taken in 1855.

Main Points from the Episode

  • The story of the Dumas family is a fascinating one that until very recently seems to have been relatively swept under the rug. Alexandre Dumas’ father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a hero of the French Revolution and born a slave and a son of a French Marquis besides. Having lost his father early on, Alexandre Dumas spent much of his life devoted to restoring his father’s memory and drawing inspiration from his father’s life for his novels – including our topic of today, The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre’s son would also become a famous playwright. To learn more about the Dumas, check out the Quick Links above.
  • Some things that Jennifer loved about The Count of Monte Cristo: this time around: the intricacy of the Count’s revenge, the cleverness of Dumas’ protagonist in targeting the individual weaknesses of his enemies, the amazing historical detail of events like Carnival in Rome, and the awesome, badass feminist character that is Eugenie Danglars (seriously, what an interesting character to encounter in a 19th century work).
  • One thing that Jennifer really did not like: the extremely problematic relationship between Haydee and the Count. The power dynamic of master and slave, the clear emotional trauma Haydee has suffered from a traumatic childhood, and her ensuing ‘daddy issues’…like that is a whole ton of yikes.
  • Inspired by the Count’s mentor, Abbe Faria, BBE spends a little it of time discussing other great mentor characters, including Dumbledore, Yoda, and Gandalf (of course).
  • The main portion of the discussion was devoted to questions surrounding justice – unsurprisingly one of the main themes in a book about revenge. Should man act as an agent of divine justice or Providence, outside of human law? What is Dumas’ stance on the matter? Does the Count deserve a happy ending after what was done to him, but also after what he did in return? Dumas leaves his reader somewhat in suspense.

And that is a wrap on The Count of Monte Cristo! Jennifer gives it a solid 5 out of 5 stars – surprise, surprise! We hope you feel inspired to read not just The Count, but any of Dumas’ other amazing works.

Coming up next: our first Bonus Movie Magic episode of the season! This month we will be comparing the book and movie adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to our Bookshop store, or visit our Patreon (linked below). Until next time!

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