Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (pere)

Title: The Three Musketeers
Author: Alexandre Dumas, pere
Publisher: Century eBooks (2012) Originally serialized March to July 1844 in Le Siecle

We do a lot of older books in our series but we’re hanging out in the way, WAY back machine this month. I had a hankering to read some Dumas so I threw out a couple of titles. It wasn’t until I actually started re-reading The Three Musketeers that I recalled I’m not the biggest fan of this particular Dumas and I don’t think I’ve previously ever actually made it to the end. I’m curious to hear what Michael thought of it. I have to say my Dumas of re-reading choice is The Count of Monte Cristo. But, even if I’m reading a Dumas that’s not a fave I still enjoy their larger than life vitality and my preoccupied musings on the author himself.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here.

Click here for Michael's film review of The Three Musketeers 
at It Rains... You Get Wet

Seriously, though, if you don’t know a lot about Alexandre Dumas, pere I highly recommend doing a bit of reading. You can start with everyone’s favorite Wikipedia or go here or here or here. And if, in your reading, you notice a mention of his father, a General in the French army, rest assured his story is pretty compelling, too. (And you can read about it in this great book that I never lose a chance to recommend.)

Whoa? This won a Pulitzer? Guess I got my copy before that happened.


But what about those musketeers? Well, as with many of Dumas’ novels they’ve been translated into about a 100 languages and are very popular in many English speaking countries. Film adaptations come out on the regular and playwrights adapt it as well (Dumas was a playwright before he was a novelist so I wonder if he ever adapted his own work for the stage?), but I’ll still include a synopsis. D’Artagnan is a hot-headed, talented youth who sets out for the city with very little outside of his embarrassing mount (quickly sold), his father’s axioms, and his mother’s cure-all recipe for injuries (liberally applied). Turns out all a bold, resourceful person needs is those few items and before you know it you’ll be making friends with those you were previously meant to duel. After offending the titular musketeers one right after the other, he becomes fast friends with them after getting to kill some of the Cardinal’s guards (The Cardinal is our resident baddie.). D'Artagnan and his new friends then get up to all sorts of hijinks in the midst of court and international intrigue.

So while it's not my favorite it is hard to resist the charm of characters who feel compelled to sword fight over a shoulder jostle. The plot twists around with fun cliffhangers and the baddies are sinister enough to satisfy and provide a good counter to the heroes. It's a fun, swashbuckling tale but there's real depth to be found, as well. It's what makes Dumas so easy to come back to again and again. Fun and humor are always there but so is something to really bite into.

Not to mention those quietly genius lines

Monsieur, I love men of your kidney... 

Let us say in passing that he had changed his baldric and relinquished his cloak.

"Oh, good lord," cried Porthos, "what precautions for the study of theology!"

Definitely give this one a go but don't stop here. Make sure you give Dumas a solid perusal. 

Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coming up next:  
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith


  1. I didn’t know the Black Count won a Pulitzer, and it’s a book I read based on your recommendation. Quite an account that was thrilling to read. This, too, was a stirring — first time I finally caught up to it, even though I seen almost every English language film/TV adaptation. Now, what I found most interesting about it was the translation. I didn’t see that you mentioned this particular phrasing, but mine (the 2007 Blackstone Audio narrated by Simon Vance) has a consistent one throughout the novel. Went like this:

    “…yada yada yada”, ejaculated D’Artagnan.

    Employing the second [with direct speech] use of the verb, to be sure. I began to wonder if Dumas wrote that purposely, or was some flippantly naughty transliteration from the French. Anyway, I did enjoy reading the tale and it made my re-watch of the Richard Lester adaptation more appreciative. A fine classic to take on. Thanks for picking it, Rachel.

  2. Yeah, pretty cool about Black Count, huh? I don't really pay much attention to Pulitzers so I'm not surprised I missed that but it was still neat to find out as I was searching for cover images.

    I think one of the reasons I don't find this title as engaging as some of his others is because of the pacing. I'd imagine that has something to do with the fact that it was originally serialized but since, for me, it can really drag in places I get distracted by the things that are only funny (or whatever) once but that are devices that are often reused. I think it picks up as it goes along but the beginning is hard to stick with. That pacing aspect makes it very easy to put down.

    However, all that said, I find it fun, silly, funny, serious, and gasp-inducing in turns. Even a not so favorite Dumas is usually worth showing up for.

    I think I forgot to mention this but do you know about how collaborative his work was? He was really prolific and worked with other creative types for plotting, etc. I'm sure his main collaborator on this title (and his other most famous ones) will really appreciate that I've forgotten his name. ;)

    Don't quote me on this but from my reading experience "ejaculated" was very common in English writing and translations to mean "said really forcefully/excitedly" up until about the 1950s. As far as I can tell it's gone completely out of fashion as a dialogue tag.

    It was fun to do this one, thanks!