Let me first say that I truly did enjoy this book. But with the disclaimer, once again, that the classics aren't really my thing, I must admit that I'm not squeeing nearly so hard over it as the majority seems to be. I'm not yet sure how I want to rate it, and writing this review will help me solidify my position, but I'm leaning towards a middle-of-the-road 3 or 3.5 stars. I liked it, but it had some serious weaknesses, although a few of the reviews I've read have made me appreciate certain parts even more.
First and foremost, yes, the book is just way too long. I get that it was serialized and Dumas was paid for wordcount. It could definitely benefit from serious revision. The beginning was especially slow, in my opinion. Had there not been such a vaulted reputation as The Best Revenge Book Ever – No, Seriously, EVER, I would not have stuck with it. Getting into the book was a chore, and it didn't hit for me until a couple hundred pages in. That's a huge issue for me. I want to be hooked right away, but hooked on the story itself, not simply a reputation. The Count would appreciate that, I think.
I did valiantly, if slowly, stick with it, and I'm glad I did. The story begins to take off when Edmond is imprisoned and meets Abbé Faria, who helps Edmond discover the conspiracy against him and then teaches him everything one possibly needs to know to pass as a learned gentleman of any nation. They spent many years together in the space of a couple chapters, and if anything needed a bit more padding, it was there. I guess it was purposefully vague so that the Count could later know everything about everything and everyone.
We also skip over a decade of Edmond's travels, plotting, networking, and slowly setting himself up as The Coolest, Richest Cat Ever while he bides is time, waiting to bring about the fall of his enemies. While it probably would have made a fun and adventurous tale, it's easily summed up by the theme 'Money Actually Can Buy You Everything'. Edmond's treasure is seemingly infinite, and though he's been throwing diamonds, millions, and hashish around since his daring escape, I suppose it helps that he knows everything about banking, the bankers, investing, trends, gambling, and all the latest technology. All right, that stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit, but who among us hasn't imagined how we'd be able to do everything if only we were rich? We all want to see the wronged guy make good.
I did enjoy learning about nineteenth century high-society Paris. I first felt that the dialogue was too “stuffy” for my tastes, but it grew on me. It's hard to address the eight- or nine-hundred pages devoted to the revenge plots without giving away too many spoilers. We all know the basic plot, but the following of the subplots is part of the joy. I do think it could have been pared down quite a bit, but they're all juggled so masterfully that I never grew bored with them. There's a lot of telling/info-dumping and repetition, but much of that is likely due to both the time period and the need to refresh readers' memories in a serial publication.
With the exception of Edmond, Albert, Nortier, and Eugenie, I felt that most of the characters were too one-dimensional. The women, especially, were rarely distinguishable from each other and made a lot of poor choices simply because the plot required them to. The villains were also flat, offering no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I guess that keeps the readers rooting for their demise, but I would have liked to see a bit more depth than simply Bad Guy #1, Bad Guy #2, etc.
I'm still not sure how the ending sits with me. It's somewhat satisfying, but not as much as I'd hoped. Overall, I enjoyed most of the read and will possibly read it a second time at some point to see what I missed the first time, but I'm just not eager to slog through it again and not as impressed as I'd expected to be. But I'm glad to have read it, and I picked up a few things that will help me as a writer as well.