Title: The Three Musketeers
Author: Alexandre Dumas
No. of Pages: 598
First Released: 1844
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): “This swashbuckling tale, beloved around the world, follows the fortunes of D’Artagnan, a country boy who travels to Paris to join the Musketeers, save his queen from scandal, and outwit the devious Cardinal Richelieu.”
Comments and Critique: In the Introduction to my book, written by Jacques Le Clercq, he states that “[Dumas] loved his characters, he put his own exuberant nature into their delineation” (p. xvi). “He wrote for pleasure” (p. xvii). He also wrote about the “lesson of generosity and of courage…[a] lesson in moral courage, in naturalness, in sincerity” (p. xviii). I mention this because I spent the latter half of this book trying to determine just why it is considered a classic. I feel classics are books that have meaning decades, even centuries, after it is first published. So what lesson did I learn from this book?
In general, The Three Musketeers is a great, highly entertaining story. It truly is a swashbuckler in the very traditional sense. I can also see Le Clerq’a point about the lessons being taught by the book, but to me, the main lesson is not one of naturalness or generosity. It is the idea that friendships make the world go round. Without friends, you have nothing. This message is extremely important given the disconnection and remoteness brought about by the Internet era. It is so easy to make friends online while avoiding the daily connections with friends that make your life wonderful.
I also feel there is a tremendous lesson in the idea of not taking yourself too seriously. Goodness knows, the three Musketeers certainly did not. The exuberance and and love for his characters mentioned by Le Clercq in the Introduction certainly make their appearance in the lack of seriousness the Musketeers had. In fact, Dumas’ excitement and affection for his heroes practically leaps from each page.
This book is definitely a page turner. I was extremely interested in the fate of the main characters throughout the story. In fact, when the ending came, I was highly surprised. I thought I had the story figured out, but Dumas managed to throw in one or two curve balls that made the ending that much more enjoyable.
The Three Musketeers is not without its faults, however. I was disturbed by the shift in narration from focusing on D’Artagnan and the Musketeers to focusing on Milady. It was abrupt and caused some disconnect in the flow of the story. I also feel the title is a HUGE misnomer. Yes, there are three Musketeers, but the story really revolves around D’Artagnan, who is not. In addition, I felt the ending was incredibly rushed. There was a great build-up, and then you all but blink and the story is over. It was disconcerting and does not do the story justice.
In spite of that, one of my favorite things about the book was the surprisingly strong female characters. In fact, I would argue that they are stronger, more in control than the men. The men are portrayed as easily swayed by anything in a skirt that shows them interest. Yet, the women are all determined capable and persevering. When you realize that this is not necessarily a popular opinion in the 1800s, you appreciate the characters and Dumas that much more.
In all, I highly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read. The characters are flawed but lovable, and the plot moves along quickly enough to prevent even the slowest reader from getting bored. I read this for my online book club and am extremely glad it was selected!