This is how fairy tales used to be. It’s not too short, and it’s not in baby language, it is truly a lovely read. Settle in, put the kettle on and enjoy the purity of a good story.
The title is a complete misnomer, it’s not about him at all. After the first third of the book he doesn’t appear at all. The book is the last part of the last volume Dumas wrote about the D’Artagnan and the musketeers, but published as a stand-alone book. When you know that, the book becomes less frustrating. Dumas writes sympathetically and affectionately, his characters glow; even Aramis, the schemer, escapes criticism. Not only is the characters’ goodbye to their readers, but it’s Dumas’ goodbye to the characters, and is more fitting as a eulogy than a novel.
It’s not a massively cheery book. The three main characters are caught up in the material world of Paris as it is redeveloped under Haussman. Saccard is on a mission to become rich as quickly as mpossible by diddling the government and others as much as he can without being caught, Maxime is on a lifelong quest for pleasure, no matter how corrupt, and Renée is on a quest for self-destruction.
This is a masterpiece, written in the format of a collection of letters written and sent between the main characters. Quite easily because of the style, the book could be stilted and difficult to read, but it flows. As with any seriously good work of this kind, there are different levels of messages that lie beneath the plot. The characters show that in life we are always a slave to something, it’s up to us to choose what. The two principal characters shun falling in love at all costs, and therefore fall prey to becoming a slave to vanity and selfishness, destroying the lives of others in order to prove to themselves and to each other that they are not in love, ending in their own destruction. It shows the negativity of such cynicism, and the self-destruction that occurs when that cycnism is taken to extreme. Another level served to show, at the time the book was first published, what the landed classes were deemed to be capable of. This type of writing fuelled the French Revolution. It also showed that society of the time (not so much now) was the great regulator of behaviour; anything might be got away with – until it entered the public sphere.
On many levels, this is a truly great, enjoyable, absorbing book.
This book is wasted on kids! Although this most certainly is an adventure story, there’s a lot more to it than that – and what’s more, it’s so brilliantly written, and has such excellent character sketches that it really needs an adult audience to do it justice. Could Phileas Fogg be the first literary character to show decidedly autistic tendencies? Who knows – but the depths of each character, the plot, and sheer novelty of the story, is testament to the genius of the brain that cooked it up. It would be wrong not to read this book.
A perfect book for a rainy day. Leroux is reminiscent of Wilkie Collins in his plot, characters and style, and yet here’s a tremendously, deliciously French book. And just like Victor Hugo’s ‘Hunchback’ he crafts a beautiful ending giving an all round eminently gratifying reading experience with a hefty daub of gothicness. The film/musical does violence to the subtleties of the plot and characters; yet here is a story that is in turns graphic, violent, romantic, tragic and at last, wistful – entirely deserving of a place on the ‘Bucket list’. Ignore the musical – just read the original!
One of the best books in the world. Mr Bauby was the editor of French Elle magazine when he had a massive stroke leaving him with a paralysis so severe he was only able to communicate by opening and closing one eye. And that’s how he dictated this book. The book is beautifully and at times humorously written, and a s a result is poignant and uplifting rather than depressing. The book is a masterpiece, but also, in the writing of it, Mr Bauby found himself to be a better, more honest person than he thought.