This month’s book club pick, and I’m really happy that I selected it – it coordinated so well with The Count of Monte Cristo, and added a lot to my appreciation of Dumas’ classic novel.
While I really enjoyed Reiss’ book, it’s not one that I’d recommend to just anyone. Despite being promoted that way, it’s not a true biography, as the available source material for Dumas’ live simply wasn’t there to support that. Instead Reiss has written a history, focusing on one individual and how his experiences were impacted by the world around him.
Dumas lived in a time and place where there were a *lot* of significant historical events to impact his life, so there is a *lot* of history in the book – looking at slavery in what is now Haiti and other French possessions as well as America and the British Empire, the sugar industry, the French Revolution and Republic, Napoleon, his ill-fated Egyptian excursion…
I’m a huge history fan, so I loved (almost) all of it. I got slightly bogged down in some of the military details, such as Dumas’ victory in the Alps and a significant battle in northern Italy. It made such an impression on me I can’t even remember the city, but those issues say more about my lack of interest in military history than Reiss’ writing skill.
If you’re a fan of The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, I think you’ll enjoy this book, for the details about what aspects of those novels were inspired by the general’s life. If you’re not generally a fan of nonfiction, or of history or biography (or biographical history), I don’t think this is the book that will persuade you otherwise, and I’d recommend you skip it.
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Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion on The Chosen March 1st. There will be a linkup for posts relating to that book on March 30th.
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Previously on The Deliberate Reader
One year ago: New On Your Stack (vol. 1)