Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Three Musketeers (The d'Artagnan Romances #1) by Alexandre Dumas


*** Warning: This review contains spoilers! ***

A really entertaining read!

The first part of the book, in which we are introduced to d'Artagnan and the three musketeers, is downright funny. I swear I laughed out loud! As the story progresses, though, the humor is replaced by the drama of mistresses, duels, war, and intrigue.

I have to admit that all the illicit affairs with married women somewhat affected my prudish sensibilities. Maybe that sort of thing was accepted practice back then, though Dumas still seemed to go out of his way to show the reader that both Madame Bonacieux and Madame Coquenard were stuck in pitiful, loveless marriages. At first I kept thinking that poor Madame Coquenard was being quite ill-used by Porthos, but in the end it all worked out, I guess.

The ease with which the men fought duels also took some getting used to. The idea that a man would be willing to die over some off-the-cuff remark was crazy!

Characters were reliably one-dimensional, which generally speaking makes for less interesting reading, but in this case, it allowed me to confidently put my faith into certain characters without having to worry about being let down by some sort of surprise twist. There was no annoying Harry Potter-esque withholding of information - everyone dutifully told everyone else what was going on, and Monsieur de Treville - always in a position to help - was admirably informed throughout the book. 

The only character whose one-dimensionalism I really didn't appreciate was Milady's. Ugh! Even as her history was gradually revealed, we never got to the root of her evil. Why was she in the convent in the first place? What was her motivation for being so evil? With her wits and feminine wiles, she could have had fame and fortune without having to be wicked to boot.

To better appreciate the book, I really could have stood to have a better understanding of French and European politics and religion at the time. Every now and then, I just muddled along, content to accept that this one person was enemies with that person and allies with that other person, but not really understanding why.

Finally, I just have to say that I really loved the ending. Not the epilogue (which was good, too, though I was sorry to see the group disbanded), but the last conversation between d'Artagnan and Athos, in which d'Artagnan says he has "nothing but bitter recollections," and Athos responds, "You are young, and your bitter recollections have time to change themselves into sweet remembrances." Ah, so poignant! Those early days, when the four friends pooled their money during times of wealth, and then equally shared the burden of hunger when the money was gone, would surely one day be looked upon as bittersweet memories.

If only we all had such devoted friends in our lives. "All for one, one for all!"

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