My Favorite Tale of Revenge

I have enjoyed various versions of The Count of Monte Cristo since I was in high school.  It began, not with Dumas’s novel, but with an old movie version starring Richard Chamberlain.  It was part of a double-feature one Friday night on TNT or TBS.  My parents remembered it and recorded it (along with another favorite, The Scarlet Pimpernel).  My father liked the sword-play and that is most of what I remember about Chamberlain’s version.

In college the University theater did a production of the story, adapted by one of the faculty.  The student performers were joined by one professional actor, brought in to play Edmond.  I went with a friend and we both fell for the actor at once.  Going back stage to meet him was a thrill.

I hadn’t thought of the story for some time, until I came across the 2002 movie version.  The cast list alone made me gape:  Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain, Luis Guzman, and Herny Cavill (with such a baby face you’ll hardly recognize him).  How was this not a run-away hit?  Somehow it wasn’t, but it is most definitely my favorite adaptation of the tale.

You probably know the story.  Edmond Dantes is betrayed by his best friend, Fernand Mondego.  He goes to prison for 13 years.  His fiancee is told that he’s dead.  His father hangs himself.  His boss winds up swindled out of his business.  Edmond, in the meantime, suffers beatings and near starvation.  He also meets a fellow prisoner who, as they attempt to tunnel to freedom, teaches him to read and write, mathematics, economics, philosophy, and fighting.  With his dying breath the man tells him where a treasure is.  He urges him to use it for good, but Edmond says no, he will use it for his revenge.

In Dumas’s novel, the revenge plot becomes convoluted.  Here it is simplified and straight forward.  It is my favorite part of the tale.  Edmond plays his enemies like violins, using their own greed and lust for power against them.  He sets the traps but they enter them willingly.  They bring about their own destruction.  There is justice in what befalls them.  Everything goes perfectly, save one thing.  Mercedes, the woman Edmond was to marry, is not so easy to deal with.  He wants to hate her.  She married his best friend, the chief architect of all his suffering, and yet he cannot.  His henchman urges him to take his treasure and Mercedes and to leave – to give up his revenge and go find happiness.  Edmond refuses, at least at first.  Here again we deviated from Dumas.  Mercedes doesn’t slink away to live in a convent.  She confronts Edmond, tells her side of the story, and he realizes that it will not enough to destroy the men who hurt him.  He wants the chance at happiness with her.

In Dumas’s tale Edmond has a single-minded quest for revenge.  In this film version, the story becomes about more than just pursuing revenge.  Edmond lost his way in the prison, but in the end he is able to find it again.  He started out on a quest for vengeance but in the end he finds a chance for redemption and he chooses that.  Of course, Fernand being the petty man that he is, he can’t let Edmond go and there must be a final confrontation (with swords, naturally, because Dumas did write the original tale).

It’s a fun tale, with great visual spectacle, an amazing cast, and a highly satisfying conclusion.  If you haven’t seen this version, I highly recommend it.  As I said, it is my favorite.  Besides, look at that cast!

Getting to Know Me

I saw this list of questions on Kathy Palm’s blog and though I’m not officially part of the blog-hop, I like the questions and thought it would be fun to answer them.  So here we go!

1.  What’s your least favorite book?

This is a tough one, because I am inclined favorably toward books.  It takes a lot for me to really dislike one.  But I’d have to say the book I least enjoyed reading from my school days was Crime and Punishment.  I think it was a bit over my head at the time, and it’s Russian and thus generally depressing.  Honorable mentions would go to Agatha Christie’s works, because I find her characters two-dimensional and her “cheats” of having the detective be the killer or not share all of his knowledge even when we’re supposed to be in his head really honk me off.

2.  What’s your favorite book from childhood?

Again, it’s hard to pick just one.  So here are a few that really stand out to me (as in, I can’t think of my childhood without also thinking of these books):

the original Nancy Drew mysteries – this was the first series I binge read.  I remember getting these from my school library and reading them at lunchtime (yeah, I was that kid).  I loved Nancy.  She had her own car and got to go in secret passages and overcome dangers and solve mysteries.  She had a supportive dad and a really nice housekeeper/mother figure, cool best friends and even a boyfriend.  She was awesome.  I wanted to be her.

The Hideaway – two kids run away from home and wind up in a cabin in the woods, taking care of themselves for the summer with no grown-ups, and they do it quite well.  I read and re-read this one.  I loved it.

The Anne of Green Gables series.  How could you not love Anne with an “e”, Gilbert, and all of their children (we will not talk about the last book because the death of a certain character still makes me tear up).

3.  What author(s) inspired you to become a writer?

Strangely, this is the most difficult question to answer.  I don’t know that any one author inspired me to write.  As far back as I can remember I was telling stories.  When I was a kid all my stuffed animals had personalities and my brother and I created elaborate dramas for them.  I think that comes more from my mother than from any author – she is the one who tells the family stories.  She also read to me a lot.  Then, in elementary school we did Young Author’s Conference one year and I got to write my own story.  That’s what really made the connection of story-telling leading to book creation for me, and it’s been something I wanted to do ever since.

4.  How do you feel about ebooks?

I don’t see the love of e-books being something exclusive from the love of books and reading.  We’ve turned our family room into the library in my house and it is full of books.  Between my husband and I there are also multiple Kindles in use in our house and I love them as well.   I can’t understand people who want to bash on e-readers any more than I could understand someone who’d want to bash on books.  What matters is that people read, not what platform they choose to use (and if it takes a gadget to get a kid turned on to the joy of reading, then use the gadget!).

5.  Are you a compulsive reader or do you take your time getting through a story?

I am a compulsive reader.  There are certainly books that I wish would never end, but my compulsive need to know what happens next will override any thoughts of lingering.

6.  Which book(s) have you re-read the most?

The original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout, and Harry Potter.  There is something so comforting and wonderful about the worlds of those books that I want to revisit them, and something so engaging about the characters that I love to spend time with them even if I already know what’s going to happen next.

7.  If you could live in any world depicted in a book, what would it be?

I’d love to live in the world of Harry Potter.  I also would love to visit (and maybe stay) the steampunk world Kenneth Oppel created for his Matt Cruse series (Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber).

8.  If you could kiss any book character, who would it be?

Ian Rutledge from Charles Todd‘s series, because the poor man needs some TLC!

9.  Do you communicate with your favorite authors on Twitter?

Not on Twitter, but I’m Facebook friends with a few and we do communicate that way.  I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with Magna Cum Murder for several years and have had the chance to meet many authors that way.  In some cases those meetings are what led to me reading their work (and in a few cases I’m more fond of them as a person than I am as a writer).

10.  If you could have dinner with four literary characters, who would you choose?

It’s really tough to limit myself to just four choices!

Nero Wolfe (because we’d not only have good conversation but excellent food)
Amelia Peabody (because watching her spar with Wolfe would be funny)
Armand Gamache (because we’d need a peace-maker at the table, and he’s a genuinely lovely man whose company I’d enjoy)
Albert Campion (because maybe with the other three at the table we’d be able to pry loose a few of his secrets)

And there you have it!