Nightstand Books #4
I just got back from vacation and actually got to do some reading, but it was on the Kindle so I couldn’t fit my copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on the photo. Somehow a picture of an electronic device just doesn’t cut it. So once again I’ve pulled a couple of tomes from my bookshelves to give you a glimpse from my reading past.
Aside from the Bible, I’m pretty sure that Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas are the longest two books I have ever read. Brothers weighs in at 729 pages and Monte Cristo (excluding the notes) clocks in at 1,243. Before I talk about the particulars of these two classics, let me touch on a few things they have in common. For one, they were both published as serials in the 1800’s. Count was finished in 1844 and Brothers in 1880. Another thing they have in common for me personally was that I absolutely devoured both books. I couldn’t put either one of them down.
But the similarities end there. Karamazov is a deeply thought out, slow-moving exposition of the lives of three very different brothers and the fascinating, though tragic circumstances surrounding their lives. Though each brother in his own way is compelling, the youngest one Alexey is certainly the most endearing. His innocence in the face of injustice and suffering make him the hero of the book. Though at times he seems to be setting himself up to be taken advantage of, he ultimately holds on to his grasp of goodness and truth despite all of the forces trying to drag him into the darkness.
The oldest brother Dimitri is in some ways a noble, yet ultimately foolish figure. In contrast to Alexey, he allows his bitterness and anger to poison and ruin his life and watching his story unfold is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Ivan, the middle brother shows flashes of compassion and nobility as well, but his is a sort of intellectual, calculated morality that ultimately is no morality at all. He serves to the illustrate the truth that “without God, all things are permissible.”
The events of the story unfold as a murder mystery, but one that is fueled more by the multi-faceted characters more than the details of the crime which has been committed. It’s a fascinating, insightful story that has much to say about the human soul and our common struggle against the evil not just outside ourselves, but also within.
The Count of Monte Cristo, on the other hand, is a plot-twisting tale of intrigue and revenge. The scenes change almost as often as the chapters and Dumas weaves an intricate tale that will take you all across France as his main character, Edmond Dantes undergoes one of the most radical transformations imaginable from young, innocent sailor to a calculating master of disguise out to right the wrongs which have been done to him.
I think what made Monte Cristo such a fascinating read was that I never had any inkling as to what was going to happen next. The amount of threads Dumas wove into the tale seemed like they would be impossible to resolve and yet he wove them all together into an intricate and beautiful tapestry of retribution by the end. There were a few elements I could have done without (the drug use mainly), but the characters here are colorful and fascinating and once this story got going it was a dizzying ride.
On a side note, I did see the 2002 Movie based on this book and, while it’s ok as far as it goes, it did not follow the book closely enough for my liking. So if you see it, just know that you are missing out on a considerable amount of the plot and there will be significant restructuring of the story.
So two very different stories, both classics, and both highly recommended. If you’d like to share what’s on your Nightstand, snap a pic and join in the fun by posting your link below!