Alexandre Dumas, Le Comte De Monte-Christo, II vols., Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1981.
It’s Christmas Day, which along with some happy family festivities, gives this pastor an excuse to take the day off, and finish some reading. Originally published in 1845, this novel is known in English translation as “The Count of Monte-Christo.” I started reading this book over a year ago, and have made steady progress over time. I picked it up after reading recommendations from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Craig Troxel and some others that preachers ought to include some fiction in their reading. I have made sparing use of this advice, evident in the length of time that it took me to read this book, since most of my reading time is devoted to Scripture, theology, church history, and piety.
I must agree that it is good for those who labor in teaching or preaching to read fiction if they can find the time. Fiction exercises the muscles of the imagination since it forces the author to construct entire characters, settings, and stories from scratch. It requires more imagination than non-fiction, like the way a painting requires more creativity than taking a photograph. It acquaints the reader with human nature since it must make the imaginary believable based on the common knowledge of humanity in order to capture its readership. This imaginative creativity does wonders for communication skills and qualities of expression and illustration that aid a preacher or teacher in his work.
I’ll try to say a little about “Le Comte De Monte-Christo” without giving away spoilers so that others may enjoy it as I did. I picked up this novel because it was recommended as an exciting read, and because I wanted to practice my French reading ability. I was not disappointed. Dumas’s writing is characterized by profound character development, action and adventure, and surprising twists and turns. The reader is transported to scenes including the picturesque Mediterranean, sea voyages, imprisonment in a dungeon, a deserted island, and the swanky quarters of the rich and powerful in Rome and Paris. As one might expect with a classic French author, I am deeply impressed with his grasp of what it means to be human. He has the knack of tying plot strings together by making the impossible seem believable. This novel is pervaded by a Christian worldview. It is not quite so noticeable in the first half but really becomes prominent as one nears the end of the book. The major themes are severe misfortune, abandonment, vengeance, crime, divine providence, riches, love, honor, murder, and forgiveness. God is an important character in this novel, and he interacts by his kind mercies and justly retributive providences in the things that occur. The moral of the story is found on the last page “Only he who has tested extreme misfortune is able to feel extreme happiness.”
I highly recommend it for those looking to read an intriguing adventure with thick plot-lines and idiosyncratic characters.