Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book review: THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1844) by Alexandre Dumas.

I listened through this novel as a free Public Domain audiobook (see librivox.org). It was originally released as a magazine serial in French.

NOTE: The English translation I listened to may have been slightly "bowdlerized" by British publishers, who were uneasy with the French author's relaxed attitude about sex.

You see, while Charles Dickens and other British writers entertained Victorian readers with novels about chaste characters who never even dreamed about doing anything below the belt, Dumas's heroes had mistresses, drank hard, cursed and casually killed people in duels.

The novel's main protagonist, the reckless young swordsman D'Artagnan, can be read as a kind of 17th-Century James Bond. He takes on a secret mission, seduces a woman, is himself seduced by an evil female spy, and foils a plot to disgrace the Queen of France.

What elevates this story above simplistic pulp adventure is Dumas's sense of irony, and a certain cold-blooded cynicism. The heroes are really a bunch of self-serving womanizers and bruisers, who ultimately fail to make any change to the corrupt society they live in.

The famous phrase "One for all and all for one" does occur in the novel - once. The camaraderie of D'Artagnan and his three musketeer friends does feel genuine.

Entertaining, sometimes outdated, definitely "problematic" - but interesting, especially if you're into "gritty" fantasy literature and historical fiction.

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