e-book, autumn-2012, biography, nonfiction, published-2012, history, napoleonic, slaves, adventure, families
Read from November 08 to 30, 2012
A re-read so soon, I hear you ask. BBC has it as book of the week and it will be lovely to hear it recapped.
BBC Blurb - In his new biography Tom Reiss reveals that Alexandre Dumas' father led a life of derring-do that is captured in his son's novels, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Born to a French nobleman, and a black slave in the colonies, the writer's father went on to rise rapidly through the ranks to become a general in the French army. General Alex Dumas' acts of heroism were met with great acclaim, but events conspired against him leading to an irrevocable reversal of fortune.
Read by Hugh Quarshie who appears regularly in BBC One's Holby City. Abridged by Richard Hamilton. Produced by Elizabeth Allard.
“Your life story is a novel; and people, though
they love novels wound between two yellow paper
covers, are oddly suspicious of those which come
to them in living vellum.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
FEBRUARY 26, 1806
IT was nearly midnight on the night of February 26, 1806, and Alexandre Dumas, the future author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, was asleep at his uncle’s house. He was not yet four years old. He was staying there because his father was gravely ill and his mother thought it best for him not to be at home. As the clock struck, he was awakened by a loud knock. By the light of a lamp that burned by the bedside, he saw his cousin sit up, visibly frightened. Alexandre got out of bed. He recalled in his memoirs, forty-some years later:
My cousin called to me, “Where are you
“You’ll see,” I replied quietly. “I’m going
to open the door for Daddy, who’s coming to
The poor girl jumped out of bed, greatly
alarmed, grabbed me as I put my hand on the
doorknob, and forced me back to bed.
I struggled in her arms, shouting with all my
strength: “Goodbye, Daddy! Goodbye, Daddy!”
Who was the real Count of Monte Cristo? In this extraordinary biography, Tom Reiss traces the almost unbelievable life of the man who inspired not only Monte Cristo, but all three of the Musketeers: the novelist's own father. Born in St Dominigue in 1762, the son of a French nobleman and a sugar plantation slave, General Alexandre Dumas did not have an auspicious start in life. Things got worse when his father sold him into slavery to pay his passage back to Normandy. But six months later, Dumas' fortunes changed. His father bought him out of slavery and raised him in France, where Dumas went to the nation's finest schools and fencing academies, and having enrolled in the army became known as France's most handsome and strongest soldier. By the time Napoleon invaded Egypt, Dumas was his top cavalry commander. But Napoleon was threatened by the physical prowess and popularity of this black nobleman. He engineered his disgrace and imprisonment, and to please the sugar growers reintroduced slavery. A brief flowering of freedom and equality was over and forgotten, but Dumas' legacy would live on in the novels of the son who adored him. Reiss tells this tale with magisterial authority. Long years of research have led him across Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East in search of forgotten documents. He has journeyed through the Alps where Dumas scaled unscalable ice cliffs. He has walked the streets of Cairo where Dumas' intrepid cavalry charge is still remembered. The result is an enthralling book that entertains, astounds and triumphantly resurrects a lost hero from the world's first multiracial society....Continua