Thursday, October 20, 2011

Literary Bite: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers is the ultimate adventure/action book. It’s totally over-the-top -- gallantry and chivalry and duels and honor and all that, but in a really fun way. The book was originally written in serial form, much like Charles Dickens’ books. But unlike Dickens, Dumas writes all-action (no philosophizing). Every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger that makes you want to keep reading. 

The story is about four comrades in arms – Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan (yes, that “Three” in the title is misleading). They are men of honor serving King Louis XIII of France in the King’s guards, aka the musketeers. The intrigues they get mixed up in involve all levels of royalty and require dashing deeds of bravery (or stupidity, if you want to look at it too seriously). One great adventure mid-book is their ride across the country to France. All four set off with their lackeys on a desperate mission to retrieve two diamond studs from Lord Buckingham for the Queen of France. It’s a pretty awesome story-line…I won’t give anything away. 

There’s also a bit of romance – every knight must have his lady to honor, right? They fall in love with women (D’Artagnan especially), and fight a ridiculous number of duels. “Fight duels on all occasions, the more so because duels are forbidden and consequently it takes twice as much courage to fight them.”

I think it’s interesting that the most evil character is a woman – Milady is one of the smartest characters and is also pure evil.  “It was easy to conquer, as she so often had, men who were used to the gallantries and intrigues of life at court and who were quick to let themselves be seduced. She was beautiful enough not to find much resistance on the part of the flesh, and clever enough to prevail over any obstacles of the mind.”

Athos' thoughts on that: “I do not trust women, particularly fair women. Can it be otherwise? I bought my experience dearly.”

The writing is a little dated, but very clever. Dumas is funny and his characters are kind of sassy. 

“You are very amiable, no doubt, but you would be charming if you would only depart.” 

You’ll like The Three Musketeers if you liked The Count of Monet Cristo, or Les Misérables.

And conveniently I read it just before a new movie comes out

(Hmm, just watched the trailer...looks even more over-the-top ridiculous than the book is...)