Book Review: "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas

July 8, 2009

I spent all day sick in bed, with nausea (among other things) of the type that makes moving very unpleasant. During my better moments I managed to finish this novel, which I have been reading, off and on, for an embarrassingly long time. And yes, I’m still quite behind on my book reviews in general.

Here’s a book that has infiltrated popular culture to a certain extent for over 150 years. I’ve seen derivative movies, ridden themed amusement rides, shouted ‘All for one…!’ during heated moments. But I’d never read the book itself.

Sure, I can check it off of my ‘well read’ list now. But the experience, though entertaining for the most part, left me wondering exactly what the big deal is about this novel.

I’m going to warrant a guess that it was genre-shaping, and its outright irreverence was probably a kick in the pants to its 19th century audience. Dumas’ treatment of illicit affairs is not subtle, and there is raunchy humor sprinkled liberally throughout.

This is a boy’s novel, thoroughly. Though the main antagonist is a crafty female, the real depth of character is saved for the four heroes (d’Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, Aramis). And it would be an overstatement to call this swashbuckling adventure a character study, anyway.

The action is pretty constant, although occasionally formulaic (and thus predictable). Dumas uses patterns that sound poetic or mythic sometimes: a certain adventure befalls each of the four protagonists in rhythmic succession, for example.

Something I learned, as an aside: Dumas wrote in tandem with a history teacher, Auguste Maquet, who served as his researcher and did a good amount of the outlining and a bit of the writing.

3.0 stars

One Comment

  1. Peat Bakke says:

    I’m in the thick of “The Three Musketeers” right now — I agree with your take on it, and I would also add that it’s a good “spare time” book for reading on the bus or in other small segments during the day. It’s an easy read, the characters are pretty forward, the action is broken up into bite sized pieces, and the plot is weird enough to keep it interesting without being overwhelming.

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