Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
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.
©2012 Tom Reiss (P)2014 Random House Audiobooks
Kildonan by the sea
This is rich detailed biography, the subject and the period are so interesting that is as exciting as the best of fiction. The writer puts the events in context and explains what was happening at the time and why, making the story well rounded and more informative than just a single person anecdotes; it helps understand motivations and explains some of the extraordinariness of General Alexandre Dumas, a mixed race officer in the french army, Born in St Domingue (Haiti) in 1762, and father of the famous writer and the inspiration to many of his novels, the Count of Monte Cristo, The three of the Musketeers.
He was born to slavery but rose to command in the french revolution, the expeditions to Egypt with Napoleon and survive many adventures, while behaving with more honor than some of the more famous contemporaries. He was a true inspiration, to art and humanity.
This book has more depth than most because it explains, the idiosyncrasies of the period, from extrange medicines, to reasons laws change and how this changes affect the individual, sometimes it presents us with two versions of an event, the official and the one his son recorded or how time and politics changed the perceptions of that event, creating a very detailed picture of the man and the circumstances of his reality.
I would recommend this book to anyone that loves literature, history, politics or biographies, it will not disappoint and will make you want to learn more about this fascinating period of history.
17th Century Heretic
Written and read with a light touch, this book draws you in from the first page. I came across it as a recommendation from Mike Duncan who is currently doing a briliiant series of podcasts on the politics of the French Revolution, search for Revolutions online.
"Story of the original musketeer!"
I really enjoyed the thorough research that has been done by the author. The nature of General Dumas' world comes through vividly.
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