Dumas composed his tale of the Three Musketeers (plus D'Artagnan who finally achieved his Musketeer ears at the hend of the first book) serially. After the success of the initial book, Dumas satisfied a clamoring public by continuing to write about the team for six years, encompassing a first followup "Twenty years After" then the final sprawling chapter which was so big it was broken up into three separate parts for publication. "The Vicomte de Bragelonne" is the first installment of this final chapter of the Musketeer's story (followed by 'Louse de la Valliere" and finally the more famous "The Man in the Iron Mask").
In this go-round, his heroes are now decidedly old men for their day--heading towards 60, and slowed by physical limitations, politics, religion, family obligations, and money. Consequently, there is more intrigue and less action in Bragelonne, although Porthos remains a giant capable of amazing feats and D'Artagnan still the hot-headed Gascon whose sword is always just barely one sharp edge ahead of his mind.and mouth. The title character is Athos' son, and this second-generation swordsman plays a key role in the most intense action scene in the book, but is puzzlingly off-stage for much of it.
Never mind the title though, just read it for the chance to get friendly with Dumas's great characters again. These are the ultimate buddies in the ultimate buddy adventure, and their love and friendship survives even seemingly unsurmountable odds here to enable them to work together again (even when they are not really trying!).
Dumas uses historical characters, events, and settings, and the Oxford edition I read had copious footnotes, notes on the characters, and an introduction and bibliography, all well and good to help the reader understand the background. But at this remove, few people will read the books for the historical events, or care that Dumas often played fast and lose with events, timing, and people. We read it for that feeling of contentment and affection we feel for a best friend when we are around them, whether its accomplishing great things or just passing the time.
Because I can't find an entry in Lunch for "Louise de la Valliere" here is my review of that book as well:
Light on the swordplay
Louise De La Valliere is the middle book of the trio that concludes the Musketeers' story, and its focus on court intrigue and Louis XIV's consolidation of his kingly powers and personality into the "Sun King" persona, accounts for its position as probably the least known and read of the thousands of pages and million-plus words of the great saga.
By now, the
four (not three, since D'Artagnan won entrance to the group) old (mid-50s and up) one-time (age, marriages, career choices, and politics have isolated once inseparable friends) friends (none are still Musketeers, although D'Artagnan remains in the service of the king)
have little to do with each other, and even less to do with the story here, which shines the historical spotlight on King Louis and his court. Louise De La Valliere is a lady in waiting to Madame, wife of the King's brother Prince Phillipe. To mask his dalliance with Madame, his sister-in-law, the King and Madame agree that he will pretend to cast his eye on Louse, an innocent , incorruptible, and thoroughly sincere young lady of little consequence in the court.
But this game turns serious when Louis and Louise (so that's where the song comes from!) actually fall for each other. The introduction to this edition suggests that while Dumas sometimes plays loosely with the historical facts, he gets the feeling and the atmosphere of the court right on, so this book could profitably be read for its historical value.
But don't expect your old friends the Musketeers to play key roles. They are mostly off stage, although there is some foreshadowing of what is to come in the Man in the Iron Mask, the concluding chapter that is much more well known to readers today, and which I will review separately.
I have rated this +4: +5 for the Vicomte de Bragelonne, +3 for Louises de la Valliere