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Not Quite as Good as I'd Hoped!

  • Nov 28, 1999
Although I'm a lover of historical fiction, especially the 19th century historical romances (read "historical adventures"), I'd never read this one. So I figured I had to finally attempt such a classic of the genre. Well, it was enjoyable but not really first class, I'm sorry to say. Not up there with IVANHOE or THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (which, itself, is somewhat flawed) or H. Rider Haggard's ERIC BRIGHTEYES, to name a few. DUMAS' famous classic is a tale of a young country bumpkin of the lower Gascon nobility come to the big city (Paris) to make his fortune (by joining the king's elite guard, known as the Musketeers). He quickly stumbles into trouble, even before reaching Paris, and never manages to get clear of it again as one thing leads to another. He hooks up early on with three Musketeers of the guard whom he inadvertently offends and then, rather than dueling each to the death as they demand and he agrees to, he ends up, purely by circumstance (and his naive loyalty to the king), on their side. This all leads to further intrigue and mayhem including a somewhat episodic adventure taking D'Artagnan (our hero) to England on the Queen's urgent business, to foil the Cardinal who is the king's highest and most relied-on minister, and the Queen's enemy at the same time. And the king's sporting competitor in matters of state and the military to boot! There is a sub-plot as well with a scheming and avaricious lady who works for the Cardinal and who has her own fish to fry, and lots of kidnappings and sword fights in the mix. But the characters never really come to life. D'Artagnan and his three friends in the Musketeers are cleverly written and bigger than life but hardly full-blooded or anything but one-dimensional. And D'Artagnan, himself, seems oddly simple and yet, inevitably is described as the cleverest of the four companions who are all a good deal older and more experienced than he is. More strange is D'Artagnan's skill with the sword. From the first he is described as being awkward and somewhat untutored, even in weaponry. Yet, from his initial crossing of swords, he inevitably bests all comers, no matter how much more experienced or skilled they are described as being. In fact, he seems to be the equal of, or superior to, his three Musketeer companions, surpassing them in this skill as he surpasses them in intelligence and cleverness. And yet he is an utter dolt in his dealings with women, a veritable mooning adolescent in the face of the the women he falls for. Nor do the women get treated particularly well by the writer, for their part. I suppose it was the convention of the times but they are all either beautiful and helpless (downright simple, actually) or they are beautiful and deadly. But never do they seem particularly real, from the Queen to Milady to D'Artagnan's objet d'amour, to the lovely servant girl who hankers after D'Artagnan, nearly as moon-eyed as he is about his fancied mistresses. All very strange indeed. I suppose the book broke ground in its time and it is somewhat fun to read, especially after the first third which takes rather a long time to set up all the plot dynamics. But I must say I was frustrated no end by the mindless meanderings and utterly frivolous actions of the four companions as they proceed through their adventures. I mean why would trained soldiers gamble away perfectly good, indeed outstanding, English mounts which they had been gifted, knowing how dear these were and how necessary to men like them? My favorite part of the tale, however, was the four friends' picnic under the Huguenot guns so perhaps this was just in character for them. But what characters! -- Stuart W. Mirsky

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Stuart W. Mirsky ()
Ranked #232
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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Grade 6 Up-With swelling musical background, the clash of swordplay, and the occasional thump of a head being cut off, the St. Charles Players bring back the feeling of radio theater in their rendition of the classic tale by Alexandre Dumas. The players' voices emit every nuance required to let listeners experience the swashbuckling deeds of the famous heroic threesome and the boy called D'Artagnan who wants to join their ranks. When the young man arrives in Paris with the wish to enlist with the King's Musketeers, he finds himself challenged to three duels in his first afternoon in the city by men who turn out to be Porthos, Aramis, and Athos-the Three Musketeers. Instead of fighting against them, the twists of fate have D'Artagnan battling for them against the evil Cardinal Richelieu's guards. After demonstrating his worth with a sword, D'Artagnan proves more of his mettle by journeying to England to foil a plot to embarrass France's Queen Anne, the former Anne of Austria. D'Artagnan saves his queen but loses the woman he loves, so he seeks vengeance and, in turn, instills himself firmly in the ranks of the Musketeers. The flavor of the original is evident even though this abridged version includes only highlights in its retelling.
Joanne K. Hammond, Chambersburg Area Middle School, PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to theAudio Cassetteedition.
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ISBN-10: 0140440259
ISBN-13: 978-0140440256
Author: Alexandre Dumas perĂ½
Publisher: Penguin Classics

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