Classics Club #9: ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas ****

The ninth book upon my Classics Club list is a French classic, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.  Whilst never having read the book before, I have seen both the most recent film and used to occasionally watch the cartoon when I was younger, so I was relatively familiar with the story before I began.  I have wanted to read Dumas’ work for such a long time, and had high hopes for The Count of Monte Cristo, even ordering the book a good few years ago and thinking I’d get to it immediately.  The length of it sadly put me off, however, and I ended up plumping for one of his shorter novels first – something which I am very glad I did.

The Three Musketeers is the first volume in the d’Artagnan series.  In the novel, the narrator of the piece has chanced upon the memoirs of the former, and sets out his past in the following manner: ‘D’Artagnan relates that on his first visit to M. de Treville, captain of the king’s Musketeers, he met in the antechamber three young men, serving in the illustrious corps into which he was soliciting the honour of being received bearing the names of Athos, Porthos and Aramis’.

The Three Musketeers begins ‘on the first Monday of the month of April, 1625’ in a market town named Meung.  The town ‘appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it’.  Dumas goes on to set the scene of the various skirmishes which are in existence immediately: ‘In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind.  There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the king.  Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody’.

A well wrought and diverse cast of characters have been considered here, and socially, the novel is incredibly interesting.  Dumas brings seventeenth-century France to life, his scenes becoming more vivid and his plots gathering speed as the book goes on.  His sentences are often long, but they are, without a doubt, wonderfully crafted.  As one who is relatively familiar with the tale would expect, it is filled with duels and mass sword fights, all of which add a touch of excitement to proceedings.  The Three Musketeers is rich, and well worth investing the long amount time which it takes to read into.

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