The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Plot Summary: This swashbuckling epic of chivalry, honor, and derring-do, set in France during the 1620s, is richly populated with romantic heroes, unattainable heroines, kings, queens, cavaliers, and criminals in a whirl of adventure, espionage, conspiracy, murder, vengeance, love, scandal, and suspense. Dumas transforms minor historical figures into larger- than-life characters: the Comte d’Artagnan, an impetuous young man in pursuit of glory; the beguilingly evil seductress “Milady”; the powerful and devious Cardinal Richelieu; the weak King Louis XIII and his unhappy queen—and, of course, the three musketeers themselves, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, whose motto “all for one, one for all” has come to epitomize devoted friendship. With a plot that delivers stolen diamonds, masked balls, purloined letters, and, of course, great bouts of swordplay, The Three Musketeers is eternally entertaining. 

Published in 1844, this book has achieved that sort of cultural status in which pretty much everyone has at least heard of it, and most people have a familiarity with the plot and/or characters. Because of that, I’m not going to concern myself about spoilers. If you care about spoiling the plot of a book that was published 160 years ago, perhaps do not read on.

I had high expectations of this book – I love a good swashbuckling story and I expected to be charmed by our protagonists. 

There were parts of the book that I enjoyed. Overall, though, I think that the book suffered from two things: the overwhelming dickishness of the main characters and the fact that I am not a nine-year-old boy. 

I spent much of the book bemused about the fact that the characters (basically all men) kept pulling out their swords (that is NOT a double entendre – I mean pulling out their actual long, metal, pointy weapons) to hack at one another for the most trivial of insults. If duelling was as prevalent as this book made it seem during 17th century France, I cannot imagine how any of the local aristocrats were able to maintain a standing army. The soldiers kept murdering one another for the most ridiculous slights.

In addition, I was thoroughly annoyed by the bad behavior of the “Three Musketeers.” There was far too little swashbuckling and heroism and far too much stealing, gambling (things belonging to other people) and refusing to pay one’s bills. No wonder the French went about chopping off the heads of the aristocrats during the French revolution. Those people were such massive assholes – Porthos, for example, checks into a hotel and refuses to either pay or leave. 

I can certainly understand why the book appeals to people. I am, however, not one of those people. I wanted to slap the protagonists into the 21st century, where they would inevitably get #MeToo’d into oblivion. 

I know, I know, we can’t judge characters in a book written in 1844 by current cultural standards. Nonetheless, I certainly don’t have to like them. In terms of enjoyment, I’d rank this at middling enjoyable. Not bad, but not nearly as good as I had expected.

I was planning to put this in the 19th century classic category in my Back to the Classics challenge, but I have decided to move it to Classics in Translation, as that is typically a more difficult category for me to fill, and I play to read something by Mrs. Oliphant later this year.

Back to the Classics

It’s midway through the year, & it’s time to check in on the ONE blog challenge that I committed to this year. So far, I’ve done a completely abysmal job of tracking my progress. I hope to get my act together this month, and get posts up for categories that I have fulfilled!

While I haven’t been sufficiently motivated to write any posts of the books that I’ve read to fulfill the challenge categories, I have completed 6 of the 12 categories. I will be working to get posts up this month, but for now, just a recap:

A 19th Century Classic: I had planned to read Elizabeth Gaskell or Anthony Trollope for this one, but I ended up read The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, published in 1844. This is a beloved adventure story that has so permeated pop culture at this point that I don’t think anyone doesn’t know at least the bare outlines of the story.

A 20th Century Classic: I’ve been on a tiny bit of a Stella Gibbons tear – she was one of the authors-in-residence chosen for January-March by my GR vintage fiction group. I managed to read two books by Ms. Gibbons: Westwood and The Swiss Summer.

A Classic by a Woman Author: This one is still open; I’m still vaguely planning on one of those final two Cather novels. But I read so many classics by women that, really, this one could end up as anything. 

A Classic in Translation: I’m tempted to use The Three Musketeers for this one, but I’m going to leave it where it is (at least for now). This one remains open.

A Classic by a BIPOC author: I ended up subbing A Fire Next Time for If Beale Street Could Talk, but stayed with James Baldwin as the author of choice for this category.

A Classic by a New-To-You Author: I have been meaning to read something by Margery Sharp for several years, so I picked The Nutmeg Tree for this category.

New-To-You Classic by a Favorite Author: This one is still open.

A Classic about an Animal or with an Animal in the Title: I haven’t read for this one, yet, although I had tentatively selected The Wind in the Willows for this category.

A Children’s Classic: Ursula LeGuin was selected as an author-in-residence as well, so I read The Wizard of Earthsea

A Humorous or Satirical Classic: This really isn’t my jam at all, so I’ll just come up with something. Probably Wodehouse.

A Travel or Adventure Classic: I read Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, and it fits into this category just beautifully.

A Classic Play: Plays also aren’t my jam, but I do have a paperback omnibus of several of Agatha Christie’s plays, so it will probably come from that, and will most likely be The Mousetrap. An alternative possibility is Dickon by Josephine Tey (writing as Gordon Daviot).

So, I’ve filled exactly half of the categories, which is perfectly acceptable, since the year is half over!

Back to the Classics: 2021

I participated in the Back to the Classics challenge for several years, until I lost my challenge mojo. Karen, who blogs at Books and Chocolate recently announced that she is hosting it again, for the 8th year. This aligns beautifully with my plans for next year, which I will be discussing in a different post altogether.

My initial plans for the challenge, although, as always, they are subject to change:

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899: I will either be reading Elizabeth Gaskell or Anthony Trollope for this category. I haven’t settled on a book yet, though.

2. A 20th century classic: This will be something by author Stella Gibbons.

3. A classic by a woman author: I have many choices for this one, but I think I will hold on to one of my two final Willa Cather novels to fill it. Probably Shadows on the Rock.

4. A classic in translation: The Wreath, by Sigrid Undset, which is the first in her Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, and was originally published in Norwegian in 1920.

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author: If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin.

6. A classic by a new-to-you author: I’ve been meaning to read something by Margery Sharp for years.

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author. Something by John Steinbeck for this one.

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

9. A children’s classic: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin.

10. A humorous or satirical classic: Something by P.G. Wodehouse.

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction): A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

12. A classic play: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie.