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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

"The Countess de Charny" by Alexander Dumas

This is one of the many historical pot-boilers that Dumas penned. It centres around the attempted flight of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and their children and assorted others from Paris; they were apprehended by common people at Varennes. Dumas wears his historical knowledge like a strait-jacket which he pads out with exclamation marks !!!!  The only obvious addition is the mysterious figure of Count Cagliostro who is the immortal leader of the Freemason club that is agitating for the removal of the monarchy. There is also an episode in which Dr Gilbert uses hypnosis to send the countess of Charny on an astral journey in which she discovers what her son (by the wicked doctor) has been doing.

In short, this is absolute twaddle from beginning to end. I did wonder at one stage whether the indifferent translation was pitting me off and then I decided that the translator must have been as fed up by the bilge as I was.

One central mystery is why on earth is the book named after a character who has a cameo role near the strt and another cameo near the end but absolutely no role in the main story. It did seem that she had been forgotten. Certainly the sub-plot regarding her son is never developed after he is knocked down (but not killed) by a carriage in the street.

It became clear quite quickly that this is the sequel to another book about these characters and I think it would have been very useful indeed to have known about their stories before hand. Madame Nicole who is sometimes called Madame Oliva is a was in point: I has no idea why she was reduced to poverty nor whether it was at all important that she so closely resembled Marie Antoinette.

Dumas had a flair for telling a story which makes one forgive his appallingly romanticised prose and his obsession with honour. But in this book his story telling ability has deserted him. This is a great book for an aspiring author to read and to say: I can do better than that.

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