Wednesday, August 17, 2011
When I was about twelve years old, I happened to watch the movie version of The Three Musketeers, the one that starred Michael York as d'Artagnan, and featured a whole lot of famous actors including Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, and Charlton Heston. I'm not sure what it was about that story, but I just loved it! The action, the romance, the adventure, the camaraderie, and especially the humor were all things that really appealed to me. As this was in the days before quick and easy video rentals, I went to the library and checked out the book. I loved it as well, particularly because as I read I had such vivid pictures of the characters in my head, thanks to having seen the movie.
I'd been meaning to reread this one for a while, although I was a little worried that it wouldn't hold up to my fond memories of it. And as it turns out, I was right to be worried! It was still a fun read, and parts of it had a surprisingly modern feel to them, but there is zero character development, and I had the feeling that the author was moving people around to suit the needs of the narrative, rather than the characters behaving in a believable way that followed the events of the story. I guess I just didn't believe in them the way I did when I was twelve, and it made me realize how very much I brought to that earlier reading that just wasn't there this time around.
That is not to say that this one is not worth reading - it really is, particularly for the humor and the masterfully woven plot. Complex characters are not its forte, but of course what seems completely two-dimensional and stereotypical to today's reader was probably much fresher in the 1800s. There are some surprisingly interesting and strong women characters, although they are of course subject to disappointing literary conventions of the time.
The story is about a young man from the French countryside who travels to Paris in the hope of joining the famed musketeers, an elite military group that reports directly to the king (rather than to the cardinal). D'Artagnan is naive but loyal, and he becomes involved in events that have dire political ramifications, and an action-packed narrative ensues, full of romance, derring-do and political scheming. There are two additional novels in the cycle known as the d'Artagnan Romances: Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, which continue the story of d'Artagnan.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (Signet Classics, 1991; originally published in 1844 as a serial)