Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Three Musketeers

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)


  1. I never did finish this. I keep looking at it on my eReader, but that's about it. I wasn't even hating it... Just one of those things.

  2. So 'The Three Musketeers' is the first one in the 'series' right? For some reason I keep thinking that 'The Man in the Iron Mask' is somehow related.

    Oh wait, just looked it up. It is, haha.

    Did you know that there's a 'Three Musketeers' movie coming out (or maybe already has, where you are)? It's got Matthew Macfadyen as Athos. I'm quite excited. I, too, read the novel as a kid but it was probably an abridged version, so planning on reading it again.

  3. I read The Three Musketeers in high school out of a sense of duty and was surprised to discover that I ferociously loved it. I'm scared that it won't stand up to a reread, so I've only dipped in and out to revisit favorite scenes. But you give me hope that it will be okay to reread it in its entirety! :)

  4. I remember watching that version of the Three Musketeers as well! It was a fun watch :) But I never got around to reading the actual book. I still only have a vague idea of the story, and I can't really separate all the characters in my head...


  5. I listened to the audio version of this. Loved it. Then again, I am a fencer and loved all the sword scenes. Guess that makes for a bit of bias.

  6. Dumas is definitely not one for character development. It's all plot, plot, plot. I am 600 pages into the Count of Monte Cristo and I think I like the Musketeers better.

  7. Kailana - It took me a while to get through mine, as well. I put it on my e-reader, but then all these more alluring books kept showing up for me at my library! Still, I'm glad I reread it, and I might go on to read the other two books about d'Artagnan at some point, too.

    Lady Disdain - It is the first in a series, although I didn't know that until I was writing this post! I didn't know about the new movie - sounds like fun!

    Jenny - I'd love to hear how your reread goes, if you end up taking the plunge.

    Sharry - I know what you mean. There are lots of characters to keep track of!

    Heather - Audio sounds like a fun way to go for this one. My daughter's been wanting to take fencing lessons for some time now, and she's in the middle of reading Carrie Vaughn's new YA novel, Steel, which features a fencer. So we'll have to look into that! I loved that the three musketeers actually played tennis in the book - who knew?

    Thomas - I've never read The Count, but it's been on my list for ages, as has The Scarlet Pimpernel. Have you read that one? I've been meaning to ever since I saw that Daffy Duck cartoon - I must get to it one of these days!


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