Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Book 36 of 2014: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I’ve recently been trying to read more ‘classic’ books, but it’s actually a sort of project I’ve been working on since I got my Kindle, because hey, free books. I love that I can grab books which are available on Project Gutenberg and then load the same book up in HTML format to read on my phone when I’m out and about without having to load up my Kindle when I might only have five minutes’ reading time.

I’m always on the look out for recommendations for new books so when my cousin suggested Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers I decided to give it a go. One of the great things about keeping a book journal is that I can check through it and see that when I read The Three Musketeers I’d not read a Kindle book since The Lord of the Rings way back for my fifteenth book of the year. I suspect that when my cousin mentioned this one, I jumped at the chance to try a book on my Kindle again after neglecting it for about four months!

The Three Musketeers tells the story of D’Artagnan and three of his friends in the King’s Musketeers. The four men attempt to defend the honour of the queen amidst run-ins with the Cardinal and his men. They also each have romantic encounters as well as a whole lot of swashbuckling action.

I will admit that it took me a little while to get through. This was for several reasons, ranging from the understandable to the somewhat bizarre. First of all, it’s set during a period of history that I know relatively little about. I enjoy reading about historical periods but since I’ve left school they’ve tended to jumble together. If I’m watching a period drama or reading a book, I might look it up to learn a little more about when it’s taking place, but off the top of my head I’m not so hot on dates.

There’s an awful lot of stuff in The Three Musketeers which is to do with politics of the period and I think I should have looked it up a little more online before I started it, so I knew just what I was dealing with. The danger of doing that is obviously that sometimes you end up encountering spoilers and so find out things about the book you’re reading which you’d rather find out on your own. I started looking up details about the book once I started it, but I think that some of what I read did kind of spoil the ending for me.

It was also the first book I’d read on my Kindle in a long time. I always find that I’m a bit slow with ebooks if it’s the first time I’ve read one for a while. This was a long book which seems to compound that. When you read a big thick book there’s something tangible that you can feel your progress in, with long ebook books you just have a percentage and sometimes it doesn’t seem to move very quickly. I always feel a little bit like if I don’t seem to be making progress through a book I struggle to keep going with it, no matter how much I might be enjoying what I’m reading.

My other problem was that I was reading this late at night a lot of the time. In order to keep from disturbing Mr Click (who mentioned that the light from my Kindle actually illuminates a lot of the room) I switched the background from sepia to black with white text. Unfortunately the black background makes the room quite a lot darker and that makes me fall asleep. The number of times I found my eyes closing and so set my book down. I expect that if I’d kept going with the sepia background I’d have gotten through it a lot quicker.

As for the actual story itself, I did enjoy it. There was a lot of action throughout the story, which I was expecting, but there were also a lot of funny bits, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. I always imagine older books to be more serious, but it’s something I’ve discovered over the last couple of years; jokes that were funny more than a hundred years ago can still be funny today. I suspect that there were more funny bits than I realised, some have probably been lost to the ages, while others would probably be funnier to someone more knowledgeable with the time period than myself. The ones I enjoyed the most were in the conversations between the Musketeers, they were just the sort of things that a group of men who spend a lot of time together will tease each other about, like women and the things they’ve done in the past.

At the beginning I didn’t find D’Artagnan particularly likeable, he just seemed to be a bit full of himself and too quick to pick fights with people. He grew on me through the story though. At the beginning of the book he was a headstrong young man but he matured as the story went on and by the end I actually felt quite sorry for him.

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