The Three Musketeers (The D’Artagnan Romances #1) by Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas.
Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those being his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto “all for one, one for all” (“tous pour un, un pour tous”), a motto which is first put forth by d’Artagnan.
In genre, The Three Musketeers is primarily a historical novel and adventure. However Dumas also frequently works into the plot various injustices, abuses and absurdities of the ancien regime, giving the novel an additional political aspect at a time when the debate in France between republicans and monarchists was still fierce. The story was first serialized from March to July 1844, during the July monarchy, four years before the French Revolution of 1848 violently established the second Republic. The author’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas had been a well-known general in France’s Republican army during the French revolutionary wars.
Although adaptations tend to portray d’Artagnan and the three musketeers as heroes, the novel portrays less appealing characters, who are willing to commit violence over slight insults and through unquestioning loyalty to the king and queen, and treat their servants and supposed social inferiors with contempt and violence.
The story of d’Artagnan is continued in Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. Those three novels by Dumas are together known as thed’Artagnan Romances.
Book Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is the author’s best known novel. The story was originally serialized between March and July of 1844 in Le Siècle magazine. It is a fast paced adventure into French history which has cemented itself as a classic and refuses to let go. I have been a fan of this story for several decades, it is a silly fantasy riddled with intrigue and adventure crossing borders and nationalism.
France, 1625. A young poor nobleman named d’Artagnan leaves his Gascony home to the bright lights of Paris with intentions of becoming Musketeer of the Guard. On the way d’Artagnan hears a man making jokes about his horse and demands a fight. He loses the fight, breaks his sword and get a letter of introduction to Monsieur de Treville stolen.
In Paris d’Artagnan goes to meet Treville and manages to schedule three consecutive duels with Aramis, Athos, and Porthos–the three musketeers. The rest of the story follows our young friend while he duels, falls in love, manages to save the Queen of France, and spoil Cardinal Richelieu’s plans all while achieving his dream. (In a true fashion of fiction rewriting history, the Cardinal got a bad rap from the popularity of the story–much of it undeserved.)
The story is difficult to listen at first, with the French names and seemingly highbrow storytelling, but soon one can tell why this novel is one of the most popular of all times. Peculiar, memorable, and quirky, with adventures galore and an air of arrogance–all define The Three Musketeers, but there is plenty more.
Dumas peppered this audio book with historical figures, but not so much historical accuracy (to be generous). As with many other novels, the author took real figures and some real historical events, invented his own conversations and scenarios while giving these bombastic figures grandiose roles on a stage of his own.
What does Dumas do that separates him from the crowd?
His figures are so high and mighty, evil, honorable, and egotistical that one can do nothing but laugh and enjoy. Dumas realizes that the predicament and situations he puts his heroes in are quite ridiculous, and through the action and adventure–all undertaken with a wink and a smile–the reader realizes of course that this quite serious business of bringing back the queen’s diamonds is really more suitable for a comedy than a romantic tale of France.
The Three Musketeers is an ageless story which was serialized for a newspaper, hence the page turning adventure and fast pace. After listening this audio book in elementary school (on my own) I had the urge to listen it again, this time with the eyes of an adult. The audio book did not disappoint, and I further understand why it is a classic. Dumas is a master of invention; If alive today he’d be making shows like 24. Instead he gave us a timeless, serial classic peppered with a good deal of humor, romance, and even some swordplay.
Dumas’ genius is his ability to tell this irreverent story, with no identifiable central plot, yet make it exciting and personable. Everything that matters to Dumas, such as unconditional love and friendship, are not front-and-center, but on the margins of humanity and history.