The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Publication date: September 1, 2012

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Count of Monte Cristo” has long been one of my favorite novels, and I’m quite confident that after reading this incredible biography, I’ll have an even greater appreciation for the story told within its pages. Little did I know that the inspiration for that classic tale was none other than the novelist’s own father, Thomas-Alexander (or, simply “Alex”) Dumas — a half-French, half- black Haitian, Caribbean-born slave-turned-aristocrat-turned-soldier who rose up in the ranks of the French Revolution. During his military career, this formidable figure made a name for himself as the Black Devil, a Hercules of his time, and the “Horatius Cocles of the Tyrol” through his intimidating stature, dauntless spirit, and brazen heroics. This biography tells the story of his remarkable life and the tragic circumstances that inspired his son, Alexandre Dumas, to write about the fictitious Edmond Dante’s false imprisonment in “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

I don’t normally read biographies, and it’s been a number of years since I took any sort of history course that would have covered the French Revolution, but this book managed to incite my interest in both the man himself and the cause for which he fought. Tying in the culture of the day, race relations on both sides of the Atlantic, and the political intricacies of the French during their revolution, I was pulled into the setting and gained a fuller understanding of the time period of Alex Dumas. I’m certain that I was able to fully comprehend more about the French Revolution and Napoleon by reading this book than I had in any other book I’ve read — novel, textbook, or otherwise.

The author writes in such a way that is part history lesson, part adventure novel, and part genealogist’s storytelling of a family’s legacy. This book was incredibly well-researched, and I appreciated all of the primary sources included. With numerous quotes from military reports, letters, and personal memoirs, I felt as if I not only learned what Alex Dumas did in his incredible lifetime, but who he really was.

I’d highly recommend this biography. Even those that may not have a current interest in French history or military biographies may change their minds after reading this one!

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Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book!  All opinions expressed are my own!


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  1. Weekend Ramblings: BEST NONFICTION OF 2012 « Excellent Library - December 8, 2012

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