When I decided to read this one as my fourth book for The Winter Classics Challenge (and then to also count it for the Chunkster Challenge and the TBR Challenge) the first thing I did was find out which translation would be the best to read. The overwhelming recommendation was a new (2006) translation by Richard Pevear. Although it is a chunkster at 704 pages and not out in paperback yet, the typeface and layout helped to make the excellent translation an easy and enjoyable read.
This book is most definitely a swashbuckler in the tradition of the black and white movies I remember watching on Saturday afternooons.
D’Artangnan is a youthful idealist who just happens to be an expert with a sword. He heads to Paris from his country home to join the King’s Musketeers. Not only does he have the ability to fall in love at the drop of a hat, he also manages to be willing to get into a swordfight just as fast. Although he isn’t officially a Musketeer yet, he quickly becomes friends with the Three the book is named for – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
These guys are kind of like a Frat Party that wants to have a moral purpose. They fight, feast, fall in and out of love, get in trouble, get themselves and others out of trouble and all along the way it’s all supposedly to serve their King and Queen, but really seems to be for the purpose of fighting and having a good time. The good guys are bad boys, the bad guys are really nasty and Milady is just plain evil.
Everyone in the book has secrets and the plot just gets more complicated as more secrets are revealed. Dumas sets this story in the reign of Louis XIII between 1625 and 1628, but he absolutely considered historic facts to be mere suggestions. Don’t expect all the events and people you read about to be based on fact or to have actually existed or occurred during the supposed time frame of the novel. In the end, however, it won’t matter because the ride is just downright fun.
A few passages I marked along the way . . .
“Porthos,” said Aramis, “Athos has already informed you that you are a ninny, and I concur with his opinion. D’Artagnan, you’re a great man; and when you replace M. de Treville, I’ll ask for your patronage in getting myself an abbey.”
“That was a stupid thing to do,” said Athos, “but never mind, there’s no backing out now. Kill the man and catch up with us as quickly as you can.”
“In general, people ask for advice” he used to say, “only so as not to follow it; or, if they do follow it, it’s only so as to have someone to blame for having given it.”
Night brought together all the comrades in the company of M. des Essarts guards and the company of M. de Treville’s musketeers of who had become friends. They were separating, to see each other again when it pleased God, and if it pleased God. The night, was thus a most rollicking one, as one might think. For in such cases extreme anxiety can only be combated by extreme insousiance.
If you decide to read this, I highly recommend this translation by Pevear.