The Black Count

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

 This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography was also the best book I’ve listened to in 2013. The Black Count by Tom Reiss is both informative and entertaining. Read by Paul Michael, an actor who gave the story even more depth with his expressive style and excellent pronunciation, this book is a step above the average biography. I was enthralled not only by the amazing adventures of the man who was the inspiration for the Count of Monte Cristo but by the writing style of the author.

Few books have engrossed me like the Black Count. The impact of French culture in European and American thought became clear in this fascinating book. In this book, I learned the origins of how slavery took on its racial overtones with its codification in the French colonies. Reiss also outlines the famine and deadly bureaucracy that lead to rabid violence of the French Revolution. Before reading this book, I knew the government of Robespierre was backwards but never so backwards as to order thousands of pikes in the age of the musket. Reiss weaves many facts and stories together to create the complex taspesty that is Alex Dumas. The Black Count himself, Alexander Dumas,  was so astounding in both character and deed, Napoleon Bonaparte found him to be a threat.  His humanity in the face of the mob, his love story that inspires and his fantastic fighting skills make him a hero for the ages.

Although, The Black Count was at times hard to stomach (Warning: Do not read the section about the Vendée before sleeping)it is well researched and shows an understanding of French, Creole and African culture that few authors can produce in one book. Tom Reiss’s skill in writing this non-fiction title allows the reader to be immersed in the 18th century. I would whole hearted recommend this book for adults and older teens who like books or movies that have action, adventure or history. Fans of Horatio Hornblower and fans of the Die Hard franchise alike will find this to be an enjoyable read.

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