Tom Reiss does a masterful job telling the marvelous story of a black man in a pivotal time in the history of France and equal rights. General Alexandre Dumas was born a slave yet rose to the highest ranks of the French army. Reiss does a masterful job of weaving his prodigious research on the man, Dumas, into the bigger backdrop of revolutionary France. Reiss takes time to explain the political and social landscape of the various seasons of Dumas' life in a way that heightens interest, builds significance, yet doesn't bore or distract. Prior to reading this book I read "Bearing the Cross," a biography of Martin Luther King. Both books added to my understanding of the fight for racial freedom, but in comparison the book on King was a two dimensional reciting of events, while Reiss' Black Count provides a multi-dimensional interpretation of an extraordinary man in an extraordinary era.
It was a story of history, slavery, love, deception and heartbreak all into one.
General Dumas standing up to Bonaparte in Egypt
Obviously a ton of research and love was but into this book. I loved the fact that the author was so invested in telling the story of Alexandra Dumas. A great resin whom history has forgotten.
The detail of Dumas' life. He is an inspiration, and it is also heartbreaking. Also gives insight into the FrenchRevolution from the point of view of a believer in tht freedoms.
Kept it interesting.
His spirit lives on ! Great idea to make a film!
Clearly this book was well researched and wonderful to read. Could have been edited a bit better. It does jump around a bit.
We should try and get a statue to Dumas back up which is similar to the one that destroyed when France was invaded in WW2.
Just a woman with an unhealthy addiction to literature, the beach and a ice cold drink.
Personally, I love this book, audio or book form. It feels like you are personally connected with the mid century intrigues, the daring brilliance and the political aspirations of this brash and sharp young man who inspired his young son. Simply, you can't help but continue listening. I highly recommend this most excellent book on a truly amazing man!
The man himself, Alexander Dumas, Sr. What a treasure trove of a find in this one man's life story that would become the essence of complete AWSOMENESS!
He did this story well, carries it with polish and distinction like the subject himself.
I love how his future father in law asks only for him to achieve a rank of Captain in the army before he could marry his daughter. But instead, by chance, Alexander Dumas returns to her father 4 ranks higher than Captain and marries the girl and his father in law is bursting with pride in such a man for his daughter.
Best book / Best Biography written in a long long time. This guy did it all and did it well. My mamma always said, "It ain't bragging if it's true!"
Tom Reiss’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book is both a compelling biography of a forgotten hero and a concise, riveting account of a revolutionary decade in French and European history.
Alex Dumas, father of the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, took advantage of a narrow window of opportunity for black and mixed-race people opened by the French Revolution. He rose to the military rank of general, loved by his troops and celebrated for his bravery, combat prowess and battlefield heroism. His famous son Alexandre used his father’s life – including Alex’s two years of captivity as a prisoner of war – as the inspiration for some of the most famous episodes in his novels.
Alex was born the son of a French aristocratic planter and a black slave mother in the French sugar colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). His father eventually took him to France (but temporarily sold him first to pay for his own passage) and gave him a gentleman’s education. Alex learned courtly manners as well as fencing and riding, excelling at all these arts. He enlisted in the military under his mother’s name of Dumas, and when the French overthrew their monarchy, quickly rose in the ranks of the revolutionary army.
Reiss used Alex’s life as a springboard to discuss the cruel French sugar trade and the efforts at black emancipation brought about by revolutionary ideals. In the French colonies, slaves did the back-breaking work of harvesting sugar cane, subject to all kinds of cruelties and indignities, while their white masters got rich. But sexual relationships between masters and slaves resulted in a class of affluent free blacks, who formed their own cultured society in Saint-Domingue. In the meantime, liberal attorneys back home worked to secure the rights of black and mixed-race people lucky enough to set foot on French soil. The monarchy attempted to thwart emancipation but was often defeated in French courts.
The French Revolution swept away distinctions of race and class – at least in theory. Enlisting just before the fall of the Bastile, Alex rose quickly in rank to command huge armies as the French attempted to spread their revolutionary zeal to neighboring countries. Before listening to this book, I had known nothing of the wars fought with foreign powers, even as the revolution turned bloody at home. Alex battled with Austrian monarchists in the French Alps, and later with Mamelukes in Egypt as part of Napoleon’s ill-fated expedition. He prided himself on riding first into battle in front of his men, but his brash outspokenness sometimes put him at odds with other generals, including despot-in-training Napoleon.
Throughout the book, Reiss painted an ultimately tragic picture of a man who was simply too good for his times. Idealistic and principled, Alex abhorred cruelty and would not allow his men to plunder conquered villages or to mistreat the inhabitants. He protected the weak and powerless, no matter which side they were on. His personality shines through in the many excerpts from his letters quoted by Reiss, including his sincere love for his wife and children. Alex’s humanity stood in sharp contrast to the atrocities committed by his countrymen during the Terror, and later, to the duplicitous backstabber Napoleon.
Alex’s butting of heads with the little Corsican dictator eventually proved his downfall. As First Counsel, Napoleon not only swept away black emancipation, but denied the general and his family the pension due him. After a nightmarish sea crossing, capture in Naples and long months in a cell, Alex died in France and was quickly forgotten, swept aside by the tide of history.
The book’s narrator, Paul Michael, was the sort of skillful reader who disappeared into the text. His reading was so pitch-perfect, I did not focus at all on his idiosyncrasies, but on the compelling story unfolding in my ears.
The highest praise I can give this book is it made me eager to learn much more about the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon and the slave revolts that led to the founding of the modern nation of Haiti.
Amazing true stiry
The Count of Monti Cristois the only book that can compare.