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Places to Go: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Written by Rachael Norris, 31st July 2020

In this week's audio adventure, Erin Carlstrom, The Reader's London Hub Leader reads from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Perhaps it’s the warm weather that made me reach to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas for this week’s Places to Go reading. I’m remembering the last time I read this book the summer I was 17. I spent most of the summer reading in the garden listening to the rustle of blistered grass, or sitting in an old inner tube half submerged in a lake to keep me floating as I read. Although this book still sits on my list of most personally influential reads, I’ve never read it again since that summer.  Perhaps it’s because I’m dreaming of places I want to go—the back yard of childhood, the secluded lake where I spent a week every summer—that this book came to mind.  Or perhaps it’s because after so many months of lockdown I can understand just a little bit better than before the isolation felt by Dantès, locked away for years in prison.

At the opening of this passage, Dantès, who was betrayed and wrongfully imprisoned, has just discovered that a fellow prisoner is attempting to make a tunnel that would connect their two cells.  On the verge of starving himself to death, this new realization brings excitement and energy once again into Dantès’ life.

What I love in this passage is Dantès unabashed desire to enter into a caring relationship with his fellow prisoner who at this point he has not even seen—I’m reminded of how many new friendships are being formed at the moment between people reading together over the phone with those it’s possible they will never meet in person—At this moment Dantès knows nothing about the man on the other side of the wall, yet calls him the ‘unknown, whom he loved already’.  I worry that his willingness to connect so quickly to this man is foolish, it was his ill-founded trust of friends that got him locked away in the first place. But the desperation of his desire to love this man comes from such a human need to connect that I can feel his pain reverberating through my own shared humanity. He is not foolish, he is courageous.

But this relationship is more than just a relationship with a single person, it creates space for the other relationships in Dantès life to come into greater focus—‘If we cannot escape we will talk; you of those whom you love, and I of those whom I love’.  The memory of past connections comes alive because of this possibility of a new connection. He is hoping not only for a new connection, but for old ones to become more vivid. Perhaps I was also hoping for old memories to come more clearly into focus when I picked up this book today.

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