If you like adventurous tales or history’s wild men, this book is for you. If you like to read about Byron, if you like to watch Johnny Depp in The Libertine, if you enjoy the Three Musketeers, this book is a must-read. But also if you’re interested about the lesser-known parts of history, for example about the very first multi-racial society, this book is for you.
Tthis is the story of Alex Dumas, the father of famous writer Alexandre Dumas (who authored The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo). The story tells of Alex Dumas, who was born in slavery but ended up commanding 50.000 men, and finally was imprisoned and poisoned.
The story is constructed from diaries, letters, battle reports, and the memoires of Alexandre Dumas, creating what is called “narrative nonfiction.” This is the same kind of concept as last week’s book The Graves are Walking, but with a very different tale and a different sort of protagonist.
The book is very well written. There are many small details and touches that really set the scene and make the story come alive before your mind’s eye. But at the same time it’s pleasantly academic, well-researched and with plenty of footnotes to keep the information-hungry reader happy. I find it very pleasant to read fiction that is well-researched, because it means you can just read for pleasure on a sunday morning but you still get to learn a lot of new things. Especially if a story’s well-told, information will stick with you a lot longer.
Even though the book is called The Black Count, this fact did not really register with me immediately. But an interesting extra point is added to the story, namely the fact that Dumas was a black man. In 18th century French high society, black people weren’t exactly common so the fact that he was so famous and appreciated really does get some extra meaning. If you like researching the alternative side of history, the part that you won’t find in the more common book, this book is definitely recommended.
Strangely, even though this book has everything going for it, I found it less gripping than last week’s The Graves are Walking. It seems strange, that you’d rather read about Irish people starving than a swashbuckling admiral, but there you go.
Interesting fact: the black count on the front cover is totally Tom Reiss himself! What do you think? Check it out here!
Recommended? Definitely! Give it as a present to someone who likes adventure. Four stars.