Monday, 29 December 2014

Review: Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas' d’Artagnan Romances consist of three novels: The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. The last of these is a problematic novel because it has been published in several vastly different editions that divide to novel into separate books in different ways. I recently started reading the Project Gutenberg version, which cuts the novel up into four parts. I reviewed the first part, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, some time ago, so it is now the high time to move on to the next instalment: Ten Years Later.

Ten Years Later covers the chapters 76 to 140 of the full novel as is set in 1660-1661. Where the first part focussed on King Louis XIV's ascension to the throne and the events that follow, the second part focusses mainly on court life. King's brother, called simply Monsieur receives his wife, Madame, from England. Madame turns out to be coveted by quite a few other characters and the novel explores the drama that this produces from various characters' perspectives. Vicomte Bragelonne, in the meanwhile, finds that his beloved has been accepted as the Madame's maid of honour and he gets worried that she will be corrupted by the life in court. Aramis is also around, playing high stakes game behind the scenes and preparing ground for the grand events to be explored in the later parts of the novel, probably mainly in The Man in the Iron Mask.

Dumas' writing style, already discussed in my previous piece, continues here as well and the dialogue is rather meandering and it often takes the characters a page or two to get to the point that they wanted to express. While amusing, it adds to the feeling of unnecessary length of the plot itself - I'm sorry to say that I found the courtly games and descriptions of the extravagance relatively boring reads and the love affairs were no more interesting. The most interesting events were right at the beginning when Vicomte de Bragelonne meets Madame and takes her to Paris, and later chapters that featured Aramis in his shady manipulations. These were few and far between, however.

Whereas the first instalment was a fun read, the second part was heavier going for me. However, my interest was kept up by the preparations for The Man in the Iron Mask and I look forward to reading the next part of the book in Louise de la Valliere - named after Vicomte Bragelonne's beloved. Given that de la Valliere was involved in the court intrigue of Ten Years Later and attracted the attention of the King himself, I expect the love affairs and court intrigue to continue, but I also hope to see more of Vicomte de Bragelonne and especially d'Artagnan, Athos and Porthos who were more or less absent from this instalment.