I love France #35: (2012) #58 Review: The Black Count


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The Black Count:

Glory, Revolution, Betrayal,
and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

by Tom Reiss

340 pages

Published by Crown/Random House in September 2012

Ebook received from Crown via Netgalley




Rating system

Wow, I was really impressed by this book! Reading The Count of Monte Cristo was such a wonderful experience, years back, that I jumped on the opportunity to reconnect with it.
But The Black Count  is much more than the story of the real Count of Monte Cristo, or of the person who deeply inspired the character of the novel.

In fact, I have read several reviewers criticizing the fact that the book was too vast, not enough focused on the man himself.

I totally disagree with those reviewers: what they considered a weakness, I perceived as a wealth for this fascinating book.

Because of the origin and the life of Alexandre Dumas, you will learn a lot about:

  • life in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti),
  • its slaves and its elite,
  • life around the sugar cane industry,
  • and life in France in the 18th century, around the time of the French Revolution,
  • how France was avant-garde in its position towards slaves and “Americans”, (understand Africans and African-Americans), and then went backwards
  • the rising of Napoleon,
  • his military campaigns, including in Egypt.

And many more things, all so well put in the perspective of the time and evolution of ideas and manners.

The book is extremely well researched, though history books, current archives, etc. You will in fact find an impressive number of references per page at the end of the book!

To go back to Alexandre Dumas as the source of the Count of Monte Cristo, I liked the way the author inserted passages of Dumas’s writings to illustrate his point.

VERDICT:The Black Count makes for a thoroughly fascinating and enlightening read. If you are an adept of The Count of Monte Cristo, you really need to read this book.


Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo—a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature.

Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son. [Goodreads]


Tom Reiss

TOM REISS is the author of the celebrated international bestseller The Orientalist.

His biographical pieces have appeared The New Yorker, The New York Times and other publications.

He makes his home in New York City.

[from the publisher]




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15 thoughts on “I love France #35: (2012) #58 Review: The Black Count

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  3. This is interesting. And when I saw the name Alex Dumas, I thought, now where do I know that name from. Thanks for finding this book and passing it along.
    I’m just talking about ice cream in my “I Love France” meme — well, ice cream in France. Here’s Mine


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