The Three Musketeers (insert sad trombone noise here)

Here’s the sad trombone noise…

61HkYyXY5KL._SL300_My rating for this surprised me, and I imagine it might be a surprise to others.



One star?? A swashbuckling adventure novel beloved for a couple of centuries? Yeah, well.

I’ve tried to read this before. It had “me” written all over it: aforementioned buckling of swashes, romance and derring-do and so forth. But I never penetrated very far. There was a tone – perhaps to the particular translation I tried, perhaps to the work itself – that just put me off, exemplified by the instance of D’Artagnan selling the yellow horse after his father impressed upon him how he must never do so, and he promised faithfully that he would not. It was such a dishonorable, dishonest, ugly thing to do, in a book I had expected to be dripping with honor – and it was just the beginning.

Last year I finally went with the audiobook, on the theory that classics that have not held a huge amount of interest for me go down better read aloud. I hold the reader, John Lee, responsible for my being able to finish it with as much tolerance as I did; if I’d been just reading words on a page I think it would have ended up in the trash by page 200. I hated this. I truly, deeply hated this. I’ve seen at least a couple of movie versions; I’ve enjoyed them, somewhat, as frothy swashbucklers, of course. I always expected the book to be better, though.

One of my two Goodreads comments on the book was:
“These people are all horrible – honorless, slutty morons. And this is a classic, beloved by schoolboys for – what, over 200 years? God help us.”

3473426And that’s my biggest problem with the book. Perhaps it was supposed to be ironic, some kind of commentary on honor and courage and standards and morality through the depiction of noble swordsmen who were actually men you wouldn’t trust alone with a coin or a woman. I don’t remember ever coming across that take on it, though.

Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D’Artagnan. These are the heroes I wanted to read about. The brave and loyal soldiers, the champions of right and defenders of womanhood and of France … I have no idea where my ideas came from – the movies, perhaps? What I found as I listened to the book was that Athos was a hypocritical prig, Aramis was a hypocritical pseudo-religious, Porthos was a gluttonous gambling dandy, and D’Artagnan a cocky young jackass. They were all four drunkards, given any opportunity; they were all womanizers, cuckolding widely and wildly, dropping whatever girl they had been bedding to move on without a pause or juggling as many as possible simultaneously. And the much-vaunted all-for-one loyalty? I didn’t see it. Every single one of them was as likely to throw his buddies under the 18th century equivalent of a bus as to support them, or to leave them in assorted lurches. Then get a good laugh out of it. And the interactions between these four and the man-servants they could barely afford but NEEDED made The Comedy of Errors seem like a shining illustration of workplace harmony. It was depressing.

D’Artagnan in particular was a letdown. The whole situation of swiving the maid in the room adjacent to her mistress, and vice versa – I wanted to throttle him. A lot. For one thing – seriously? They’ve let prepubescent boys read this for centuries? Oh, that’s just awesome. So, buckling of swashes, romance and derring-do and so forth? The swashes were askew at best; the romance was not the way Anne Shirley defines it (nor me), the doing wasn’t so derring. I only made it through the whole thing because it was an audiobook with a good narrator, and because I gritted my teeth in determination to see it all the way through. It was a deep disappointment, and I hated it.

My other Goodreads comment:
“Chapter 67: Conclusion
Oh, thank God.”

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4 Responses to The Three Musketeers (insert sad trombone noise here)

  1. Helen says:

    I didn’t like the characters either! Do you recall the Robin Hood series with one Jonas Armstrong as Robin (and Sam Troughton as Much), not to forget Keith Allan?? I bring it up only because I have recently watched a Musketeers series which, although not nearly so irreverent if you will, brought it to mind. This one has Santiago Cabrera (Lancelot in Merlin) as Aramis as well as Peter Capaldi as Richelieu – I enjoyed it because I found there to be an undercurrent of humour which lessens the ‘bad’ side of the foursome I think …. just my opinion ;>)

  2. stewartry says:

    Ooo – Peter Capaldi! I think I need to see anything with the new Doctor in it! I’ve liked the Musketeers films I’ve seen well enough (maybe because they have to censor the material heavily) – thank you!

  3. Helen says:

    BBC America is carrying it as of June 22nd –

    Have you read Dorothy Dunnett (I seem to recall a 3-way conversation with a goodreads author but I may be wrong) – The Game of Kings arrived this morning & I am looking forward to opening it later. I am having trouble locating a reasonably-priced copy of my last Sharon Kay Penman book – Prince of Darkness ..

  4. stewartry says:

    Oh, excellent, I think we have that On Demand. I was sort of interested, and Capaldi makes it a must – thank you!

    I love Dorothy Dunnett – mostly. I read her Lymond Chronicles many years ago (maybe that will be my next Big Reread), and a few of her histories. But I hated the mysteries I tried. I haven’t read Penman in forever… Hmmm,,,,

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