What Goodreads has to say:
Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas' epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialised in the 1840s.
Robin Buss' lively translation is complete and unabridged, and remains faithful to the style of Dumas' original. This edition includes an introduction, explanatory notes and suggestions for further reading.
What I have to say:
If you're looking into reading The Count of Monte Cristo for the first time, I cannot recommend highly enough Robin Buss' translation. As the owner of the bookstore where I bought the 1276 page novel informed me, Buss grew up speaking both French and English in his household, so clearly he knows what he's doing. I found his translation lively, poetic, and moving. And don't even bother reading the unabridged version - seriously, who does that? - be a hipster and read the whole thing.
In reviewing Dumas' masterpiece, I first want to make it clear that I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and gave it four stars on goodreads. The compelling nature of many of the characters and the fast-paced plot kept me up reading the book for days on end and often late into the night - and when that happens with a book published over 170 years ago, you know there's something good there. So if you get the sense further on in this review that I'm criticizing Dumas and his novel, please know that I hold the author in very high regard and loved the novel very much.
Albert de Morcerf
Valentine de Villefort
The stranger looked all around her to make sure that she was quite alone then, bending forward as if she wanted to kneel down, and clasping her hands, she said in a desperate voice: "Edmond! You must not kill my son!"
The count took one pace backwards, gave a faint cry and dropped the pistol he was holding.
"What name did you say, Madame de Morcerf?" he asked.
"Yours!" she cried, throwing back her veil. "Yours, which perhaps I alone have not forgotten. Edmond, it is not Madame de Morcerf who has come to you, it is Mercedes."
"Mercedes is dead, Madame," said Monte Cristo. "I do not know anyone of that name."
"Mercedes is alive, Monsieur, and Mercedes remembers, for she alone recognized you when she saw you, even without seeing you, by your voice, Edmond, by the mere sound of your voice. Since that time she has followed you step by step, she has watched you and been wary of you, because she did not need to wonder whose was the hand that has struck down Monsieur de Morcerf."Perhaps it is only too appropriate that, as the character with the most heart in all of the novel, Mercedes' ending is the one that seems to the reader the most tragic and undeserved. Carried away on the wings of the happy ending which comes after so much heartache, and the Count's final, transcendent words, echoed by Valentine, the reader touches down only for a moment, and that only to repeat a single name, questioningly - the name of the woman loved by Edmond Dantes for so long, and who loved Edmond Dantes even longer. We ask of Fate, or the Count, or God, or Dumas - for we are uncertain which of these fatalistic forces we should hold responsible for the outcome of her story - what of Mercedes? And we are left without an answer: Fate, or God, or the Count, or whoever it is we should ultimately hold responsible, are overwhelmingly silent on this point.
I can understand why most adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo depart from the original ending to grant Mercedes her happily ever after; not only is the outcome of her story almost unbearable, but it feels like a splinter in the novel. There is a falling out or falling apart that occurs when the Count takes his final leave of Mercedes, and from that point on, the book feels less like a cohesive whole; at the end of it, the characters pair off and go their separate ways. And even though some of these characters seem perfectly happy and there is nothing to convince us that they are otherwise, we have doubts and hesitate to concede to them their happy ending. For how can Edmond Dantes be truly happy without Mercedes at his side? Having the Count reunited with Mercedes at the end of the story just feels more whole. But perhaps Dumas never intended to write that kind of a story.
After that tangent which wasn't really a tangent, I feel like there's probably nothing left to say and you wouldn't even read it anyway. I could talk at length about the Count, but I don't really want to, which seems like a cop-out in a review of The Count of Monte Cristo, but enough has been said about him in any case; Mercedes' is the story that begs for more attention. I could talk about Haydee, Father Noirtier, Villefort and his crushing defeat at the hands of the Count, or Madame Danglars' gently tragic ending and the fact that I liked her more than I ever had before the last time she ever appeared in the novel. I could glory in the shape of the book and the closure gained when Edmond revisits Marseilles, Chateau d'If and Monte Cristo in the final chapters, or I could revel in the beautiful serenity of the moment near the end of the novel when the Count meditates over a quiet ocean and a star-filled sky. Had we but world enough and time, I could talk to you about all these and a host of other things. But why delineate them for you here? The best and surest way for you to experience them is to read the book yourself - so do. I think you'll enjoy it. Then, if you feel inclined, we can talk about The Count together.