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Twenty Years After Kindle Edition
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Audio Download, Unabridged
|Length: 656 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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Dumas does a wonderful job of inserting our foursome into the known events of history and even though we know the outcomes, there are moments where we almost believe things can be different, a huge testament to Dumas' grip on our imagination.
This time round all the musketeers are twenty years older and their characters are given more depth, especially those of the noble, gracious but world-weary Athos, and febrile, highly-strung Aramis. D'Artagnan is as cunning as ever and Porthos adds comic relief with his massive strength and ever-empty stomach!
The politics are perhaps more complex here, putting the musketeers on opposite sides when the book opens. A new villain emerges, Mordaunt, the son of Milady; and Raoul, Athos' adopted son, allows Dumas to show a paternal side to the foursome.
This is superb story-telling and while the musketeers part at the end, luckily we know they'll be back in The Vicomte de Bragelonne.
* This review is from the Oxford World's Classics edition with its fluent translation and excellent notes on the political context.
Exciting and perfect for anyone who loves France and England, history and Musketeers. None of it is tedious or dull as so many writers of the time could be. He certainly knew how to keep the reader's interest. A shame more writer's dirge on endlessly over nothing very much.
I am English but live in France and know very well all the places he refers to.
'Twenty Years After' is the lesser-known sequel to the world-famous 'The Three Musketeers'. First published in serialised form from January-August, 1845, the book appeared only one year after its renowned predecessor, despite the action taking place two decades later. Those expecting Dumas' sequel to be a facsimile of the original swashbuckler must have been somewhat perplexed by the more unconventional approach given to the musketeers' middle age. Indeed, 'Twenty Years After' is a sprawling tale, lacking the unity of the original, not only in terms of a coherent narrative, but also via the disunity between the four main players; D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos and Aramis. Whereas 'The Three Musketeers' has been truncated and adapted on countless occasions and may have an undeserved reputation as a "children's classic" (Those familiar with the downfall of Milady would rightly dispute this!), it is hard to imagine how the sequel could be similarly condensed and sanitised.
On one level, in 'Twenty Years After' (TYA) the reader has to give Dumas credit for not regurgitating his original. The decision to set the story the full twenty years after 'The Three Musketeers' (TTM) allows us to discover how the lead characters have changed in such time. Only D'Artagnan seems to have retained a genuinely youthful vigour despite his failure to rise up to the higher echelons of the military. The early chapters offer a useful summary of the key events of TTM, and the plot device (the scheming of the underhand Cardinal Mazarin) to bring the four back together is well-handled. The first appearance of Aramis is written with real comic flair. However, perhaps the greatest frustration of the novel in its entirety, is the lack of interaction and camaraderie between all four musketeers which made its predecessor such a joy. Throughout most of the story, our heroes operate in pairs (D'Artagnan with Porthos and Athos with Aramis), fighting on different sides. Certainly this adds to the story's increased emphasis upon characterisation by focusing on the dilemma between choosing duty over friendship. And yet, the previous interplay is just not there. Even as we approach the conclusion, it is prison bars which separate the men, even when their cause seems united.
Nevertheless, where the novel works, it works brilliantly. Mordaunt, embittered son of Milady, as the principle villain, weaves a dark presence throughout the core of the story. He is a scheming 'baddie', hell-bent on gaining revenge upon his mother's executioners. There is almost a 'Terminator'-style detachment to his ruthless pursuit of vengeance. His menace is a bonding force for the musketeers, and one feels that, until Morduant is finished off, our heroes are in real danger.
As in the original, the action set pieces are told with breath-taking energy, both on sea and on land. Dumas is at his best when he truly engages his heroes. The passages detailing the demise of King Charles I in battle and the attempts to rescue the fallen monarch are delivered with real panache.
Mention of England's executed King highlights another of TYA's characteristics; the lack of a consistent narrative. Whereas TTM was principally about the attempt to conceal Queen Anne's ill-advised affair with Buckingham and save royal honour, the task of writing a blurb for TYA is not an easy one. Is the key plot Queen Anne's escape from a volatile Paris? The thwarted attempt to rescue King Charles I? The contest between the musketeers and Mordaunt? The intrigues against Cardinal Mazarin? The list goes on. Dumas described history as the "peg" upon which he held his stories. It would be churlish to criticise the great story-teller for his historical inaccuracies (Milady's deranged son as Charles' executioner!). However, there seems to be so much going on in both England and France throughout the novel, that it is, at times, hard to keep up with the volley of names, intrigues and events.
However, despite the criticisms, TYA is a brave sequel which hits far more than it misses. In such a way it resembles 'Rupert of Henzau', Anthony Hope's darker and more controversial sequel to 'The Prisoner of Zenda'. Both 'Henzau' and TYA ignore the established formula and offer something genuinely original. This decision is commendable, and TYA is well-worth reading for its fresh approach to the musketeers saga which will continue with 'The Vicomte of Bregalonne', 'Louise De La Valliere' and the more famous, 'The Man In The Iron Mask'. The closing lines of TYA (delivered by D'Artagnan) set up the further novels with cinematic sparkle. Yet, it is telling that he does not say them to Porthos, Athos or Aramis, whose company he again lacks at the finale. Am I being greedy to just have wanted a little more "All for one"? 7/10
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