Although the quality of the writing was excellent, I can only give this novel three stars because it made such depressing reading. It is, of course, a familiar tale, due to "La Traviata", and is based on Dumas Fils' own affaire with a Parisienne Courtesan. The period is well conveyed, and the manners and mores of upper-class Parisian society in the early 1840's came over strongly. I just wish that Marguerite and Armand had ignored Duval Senior's pious pontificating, and carried on their idyllic rural life together. Would characters in real life really have behaved like they did?
The introduction that came with this edition stated that La Dame aux Camélias was not a good book; however this begs the question of why is it still in print? If it was written by Dumas père it might be tempting to say it was just the author's name that kept it imprint. The answer I think lies in the power of the love story itself. That is how the feelings the two lovers have for each other are manifest. Both lovers are bound by their circumstances. one is unable to be faithful with their body and the other cannot trust the first because they are unable to cope with their jealousy. It is this that provides the backdrop for an unfolding love story where ideas of what it means to be faithful are played out. the introduction emphasises that other love stories such as madam Bovey and Anna Karenina are much more worthy of literary praise, but this does not mean that La Dame aux Camélias is second rate, only that the compassion is unfair. La Dame aux Camélias is a simple unfolding of events where thoughts and feelings are recounted and evaluated and a reconciliation is reached. It is not how this reconciliation is achieved by the characters that is important, it is the expression of love and what it means to be faithful that is, and in this way La Dame aux Camélias is a brilliant book as it gives hope that love can triumph over circumstances. As such I am happy to over look the criticism that La Dame aux Camélias is not literary enough.
I recently finished reading Manon Lescaut brilliantly translated by Angela Scholar. I preferred Manon Lescaut much more than La Dame Aux Camellias but it may be because this translation by David Coward is awful. And one never does find out why Marguerite has different colour Camelias on different days at the theatre.
This was a book club choice (no Booker Prize winner for us!!!) and I just loved this translation by David Coward. It reads like a 19th century novel (as it should) and flows - one has a sense that Mr Coward has caught the true essence of the original. I'm also trying to read the original, glad that I've read the translation first - but I have the same sense of impending sadness and love lost even though I'm unfamiliar with some of the (french) language. The most overwhelming sense that I was left with was that this gives us a true insight into the life of a courtesan in Paris of the 1840s. How hard, and short, life was for some women, very young women, indeed - I believe that when this edition was published Dumas (fils) wanted the public to have a sense of pity for these women who were kept, lavishly in some cases, by various men at the same time. Apparently, though, the role model for the heroine did indeed have quite a genteel attitude and was beautiful in spite of having been earning her living in the 'flesh' trade from a young age. Although I'm not into opera many readers will undoubtedly know that this story forms the basis for La Traviata. A short, easy read in the form of what appears to be a superb translation. The footnotes and preface also make good reading!!!
Disparaged by critics because this isn't literary enough this book has always been a sucess with the reading public, and joins those two other well known books that met with the same criticism, 'Trilby', and 'Dracula'. This was written when Alexandre Dumas fils was still quite young and was written quite quickly, he later made this into a play that was the theatrical phenomenom of the 19th Century, and after seeing the play this inspired Verdi to write the ever popular opera 'La Traviata'.
Using the real affair that Dumas had with Marie Duplessis he casts himself in this as the lover Armand. The tale is about Armand's great love for Marguerite (Marie), who he has become obsessed with. Of course their love affair will never be anything that will last as Marguerite is a coutesan and she also has consumption (nowadays known as tuberculosis, or more commonly TB). This is a quick read and is a real little page-turner that will having you wanting to finish it in one sitting. And yes there are flaws in this novel, but this is more than made up by the sheer exuberance of Dumas' writing. This translation is based on the 1852 edition which is the most commonly available in France.
If you want a great little read then get this and find out why it has entertained people throughout the world, and has never been out of print. David Coward who translated this also provides a very absorbing introduction that will tell you more about Marie Duplessis, and how her notoriety made this book such a bestseller in the beginning. If you enjoy this book why not get Manon Lescaut (Oxford World's Classics), which is named a few times throughout this novel.
This short novel, which is based on a true story, is the basis for Verdi's opera "La Traviata" among other things. To read it today is to see into a world - the Paris demi-monde of the 19th century - that has entirely vanished. The whole moral universe in which it happens, where rich young men with a lot more money than sense pursued 'courtesans', really high-class prostitutes, while obeying a set of now totally obsolete rules about what was acceptable and what was unacceptable, and lived in a bubble in which normal concerns such as earning one's living were completely absent, is now totally alien. This really is the reason to read it - to try to enter a vanished world. That said, it goes along pretty rapidly and one does feel some sympathy for the characters without really understanding their nihilism and worship of meaningless extravagance. Oh and although it's all about sex (and love, in a sense) don't expect more than the slightest hint of actual sexual goings-on - again, the moral climate of the time prevented this kind of description appearing in a book for this intended audience, despite the subject matter.