This was such a great read for me. It's a very slow build-up but it is worth it in the end.
I would imagine that most readers generally know the story-line: Edmond Dantes is an innocent man framed by his jealous rivals during the anti-Bonaparte paranoia in France. He is accused of being a collaborator and of bringing messages from Napoleon to supporters. Edmond is sent to prison and leaves behind his father and true love, Mercedes.
His life sentence to the Chateau d'If is so well written - the despair, the hope and the change in Edmond is profound and Dumas portrays it all very well. One of the best and most interesting characters is also introduced, Abbe Faria. He brings hope into the darkness. The years in the Chateau change Edmond radically and he escapes with only revenge on his mind.
The rest of the novel is focused on this revenge and each person he seeks to pay back is so intricately studied and followed until the perfect net is cast. As a reader, some of the outcomes feel well deserved, others much less so.
At the beginning I felt like I knew who Edmond was as a character, his feelings and experiences were shared. Once he leaves the Chateau, the tone of the novel changes drastically, the reader is watching a stranger who is cold-hearted and remorseless. I was also sad for Edmond, so much of his life was dedicated to finding and getting his own justice that he does not experience life as a free man to the fullest or share love with a family or partner.
There is much to think about as you read the book and I am looking forward to re-reading it again. Sometimes the best part for me is getting the first impression, understanding the story and then long afterwards, reading and seeing new and important things. The same way I find in an Austen novel, lots of surprises and always a good read.