Mini Reviews: The Black Count, Goodbye Mr. Chips and The North Star

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Black Count
Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
by Tom Reiss

This is a nonfiction account of the life of Alexandre Dumas’ father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. His wild, adventurous life gave his famous author son plenty of fodder for his novels. Reiss was the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for this book and the attention to detail is clear from the first page.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Thomas’ race. He was a black man in the midst of a country struggling with race relations and yet he managed to rise to a position of power and respect in the military. “…he remains the highest-ranking person of color of all time in a continental European army” according to his Wikipedia page.

His life is fascinating, but the book itself got caught up in some of the minutia of French history. The best parts are the ones dealing directly with Dumas’ life and impact on those around him. His son idolized him and modeled many of the scenes in his books on events in his father’s life.

I would highly recommend waiting to read this one until you’ve read both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Going into it with knowledge of those novels increases your appreciation for the man who inspired some of those stories!

BOTTOM LINE: Detail-heavy, but still interesting. The book moves slowly, but certainly added to my appreciation of the books written by the subject’s son.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips
by James Hilton

This sweet story follows the life of a devoted school master from the beginning of his career until the end. It’s a very short book, so there’s not too much room for character development. I wish I’d gotten to know a couple of the characters better. I actually saw the 1939 film before reading the book and this is one of the rare cases where I actually liked the movie better. Still I enjoyed this one and I particularly loved Mrs. Chips' role in the story.

BOTTOM LINE: A good little book about the impact one man can have on his students. A quick read and definitely worth the time.

The North Star
by Peter Reynolds

A sweet children’s book about finding your way in the world. It reminded me a bit of Alice in Wonderland, following a rabbit and a cat that appears to help you along your way. It’s nothing earth shattering, but the illustrations are well done and the message is good. Everyone is on a journey, though those journeys are all different.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I love non-fiction like this but I haven't read any of Dumas' books. I am so woefully inadequate when it comes to classics. I should just read nothing BUT classics one year.

Kerry M said...

I read The Black Count last year and really enjoyed it -- definitely detail-heavy, but the man had such an interesting life that I found I didn't mind it so much.

Anonymous said...

I'm committing to Three Muskateers! yikes.

I read Mr Chips in 2008 and really don't remember much. My review says it is 'sweet'. I still haven't seen the movie.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I would get so burnt out if I read nothing but classics for a year! I need my variety.

Kerry - He really did lead a fascinating life!

bkclubcare - I read Three Musketeers this summer. It's fun, but my favorite character by far is the Lady DiWinter.