Book Review: The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte (Halloween Special #2)

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I love Goodreads’ recommendation function sometimes! It recommended me this book because I loved Carlos Ruiz Zafon “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” series. These series are what started my love for literary mysteries and books about books.

Some of you may have seen the movie titled “The Ninth Gate”, very loosely based on the novel in question. I personally did not like it much but that did not put me off from reading the book (rightly so). The movie only touches on one or two aspects of the book which aren’t even the most important ones.

As the title suggests, Alexandre Dumas’ books are a big plot point in this novel, particularly “The Three Musketeers”. The protagonist, Lucas Corso, is a type of mercenary who is hired to track down certain editions of rare books. The book follows his search of copies of a 17th century manual for summoning the devil, ordered by a wealthy but greedy bookdealer Varo Borja for verification. As you may remember, this is the aspect covered by the movie. However, this plot can be argued to be merely a subplot – the real intrigue is in Corso’s other job. His friend Flavio la Ponte hires him to verify authenticity of a newly-discovered chapter from a rare manuscript of “The Three Musketeers”, recently sold to Flavio by a well-known bibliophile found hanged a few days after selling it. Corso soon realises that the two jobs are connected in a way he could never have imagined. On his journey, he meets many interesting characters that parallel those from “The Three Musketeers”, as well as a mysterious young woman named Irene Adler. Corso’s almost Sherlockean ability to deduce things and make conclusions is astounded by her (Sherlock Holmes parallels anyone?), but she proves to be rather useful in his search later on.

First of all, it is best to treat this novel as a Quest novel with elements of biography. Most archetypes (the Hero – Corso, the Sidekick – Irene, the Temptress – Liana Taffelier, etc.) are present, and the beauty of the book is that Corso himself, as well as the reader, knows that they are archetypes and uses that to his advantage. Perez-Reverte frequenty, throughout the novel, uses Alexandre Dumas’ archetypes in “The Three Musketeers” to mirror those in “The Club Dumas”. Personally, I think that this technique should not be used in contemporary fiction, unless the integrity of the original author is preserved. Luckily, Perez-Reverte entwines Dumas’ biographical details, his work and the characters so well, and it is arguably an essential part of the book. He clearly has a lot of respect for Dumas and other classics, such as Conan-Doyle and Victor Hugo, whom he references a lot. They are both two of my favourite classic authors, so this book was quite a feast for a bibliphile like myself. It is arguably a little slow in the beginning, because the author is establishing all the plotlines which can get rather confusing, but you then realise that that was necessary because they are so closely interlinked. I would definitely recommend familiarising yourself with Dumas’ works before attempting the novel, because almost every page contains some sort of reference to “The Three Musketeers”, “The Count of Monte-Cristo” and other Dumas’ novels (which admittedly can be off-putting, but I loved it). Also, the illustrations are a large plot point in the novel, which works really well.

If you love old books, classic literature, and French and Spanish languages and cultures, this book is for you. I give “The Club Dumas” 7/10. 

Favourite character:

Boris Balkan. SPOILER He is one of the antagonists of the story and he is also a narrator. My initial reaction after finding out that he was behind one of the mysteries was “Wow, he’s pulling a Dr Sheppard!” Imagine my surprise when he states that that was exactly what he was doing in the next chapter! END SPOILER

Character who gets the most development:

Alexandre Dumas – yes, the author. I’ve learned more about him from this book than I have in the whole 22 years of my life, and he is one of my favourite authors of all time. Half of the novel is centered around his life and work, and therefore, his development as a person and an author is crucial to the story. Also, I loved learning that he and Hugo were close friends! Gotta love literary bromances.

Least favourite character:

Flavio la Ponte – he is just plain annoying and an idiot.

Favourite relationship:

Lucas and Irene – although I do believe the author could have explored it a bit more.

Favourite quote:

“One is never alone with a book nearby, don’t you agree? Every page reminds us of a day that has passed and makes us relive the emotions that filled it.”

Dreamcast

Lucas Corso – Johnny Depp (the only thing the movie got right) or Adrian Rawlings

Irene Adler – Shailene Woodley

Liana Taffelier – Natalie Dormer

Boris Balkan – Anthony Hopkins

Recommendations:

You most certainly will enjoy “The Club Dumas” if you liked:

– “The Three Musketeers” or any other Alexandre Dumas’ books;

– “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon;

– Anything related to Sherlock Holmes – books, films, adaptations etc. 

(Source of the photo: https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/907973.The_Dumas_Club )

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