"Georges" by Alexandre Dumas

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Alexandre Dumas, to whom I introduced myself in "Georges," is more widely known for "The Three Musketeers" and "The Count of Monte Cristo." If "Georges" isn't mentioned in the same breath as those classics, it's not for lack of swashbuckling adventure.

Georges Munier, the mixed-race man from Ile de France (today's Mauritius), leaves home with his brother in the early 19th century to be educated in France. He returns 14 years later determined to fight the racial prejudice he and his family and his fellow non-whites experience in the colony. Dumas portays his hero as extremely handsome in a non-racial way, wealthy, intrepid, and noble. Without experiencing Dumas's other work, I can't tell if he always uses this over-the-top-in-every-way characterization for his heroes, or if it's just Georges. (I doubt it.) But Georges does have a tragic flaw in his character: he is proud, in a rebellious way, and settles on a scheme to overthrow the now-British colonial government.

The action, which Tina Kover adroitly translates, proceeds with terrific pace, and we feel we know what will happen to Georges - it's all too inevitable given his treasonous course. We have an unexpected, thrilling turnabout, a daring daylight escape, and a truly swashbuckling chase and naval battle to finish the book.

This works really well as adventure, although Georges and the other lead characters become a little too cardboard-cutout for me. Maybe I ask for too much from a 19-century adventure story, but Dumas makes his theme a noble rebellion against racial oppression, so maybe I wanted something a little more real. Maybe I'm being unfair and unrealistic. Anyway, this is a good way to find out a lot about Dumas, and if you want to escape with a classic story from another time, try "Georges." It won't disappoint if you're looking for straight-up adventure.
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