Monday, May 6, 2013
The Black Count
The Black Count
The Black Count is a Pulitzer Prize-winning exploration of a man who rose above his station to become a renowned hero. Alex Dumas, father of author Alexandre Dumas, lived an adventurous life balanced between the privilege of his noble father and the complicated position of people of colour in the eighteenth century. Author Tom Reiss excavates the layers of fact, rumour, and parable surrounding the legendary mixed-race man who rose through the ranks of the French army to become a figure as fantastical as the characters written by his son. Some of the feats that hero Alex Dumas accomplishes are so impressive that they read more like historical fiction than biography.
The careful treatment of the history of Saint Dominique was of particular interest to me, as I learned a lot about the history of the island and the non-white people who called it home. This is only one of the many obscured historical contexts revealed by Reiss. Through the story of Dumas, Reiss is able to explore aspects of eighteenth-century French culture that are not commonly known.
Dumas's story had been lost for a time, but after a decade of research Reiss uncovers the story of a man who was so loved by his son that he became the inspiration for works we now consider classics, such as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Reiss integrates his own respect for the subject, the adoration of the author Dumas, and the respect that Alex Dumas inspired in his soldiers and those who served alongside him. Their reverence is thrilling, informative, and unique.
- Sharmylae Taffe-Fletcher