10 December 2012

Tom Reiss, The Black Count.

Tom Reiss, The Black Count. NY: Crown, 2012.

This detailed biography of Alex Dumas, father to the author of (and inspiration for the title character in) The Count of Monte Cristo, is the first such effort based on documentary evidence. It recounts the tale of a black man from the Caribbean who rose through the Revolutionary French Army to command three armies before running afoul of Napoleon, in the process relating a now-forgotten ugly aspect of The Little Emperor’s reign: reversing the first anti-slavery laws, which had allowed Dumas to show is skills.

With index, notes, and a detailed bibliography, The Black Count is a thorough and scholarly work, yet Reiss has a very readable, almost conversational tone. The book should be enjoyable for all ages—the story is nearly as exciting as a Dumas-pere novel, and should be a good addition to any public library collection.

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