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The Black Count by Tom Reiss

This book is longer than what we normally read, and perhaps a bit more scholarly, but we have more time to read it and it's a good yarn to cuddle up with during long winter nights! I've raved about this book at previous book clubs and, if you like audio, it's also great on audio.

Book Description:

General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiar—because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
  But, hidden behind General Dumas's swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. 
  Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas made his way to Paris, where he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
  TIME magazine called The Black Count "one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that sheds light on the historical moment that made it possible." It is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son."

Kirkus called the book, "A rarefied, intimate literary study delineating a roiling revolutionary era."

The Christian Science Moniter said, "A remarkable and almost compulsively researched account…The author spent a decade on the case, and it shows."

The Black Count won the Pulitzer Prize for biography, as well as the Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography from the PEN American Center.

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  • Jennifer

    Discussion Questions for The Black Count
    1) What are the themes of the biography?

    2) Why does Reiss spend so much time telling us the ordeal he had to go through to get the personal papers of General Dumas? How does that relate to one of the themes of the biography? What about the story of the statue at the end of the biography?

    3) Have you read The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers? What do you think of the connections Reiss makes between the life of General Dumas and the stories of his son?

    4) Reiss uses the memories of Alex Dumas the son to validate moments in the biography. Do you find Dumas the son’s memories to be reliable? What do his memories add to the feel of the biography?

    5) Reiss clearly admires his subject. Do you think his admiration slants his presentation of Dumas?

    6) Did the book influence what you know or think about the French Revolution? What about the role of slavery and race in France?

    January 26, 2014

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