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Aoife

Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze

Currently reading

Stephen and Matilda
Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262 pages
Krieg und Frieden
Michael Grusemann, Leo Tolstoy
Progress: 579/1024 pages

Review: Georges

Georges - Werner Sollors, Tina Kover, Alexandre Dumas

Georges isn't the only Dumas hero who is larger-than-life and terribly good at everything. (I assume he's not even the only one in adventure-novels from that period in general). Yet he manages to stand out even among those. He's a terrific fencer, the best shoot, all the women want him (but he resists just to prove how much self-control he has), he gambles on three days and wins a huge sum on the last and then – again to show his self-control – he leaves and never returns again. We learn all this in the second or third chapter. Yeah.
However Georges is mixed-race so his talents are of little use to him. The white men refuse to accept him. Even when Georges challenges Henri – his old nemesis – to a duel he refuses on the grounds that “he will not fight a mulatto”. Late when Georges insults him in public Henri still refuses a fight and can do so without loosing face. Unthinkable if Georges had been white. So yes, the book highlights instances of racism against Georges and people of mixed heritage in general.
Well...but.
The portrayal of actual blacks is...well calling it somewhat questionable would be like saying Sarah Palin has some problems with geography. It's pretty racist in some places.
There are some lines that are, I assume, supposed to make the reader cringe: when a ship sinks and the lives of “many men and blacks were lost” or the captain of a slave-ship who is considered a good man because he treats the slaves “almost as good as he treats his breakable cargo.”
Yeah. Give the man a medal.
However other things are hardly excusable. First there is the portrayal of the black characters. While none of the characters apart from Georges get that much depth (somewhat understandable as the novel is less than 300 pages...that's like a short-story compared to Dumas' other work) the two leaders of the slave-revolt are terrible cardboard-cutouts. The beautiful and honourable one who is willing to sacrifice himself for others and the ugly traitor who – of all things – gets described as looking like an ape.
I wish that was the worst of it but no, there's the slave revolt-itself.

You see, it fails. It fails because the governor of the island had ordered to place copious barrels of rum outside in the city and when the blacks see them they can't resist, get drunk on the rum and forget their plan to fight for their freedom.
They can't help themselves. It's in their nature.
I don't even know where to start with this...
Dammit...was there really no better reason why a revolt of a large group of slaves that might outnumber the guards in the city by large but are untrained and badly armed might fail?

(show spoiler)



So yeah, there's this.

And there's also the story itself. If you ignore all the issues – good and bad – for a moment you are left with a novel that is entertaining but not exactly memorable. Only Sarah is a great character. Now she does suffer somewhat from the already mentioned lack of depth that befalls all the side-characters in this novel but she does get some great lines and interactions (and is so far the only heroine/love-interest from that time-period who asks the hero to marry her which is a bonus).

Georges is also one of Dumas early novels and he hadn't quite managed the art of “padding out by adding lots of side-plots and backstories of people you will never hear of again after meeting them once” so we get a lot of descriptions instead. There is a lot of description of nature and scenery but we also get a chapter detailing first a pig-, then a sack-, a pony- and a horse-race when only the last of those was plot-relevant.
Talking about this being one of his earlier works. It is interesting to sew how Dumas recycles ideas. There is the obvious Georges comes back after years to take out his revenge on the people who wronged him in the past which hardly needs to be explained. But there is also a execution that mirrors a scene in The Three Musketeers (Yeah, for me that is interesting)
However the end feels somewhat cut-off like he just lost the will to continue and leaves to many questions open.

The book is without a doubt an interesting read but not a necessary one.