Wednesday, March 24, 2010
La Dame Aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils
This book, or at least my copy of this book, now has so many dog-eared pages I don't know what to do with it. By dog-eared pages, I mean pages where I've folded the corner down because I've discovered a sentence, a phrase, that I've found wonderful.
It opens with this: '... I invite the reader to believe that this story is true. All the characters who appear in it, with the exception of the heroine, are still living.'
The reason for such an opening: the author based this novel on his own personal love affair with a woman. I believe it was the idea that there is some truth to the story that drew me in so quickly.
The book, written in 1847 in France by the son of Alexandre Dumas pere (who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Muskateers), shows a heartbroken and distraught man by the name of Armand, who fell in love with a 'kept woman' - a prostitute - by the name of Marguerite in Paris. Other priorities of Marguerite's (such as her devotion to those that pay her debts and to whom she sleeps with) at first have her pay no attention to Armand. But that all changes.
And I'm so glad it does!
The rest of the book - without spoiling it too greatly - we watch as Armand and Marguerite fall in love, and for a period of time live happily, before the unavoidable devotions to society, family and one another pull them apart.
I won't say much more, but the language that Dumas uses, the way he writes, his analogies and explanations, are so amazing that I need to include a few. Like when Dumas explains that Armand so desperately wants to meet Marguerite that he will do anything in his will to make it happen.
'Many are the paths the heart will tread, and many the excuses it finds, that it may reach what it desires!'
Or when Marguerite explains the fragility of a woman's heart.
She says, 'Sometimes we gives ourselves for one thing, sometimes for another. There are men who could ruin themselves and get nowhere with us; there are others who can have us for a bunch of flowers. Our hearts are capricious: it's their only diversion and their only excuse.'
I could write for hours about why I loved this book. But it comes down to this: it's about the sacrifices people make when they really love one another. In this instance, the sacrifice is not beneficial for either party - instead it is detrimental and heartbreaking.