Oddly compelling

Compelling, The Dumas Club certainly is, but it's also a very odd book. There are two distinct narrative strands which appear to be interlinked, and ultimately turn out to have no connection with each other whatsoever. On one level it is an exploration of the power of books to charm and influence a reader, it's also very post-modern - a book in which characters from other books come leaping off the page, and where a reader's experience of the book is to a great extent defined by what else they have read, and how they can link readings of other books into their experience of this one.

It's also a classic horror/adventure story and is a great page-turner. Ultimately however the two narrative strands fall apart, and it's at this point that I began to feel that the story was all a bit silly and rather a waste of time. I think that the true problem is that Arturo Perez-Reverte has tried to be a bit too clever. A greater focus on one or other of the threads would probably have produced a more satisfactory, if perhaps less memorable novel. Interestingly in Roman Polanski's adaptation of the novel (produced as The ninth gate in 1999), the script-writers did focus much more strongly on the horror thread, and, I think, produced a much stronger narrative as a result.

A compelling read, but ultimately rather unsatisfactory.


Aarti said…
Oh, bummer. I read one book by Reverte-Perez a while ago about a painting of a chess game, but it wasn't really that amazing. Maybe he just doesn't translate well to English? What a copout, too, on the stories being unconnected!
Book-hound said…
Yes - that's how I felt too! Saw the Polanski film "The ninth gate" again the other night, and although it's not the best film ever, it did give me a feeling for how good this book could have been if it had been more of a coherent whole. You may be right about the translation - that could be partially to blame. Thanks for the chess ref - I was thinking of reading that one, will now give it a miss!

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