A friend checked this book out of the library for me to read because they thought it would be a perfect fit for me. Military history, Alexandre Dumas, and some fencing, perfect! I was pleasantly surprised with how much like a novel this biography read, but I was even more astounded that I have never even heard of the subject of this biography.
Alexandre Dumas, the author, was the son of a general in the French Revolution also named Alexandre Dumas. He was a half Haitian, half white slave from the town of Jeremie whose father was lapsed French aristocrat who sold his son Alex to a ship's captain to pay for their passage to France after the death of his brother. Arriving in France, the boy was proclaimed free under new French laws and he followed his father to the ancestral home to take up his birthright as French nobility. It sounds fantastical that in a period where black slavery was the method of most European economies to have a black aristocrat accepted in France. But the world was changing, France was actually the first European nation to abolish slavery within its borders and attempted to abolish the practice in its colonies. Alex Dumas the general, started off life as a slave, became an aristocrat, and then forsook his family and title to join the army. He rose to some prominence in battles against Austria during the Revolution and was known for his dedication to the Republican cause (liberty, equality, and fraternity). He even married the white daughter of a prominent innkeeper, something unheard of in America at the same time. Unfortunately, the brief period of equality was turning sour and racist views took hold during the Terror. After France got rid of the same government that brought Revolution to the country Dumas had to deal with a new threat, Napoleon.
The book is written almost as if Alexandre Duman, the author is helping to tell his father's story, and in a way, he is. The author relies heavily on a memoir that Dumas wrote about his father. Documents from the military pepper the narrative. Several unfortunate events befell General Dumas when returning home from a military campaign that his son later took as the basis for the character of Edmond Dantes in the The Count of Monte Christo. A lot of his father's exploits seem to have made their way into Dumas' stories, and yet it seems that almost no one remembers the remarkable General.