Ange Pitou, Volume 2 - Alexandre Dumas 3 – 3.5 stars

We continue where Dumas left us at the end of volume 1 of _Ange Pitou_. The first ¾ of the book are taken up with the main action of the burgeoning Revolution in Paris. True to character Marie Antoinette’s pride and disdain increase as her scope for power and domination decrease; the King continues to vacillate, wanting to please everyone and ultimately pleasing no one; Gilbert seems to be an ally to both sides as he attempts to steer the monarchy through the troubled political waters that threaten to engulf them on the one hand, and on the other tries to promote the ideas of fraternity, equality, and liberty that are the ostensible aims of the Revolution; Father Billot continues to take part in momentous events in the city while it slowly dawns on him that the early ideals of political change are not adhered to by all and his horror at the events he witnesses enacted in the name of liberty grows. The final ¼ of the book follows our boorish, though well-meaning, hero Ange Pitou as he travels back to Villers-Cotterêts with Gilbert’s son Sebastien in tow for safe-keeping.

Ok pet peeve number 1: Despite it being the lynch-pin of the cliffhanger ending of the last volume Dumas does not, anywhere in volume 2, disclose the secret of Gilbert’s casket which was so central a MacGuffin to the plot of volume 1. I think I know what it contains, but damn, c’mon Alexandre…it better be in the next book in the series! Pet peeve number 2: not enough Gilbert and mesmerism…don’t set the dude up as the second coming of Cagliostro and then give him a desk job! Aside from that this was a satisfying “conclusion” to the story of the taking of the Bastille and the birth of the French Revolution (or at least as satisfying as any story with a blatant cliff-hanger ending can be). The first part of the book allows Dumas to paint his picture of the Revolution and its principle movers and shakers (with a few of his own invention) in broad, colourful strokes and I enjoyed it. The second part shows Dumas in melodrama mode as poor Ange Pitou finds himself unlucky in love and the entanglements of romance become bound up in the political agitation of the day. He also manages to set himself up as something of a local revolutionary hero and military leader in his attempt to both impress the lady of his heart’s desire and to elevate himself from the role of country bumpkin.

Al in all a fun read and good continuation of the series, though I have discovered, with some chagrin, that most of the English translations of the next volume in the series, _The Countess de Charny_, are heavily abridged. Maybe it’s finally time to try and read some Dumas in French.