Reading in Progress: Camille, by Alexandre Dumas fils

Camille: The Lady of the Camellias - fils,  Alexandre Dumas

First of all, if this sounds interesting do not spend money on this for the 1.99 version at Amazon. (Unless you love that translation or something.) Because you can read it for free at Gutenberg: Camille (La Dame aux Camilias) Wikipedia link: here. And the woman who inspired the book: Marie Duplessis.

 

Second, I have posted about this before - here - asking if anyone had read any reviews comparing The Fault in Our Stars to Camille. Because I think there're a ton of comparisons to be made, but more reviewers seem to go for the Romeo and Juliet comparison despite there not being any suicide, just tragic teen love.

 

Anyway I still haven't gotten around to bothering with The Fault in Our Stars, but I figured it was about time I got around to reading Camille. Because if you read lit from that period (late 1800s) it's referenced a lot. (It also became the opera La Traviata, and continues to be remade in movie form.)

 

I was expecting this to be melodramatic cheese - which I kind of enjoy as it's a sort of Dumas staple (for father and son). But I did NOT expect gothic horror tossed in. Big surprise for my morning train read that day - I'm sure I was making all sorts of funny expressions at my ereader. I'll put this quote behind spoilers just in case there are folks that want to read this. Of course now I've just made you all curious and you'll want to click right?

 

 

Background, guy who was in love with Camille, who has died - which we know from the beginning of the book - wants to see her one last time. Somehow he can't believe she's really dead. His answer to this - to exhume her. Chapter 6:

 

One of the grave-diggers took a shovel and began emptying out the earth; then, when only the stones covering the coffin were left, he threw them out one by one.

I scrutinized Armand, for every moment I was afraid lest the emotions which he was visibly repressing should prove too much for him; but he still watched, his eyes fixed and wide open, like the eyes of a madman, and a slight trembling of the cheeks and lips were the only signs of the violent nervous crisis under which he was suffering.

As for me, all I can say is that I regretted having come.

When the coffin was uncovered the inspector said to the grave-digger: "Open it." They obeyed, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The coffin was of oak, and they began to unscrew the lid. The humidity of the earth had rusted the screws, and it was not without some difficulty that the coffin was opened. A painful odour arose in spite of the aromatic plants with which it was covered.

"O my God, my God!" murmured Armand, and turned paler than before.

Even the grave-digger drew back.

A great white shroud covered the corpse, closely outlining some of its contours. This shroud was almost completely eaten away at one end, and left one of the feet visible.

I was nearly fainting, and at the moment of writing these lines I see the whole scene over again in all its imposing reality.

"Quick," said the inspector. Thereupon one of the men put out his hand, began to unsew the shroud, and taking hold of it by one end suddenly laid bare the face of Marguerite.

It was terrible to see, it is horrible to relate. The eyes were nothing but two holes, the lips had disappeared, vanished, and the white teeth were tightly set. The black hair, long and dry, was pressed tightly about the forehead, and half veiled the green hollows of the cheeks; and yet I recognised in this face the joyous white and rose face that I had seen so often.

Armand, unable to turn away his eyes, had put the handkerchief to his mouth and bit it.

For my part, it was as if a circle of iron tightened about my head, a veil covered my eyes, a rumbling filled my ears, and all I could do was to unstop a smelling bottle which I happened to have with me, and to draw in long breaths of it.

Through this bewilderment I heard the inspector say to Duval, "Do you identify?"

"Yes," replied the young man in a dull voice.

"Then fasten it up and take it away," said the inspector.

 

I think one of the things that shocked me was that I expected a smarmy "and the body hadn't decayed at all, she was still lovely and looked as though sleeping" kinda stuff. I was preparing to get all eyerolly over it and wow, nope. Not the direction this went at all. I was impressed.

(show spoiler)

 

Am a few chapters on from that and yes, it's heavy emotional-melodrama-love-story-of-the-times type stuff - but I've definitely reshelved it from the angsty-fluff category. Oh it's angsty as all get out, just less fluff. Not sure how I'd categorize it yet.

 

Oh and Camille is a courtesan. Which made this racey material for the 1800s.