In Gilmore Girls, aka the best show ever written, bright-eyed Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Whether in preparation for Harvard or for her time at Yale, she is always improving herself via literature.
Juxtapose this with Patrick Lenton, who found himself re-reading The Wheel of Time for the seventeenth time, grimly hoping the ingrained misogyny might somehow disappear if he just believed hard enough. What happened to his days of challenging himself? What about that one time he read Moby Dick and felt good for eight years? Patrick decided to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This week’s Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by guest reviewer Emma Wortley.
46.) The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo is a hefty tome by Alexandre Dumas, first serialised in French from 1844 to 1846. Nineteen-year-old Edmond Dantès is about to be made captain of a ship and marry the woman he loves, but gets framed as a political traitor by rivals and locked in an Alcatraz/Azkaban-type prison for fourteen years. There’s an unexpected prison friendship, a gaol break and hidden treasure! Edmond then builds multiple new identities (including the eponymous Count) and pursues revenge on the men responsible for his imprisonment. He also helps people, so he’s a precursor to basically every male superhero.
The serialised origin of the book shows, as sometimes the pacing feels off or threads are awkwardly dropped then abruptly picked up. However, mostly the action waxes and wanes well, and the narrative pay-offs are satisfying. Lots of, “Oooh, that’s why he befriended that seemingly unimportant person!” and the like.
I couldn’t remember The Count of Monte Cristo appearing in Gilmore Girls – a quick Googling indicates that Luke’s Diner served the Monte Cristo, a deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich with origins seemingly unrelated to the book.
When writing this review, the first draft quickly turned into a lengthy Rory-esque college essay with sub-headings like CHRIST MOTIFS and FAMILY NAME, FAMILY SHAME. The longest section would have been THE NATURE OF VIRTUE. Gilmore Girls and The Count of Monte Cristo both explore what makes someone a good and worthwhile person. Rory and Edmond are scholarly, determined and kind – these are presented as great virtues. They each also end up having wealth and privilege, and in both cases the narrative kind of toys with the idea that this may be corruptive without ever really getting away from the idea that this is part of what makes them worthy and deserving individuals.
Lately there have been a number of articles from people who, upon revisiting Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new series, find themselves loathing Rory because of her privilege and sense of entitlement. I’ll be interested to see whether I have this experience. I recall mostly rooting for Rory, but I’ve revisited other movies and shows and had a similar, “Oh no, that character is awful!” reaction. Also, Rory’s story (as we now know) is not done being told yet.
In The Count of Monte Cristo, I was buying Edmond’s virtue until the ending. Skip to the silly sailing words in the next paragraph if you don’t want broad spoilers, but for everyone else: Edmond achieves revenge, forgives himself for collateral damage (including some child death), ditches the woman he claimed he would love forever (maybe because she is now thirty-nine, which to be fair is the age women should remove themselves from society and go live in giant hollowed-out pumpkins or something) and sails off with the nubile young slave girl/secret princess he has previously looked on as a daughter. More like Count of *extended raspberry noise*.
In closing, here are some sailing terms from the book that I think Rory would have read out loud to Lorelai: “spanker brails and outhaul”; “topsail clewlines and buntlines”; “a-cockbill, the jib-boom”.
Curious to see the full reading list? You can view it here.
Emma Wortley’s reviews, fiction and poetry have appeared in Voiceworks, Southerly, Paper Crown Magazine, text Litmag and Scintilla Magazine. She tweets at @emkawo.