Book #11 of 2013

Typically I prefer to know a novel well before seeing its film adaption. But occasionally it happens the other way round, and even more occasionally it’s a pleasant experience.

I’m a fan of the Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate, and finally got round to reading its precursor, The Club Dumas. I liked the book a lot, but it’s rather a different experience from the film. Polanski had a degree of fun with the text, removing the main conspiracy of the novel and concentrating almost entirely on an occult secondary plot. He also removed an important character and subsumed him into another name involved in the main conspiracy, changing his role completely. All of this makes perfect cinematic sense.

The Club Dumas is a bit complex, dabbling as it does in Umberto Eco-ish material: the occult, literary criticism, book collecting, antiquity forgeries, etc. I’ve never read Dumas in English or French, so I’m sure many Musketeer references soared over my head–but the narrator Boris Balkan is quite helpful at explicitly pointing them out as we go. The novel never feels cumbersome as some of Eco’s do; the characters are interesting and finely drawn, the action moves right along, there is humor and a bit of sex.

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