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Reviews (ADR)

from Reviews (ADR)
concerning Le Fils du forçat; Monsieur Coumbes : Roman Marseillais; Histoire d'un Cabanon et d'un Chalet

     A very amusing and well constructed pastoral comic novel, with many theatrical touches, set in the outskirts of Marseilles. Dumas probably imagined this story as a play, but wrote it as a novel. It is similar in tone to Dumas' other pastoral novels, such as Catherine Blum, Le meneur de loups, and Conscience l'innocent, in that the story takes place in a rural setting among common people (no kings, musketeers, or aristocrats) whose character and behavior are closely and affectionately observed. Unlike the other pastorals, however, Le Fils du Forçat is not set among the scenes of Dumas' youth, but in Marseilles.
     As the play opens, we are introduced to the longshoreman, Monsieur Coumbes, a quintessential French peasant, who, by thrift, hard work, and shrewd dealing has earned sufficient money to retire. However, M. Coumbes is disturbed by his neighbor, Pierre Manas, who returning home dead drunk one night, attempts to hang his pretty young wife, Millette. M. Coumbes rescues the wife, and Pierre is sent off to the galleys.
     M. Coumbes retires to a deserted promontory overlooking the ocean, builds himself a cabin (cabane) and a garden, and employs the destitute Milette as a cook. Fourteen years pass, and Millette and Pierre's son, Marius, grows to adulthood believing that M. Coumbes is his father.
     This pastoral idol is disturbed when a wealthy young man, Jean Riouffe builds a vacation home in the form of a Swiss chalet next door, and whom, noticing M. Coumbes snooping, infuriates the old man by inflicting upon him a series of increasingly elaborate practical jokes, involving a staged vampire ritual, a fire hose, and a stuffed bird. M. Coumbes sends Marius into town to challenge M. Riouffe to a duel. Instead, Marius encounters Jean's sister, Madeleine, and promptly falls in love with her. Madeleine is, by the way, the sole example of a successful professional woman in Dumas' novels: she is running the family shipping business.
     The plot thickens when Pierre returns from prison, and attacks Jean Riouffe, a crime for which M. Coumbes is promptly arrested. Will Marius betray his real father, Pierre, or the man he thinks is his father, M. Coumbes? Can Madeleine find happiness with the son of a convict? Can Millette persuade Pierre to confess his crime? Will Pierre escape justice? Dumas delivers a dramatic dénouement that answers all questions in this lost classic.

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