Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Guest Review: CAMILLE or LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS by Alexandre Dumas fils

book cover Original Publication Date: 1848

Genre: tragedy

Topics: love, society, bourgeoisie

Review by Ash G. (

Camille was first published in 1848 and later converted to plays which have gained popularity over the novel. The novel’s well-written introduction proves to be a valuable guide and sets context on the contents and timeline of this novel. The author Alexander Dumas fils makes references to the tale of Manon Lescaut and Chevalier Des Greiux highlighting the contrasts between the characters and lifestyles of the 2 courtesans as well as their lovers.

Narrated by an unknown person, the novel begins with the death of Marguerite and the auctioning of her personal possessions by her creditors. It is followed by the arrival of Armand Duval in Paris, and the narrator goes on to describe Duval’s efforts to exhume and re-bury Marguerite all of which adds a macabre twist to the story. Afterwards the chapters are narrated by Armand as he divulges his past to the unknown narrator and the story goes thus -

Marguerite is a well known courtesan in Paris and is, both admired and feared by men and women alike. Dumas attributes this to Marguerite’s strong yet sensitive spirit which akin to the delicacy of the Camellias creates an alluring persona. And Armand like many others before him falls hopelessly in love with Marguerite.

Dumas depicts Marguarite in a favorable light comparing her persona and presence to the light and delicate nature of the camellias yet she is shown to possess a strong spirit that is pure…untainted by her profession. And just as the camellias wither in a day, so is Marguerite’s death depicted…a result of her enduring suffering from tuberculosis. And in a bid to pacify the astonished audience and to leave no doubt of his disapproval of a Courtesan’s life, Dumas smartly attributes Marguerite’s suffering to God’s will…the final judgement perhaps. The novel when taken without this allegory is a beauty in itself but takes on a heavy note once you start to ponder. The only exception to Armand’s character is that unlike the others before him, he proves his unwavering love by admitting his shortcomings freely and tracing Marguarite’s last moments until the very end.

Camille is also notable for its brilliantly detailed depiction of the parisian life and the world of courtesans during the 19th century in France. The book by itself is quite descriptive but it may also help to read it with the aid of a guide. Camille is definitely well worth the read and an addition to the personal collection!

Further reading:

Download Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils from Librivox or Project Gutenberg FRENCH|ENGLISH