A few months ago, as I was perusing the used book store Twice Told Tales, I found an undated copy of Camille. Knowing nothing about the book but that it looked like it needed a home, I purchased it. And earlier this month, I read it.
My copy not only has no date, but also has no end notes, no descriptions, nothing that would give me any indication as to whether or not I would like it. So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.
Camille is the English translation of the French novel, La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils. It is the story of a French courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, and her lover, Armand Duval - the love story of a fallen woman and a naive young man.
The setting is Paris, 1847 and it is told from the point of view of a narrator. As I read the last few chapters, I couldn't help but think of O'Henry's short story; The Gift of the Magi. The willingness to sacrifice everything for the happiness of the other brought more than a few tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, this one did not have the happy ending all tied up with a bow.
Nevertheless, I couldn't put it down. Nor could I stop thinking about the grace of God extended to all sinners, myself especially. God has given me a heart for women. Even though I am not currently serving in Women's ministry, I still ache for the wounds of those that He brings into my path. The character of Marguerite struck a chord in my heart. In her, I see all the women who have been deceived by the lie that a man's favor would make her legitimate...yet all too often, have ended up betrayed by that very same man. (Not man-bashing here, just making an observation about our gender's vulnerability when we put too much stock in anything other than God. Been there, done that, got the battle scars!)
One of my favorite quotes comes near the beginning as the author answers the person who would put away the book for fear that he is condoning the lifestyle of Marguerite.
"Here is Christianity with its marvellous parable of the Prodigal Son to teach us indulgence and pardon. Jesus was full of love for souls wounded by the passions of men; he loved to bind up their wounds and to find in those very wounds the balm which should heal them...Why do we make ourselves more strict than Christ? Why, holding obstinately to the opinions of the world, which hardens itself in order that it may be thought strong, do we reject, as it rejects, souls bleeding at wounds by which, like a sick man's bad blood, the evil of their past may be healed, if only a friendly hand is stretched out to lave him and set them in the convalescence of the heart?"
Between this book and Beth Moore's So Long, Insecurity, I am beginning to realize the timelessness of our battle for 'dignity', 'honor' and security.
I decided to investigate this novel and it's author and found some interesting facts:
1. The author is the illegitimate son of Alexandre Dumas pere who wrote such classics as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.
2. The novel is believed to be based on his relationship with his mistress, Marie Duplessis.
3. Verdi's opera La Traviata is based on this novel.
4. Over 16 stage adaptations have been performed.
5. Over 13 films have been made ranging from 1907 - 1980.
How is it that I had no earthly idea what this book was about? I am thankful for having found it and will be keeping an eye out for the next time La Traviata is being performed at Houston Grand Opera.