With the 2002 movie release, we all know the story of the Count of Monte Cristo - or so we think. A young man wrongly accused and arrested on the day of his wedding spends 14 years in jail and then returns as the wealthy count, unrecognized and bent on revenge. The novel is much deeper than its many movie adaptations. While elaborate vengeance is indeed its central theme, the book clearly shows that Edmond understands in the end that he has gone too far. His actions affect not only his chosen targets but also some innocent people he did not mean to harm; this makes him realize that his assumed role of God's judging hand is too much for him to bear. Movies usually fail to show that.
Another big mistake moviemakers make is changing the story and bringing together Edmond and Mercedes, the girl he loved. Yes, I know that people like happy endings; tough. That's not what took place in the book, and for a good reason. Supposedly, Edmond was the love of Mercedes' life; he keeps thinking of her all those years spent in jail - only to find out that she had gotten married not very long after his disappearance. Her love had turned out to be short-lived; she had betrayed him as well. She can regret it all she wants (and she does), but Edmond does not want the woman who had forgotten him so quickly. I think it's a very good point, perhaps one of the strongest points of the novel. Too bad it gets lost in movie adaptations.
The book may be hard to read with those who are not used to classic literature, but I would still recommend it. It is one of the best adventures stories ever written.