Hello lovelies! Today I come to you with the announcement of a readalong I plan to host next month in May (along with co-host Liz from Travel in Retrospect)- reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables! I hope some of you will want to join me in tackling this classic book but as it is known (mostly fondly) as The Brick, I also understand any misgivings you may have! My job in this post is to convince you that reading along with me whilst I tackle this beast of a book sounds fun and also manageable. Let’s get to it…
Why Les Misérables?
Although it seemed to start with a tweet, the avid followers of my blog may know my favourite musical is Les Misérables, and I actually managed to con/persuade my university lecturers to let me do my entire undergraduate dissertation on the legacy of revolutionary imagery in musical and cinematic mediums (i.e. I read chunks of the book then watched the film and TV adaptations, as well as seeing the stage show in the West End). When I finished my dissertation I could just about claim I’d read Les Misérables as I had scrutinised relevant passages of it for hours in order to write my dissertation and I’d pretty much skimmed the rest of the book too.
However, looking back, I don’t think I paid nearly enough attention to the bits I’d decided were mostly irrelevant for my dissertation’s discussion, and I’d like to correct that – I’d like to be able to say, without any caveats, that I’ve read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Maybe you’ve seen the musical and enjoyed it? Maybe you’ve seen the musical and hated it? Maybe you just want to know what the fuss is over Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread? Whatever the reason, if you have the slightest inclination, then consider this readalong the push you need to pick the book up!
But why now?
Stay with me on this slight tangent: I can’t be the only one (/hope I’m not the only one) who watched in horror as Notre Dame burned and vaguely remembered I’d, once upon a time, said I’d read Victor Hugo’s book of the same name at some point. Before I got too far ahead of myself, my brain oh so helpfully pointed out that I hadn’t actually technically read Les Misérables from cover to cover yet so I should probably do that before getting too big for my boots. Et voila, here we are, with a foolhardy and somewhat impromptu readalong put together in the last few weeks of April!
I’ll be honest, it’s also partly taking place in May because it gives me little (to no) time to back out… I know myself well. Also the hashtag was easy to alliterate: #MiserablesMay and that’s an important consideration in any readalong!
tl;dr: Why not now?!
I’m in. So what’s the plan?
Since it’s very likely we could all be reading different translations and editions, I’m breaking up the rough schedule by sections of the book. This means that some weeks will be more demanding than others, but such is life, and such is Les Misérables! The schedule is mainly to keep me accountable and to, hopefully, let us all read at a similar pace so we can discuss the book online but if you want to read ahead or can’t read as much as the schedule says, it doesn’t matter, still join in anyway!
The book consists of five sections so I think to keep things simple, I’ll suggest we read one of these sections for each week in the month. Although this will make for slightly uneven reading weeks (some weeks will be 240 pages, others 340 pages), it’s also probably the easiest way for us all to be on the same page (figuratively and literally) since different editions and different translations will rack up different word/page counts anyhow.
Week One (1st – 5th): Fantine
Week Two (6th – 12th): Cosette
Week Three (13th – 19th): Marius
Week Four (20th – 26th): Saint-Denis
Week Five (27th – 31st): Jean Valjean
For those interested, I’ll personally be reading the Signet Classics edition, simply because I bought it when I was starting my dissertation because I’d read online that fans of the musical would find this one the most accessible and interesting. I don’t have a vested interest in any particular edition or translation, but I have included a little note on each translation on my readalong spreadsheet, along with a couple of links to discussions of the merits of each, so be sure to check it out if you’re unsure which to buy/borrow.
So what do I need to do?
It’s simple: either comment here or on Twitter (use the hashtag #MiserablesMay) to say you want to join in on the readalong and then, when May comes, read, read, read The Brick! I’d love to see blog posts about the book and reading updates on how you’re finding the book. I’m hoping to post periodic (weekly?) updates throughout the month on this blog as well as more impromptu updates via Twitter. If anyone wants sprints or Twitter chats or listen/watch-alongs of the adaptations, I’d also love to host those so do let me know if you’re interested in that too!
If you’re joining in on the Les Misérables madness in May, please comment below and let me know! Be sure to tweet about the readalong on Twitter too because I’m bound to procrastinate/tweet a lot about this book there.
Otherwise, to the barricades!