The Les Misérables Book Tag (Original Tag) | #MiserablesMay

‘But Emma,’ I hear you say in earnest, ‘#MiserablesMay is over, you can stop trying to make it a thing!’ But I am nothing, dear readers, if not insistent. (Plus when I wasn’t frantically reading the book I was thinking about what other fun posts I could write other than my recaps. I just didn’t get around to it before the month was out.)

I’ve wanted to create my own book tag for a while and today I thought, hey, whilst I’m nursing my wounds from the battle that was reading Les Misérables, why not make it even harder to let go and/or move on by posting up a book tag inspired by the book that I’ve just been fighting? (All this fighting talk, the barricade would be proud.)

So, I present to you: The Les Misérables Book Tag!

Rules

Unlike the book itself, the rules of this book tag are very simple:

  • There are 13 questions, each of which ask you to pick either a character or a pick a book (answer whichever you’d rather) based on a prompt which is related to the characters from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. (There’s also one based on the book itself because I couldn’t resist!)
  • Please credit me as the creator of this book tag by linking back to this post when you do the tag yourself.
  • Tag your friends!

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Les Misérables Readalong | Week Five: Jean Valjean #MiserablesMay

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue à la cinquième (et dernière) semaine de #MiserablesMay! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, long story short: I decided reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in the space of the month of May would be a good idea. (I was wrong.) If you’re curious about the intended weekly schedule and organisation of this, be sure to check out my announcement post or the post of my co-host Liz.

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Recap of Volume Five: Jean Valjean

When we left the last volume Cosette had written a note to Marius to tell him the date and time of her and Valjean’s planned departure for England but Valjean had found the impression it had left on the blotter she wrote it. What did he do next? Well, obviously he loaded his musket and sought out the place where the lad was and… joined in with his revolution?? (I’m only half joking.) The fifth and final volume is entitled ‘Jean Valjean’ which is a pretty telling sign – it probably means he’s likely to be dead by the end of it. Considering we’ve been following his life for some 1000 pages it wouldn’t be unreasonable that the reasonably aged man would now be on his way to meet his maker; he’s been through a lot of shit (quite literally by the end of this volume) so if there’s anyone who deserves a peaceful death surrounded by his loved ones, it’s Valjean. Obviously though, this is Victor Hugo, so he can’t just let characters chill for a minute.

What actually opens this volume, though, is a digression is typical Victor Hugo form – just related enough to not actually feel irrelevant but removed enough from the real meat of the book’s plot that you start to question whether you would lose any comprehension of the novel if you just skim-read it. This time it’s a piece about barricades, but not the barricade we’re reading about, oh no, a different one entirely. (These sections mostly just make me miss university because you can bet all your money that I would be close-analysing the shit out of it, if I were writing an essay on the subject.) Thankfully, however, Hugo manages to bring it back around to the ‘present’ before I lose the will to live and compares the barricades he’s just mentioned to the current one of Enjolras and pals. He calls it barely an embryo in comparison which doesn’t exactly bode well for its longevity, especially when we’re quickly told the food is running out. As anyone who’s ever organised a sit-in protest knows there are two important considerations: access to toilet facilities and adequate provisions of food and water.

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Les Misérables Readalong | Week Four: Saint-Denis #MiserablesMay

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue à la quatrième semaine de #MiserablesMay! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, long story short: I decided reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in the space of the month of May would be a good idea. (I was wrong.) If you’re curious about the intended weekly schedule and organisation of this, be sure to check out my announcement post or the post of my co-host Liz.

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Recap of Volume Four: Saint-Denis

When we left Les Misérables at the end of the volume three, the Jondrettes aka Thénardiers’ little shady gang had been caught by Javert and, in the ensuing confusion, the would-be victim of their trick had himself escaped by jumping out of the window and we also saw Gavroche, their gamin child, return to the house to find his family gone.

Volume four opens with a book called ‘A few pages of history’ – at this point of the novel, any reader might treat the title with some small amount of skepticism and not unfairly so. Victor Hugo spends some time discussing the particular social, political, and cultural climate of the historical period in question, between 1831 and 1832, particularly with regards to revolutions. For anyone curious about discontent surrounding the production of wealth and its distribution of the time (or any time, to be honest) this is a fascinating polemic… it just happens to be shoved in the middle of a fiction book so it’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not used to it. Thankfully, almost 900 pages in, by this point we’re certainly used to the author going off on a not-unrelated tangent.

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Les Misérables Readalong | Week Three: Marius #MiserablesMay

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue à la troisième semaine de #MiserablesMay! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, long story short: I decided reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in the space of the month of May would be a good idea. (I was wrong.) If you’re curious about the intended weekly schedule and organisation of this, be sure to check out my announcement post or the post of my co-host Liz.

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Despite the fact that “week two” ended up extending into quite a lot of the third week, I knew that we were reaching a part of the book that I had read (and studied) before so I was hopeful that this would be a saving grace when it came to catching up to my (in hindsight, rather optimistic) reading schedule for Les Misérables. This week I also went to see a couple of shows at the theatre and whilst you think that would mean I struggled more to keep up, in fact, it helped; I went to see Ian McKellen’s tour when he swung by Liverpool on Friday night and I had a good two hours to kill between work and heading over to the theatre so I camped out in Pret and read some of the Brick. I’m glad I did because it meant I’m here, on Sunday afternoon, not as stressed as normal whilst I frantically try to catch up with my reading.


Recap of Volume Three: Marius

The last volume finished on a potentially optimistic note: Valjean had firmly become a Fauchelevent and he and Cosette were semi-safely cloistered (literally) in a convent, so it wouldn’t be ridiculous to presume that we’re setting up for Valjean to have yet another miraculous transformation in Paris. Speaking of Paris, the volume opens with ‘Paris Atomized’, that is to say, Victor Hugo explores the city of Paris of the time through the figure of the gamin, the street urchin, which he says expresses the city and the city expresses the world. Although these semi-digressions have absolutely nothing to do with the story itself, I kind of love getting lost in Hugo’s prose when he talks about Paris.

Hugo refocuses his attention to one particular gamin, Gavroche, whose parents deserted him to the streets but whom he still goes home to visit, at number 50-52, the Gorbeau building. Because Hugo never reveals a number of a prisoner or house without it being important, it’s safe to assume the building and its occupants (the wretchedly poor Jondrette family and a very poor young man named M. Marius) will be vitally important to the rest of the tale.

This is where the narrative takes a detour, however, to the character of M. Gillenormand who is one of those “grand bourgeois” sorts that this section of the book is named after. Basically he’s very rich and pompous and he doesn’t bother to let his servants have their own names – he calls all the female servants Nicolette, presumably so he doesn’t have to bother remembering more than one name. I think saying that tells you everything you would need to know about the man. He had two wives by whom he had a daughter each, one of whom remained unmarried and kept his home for him and the other of whom married (for love) a soldier who had served at Austerlitz and made a colonel at Waterloo, something Gillenormand considers a disgrace to his family. Despite all this, he took in his grandson from this union and the quiet little boy could often be seen trailing M. Gillenormand at church.

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Les Misérables Readalong | Week Two: Cosette #MiserablesMay

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue à la deuxième semaine de #MiserablesMay! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, long story short: I decided reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in the space of the month of May would be a good idea. (I was wrong.) If you’re curious about the intended weekly schedule and organisation of this, be sure to check out my announcement post or the post of my co-host Liz.

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Last week was something of a challenge. Due to the bank holiday on the Monday I felt suitably lazy to kick off the week… which is never a good thing when you’re on a tight schedule! Then, on Saturday both Liz and I’s day was entirely taken up by a trip to London to see a couple of shows (Hamilton again which was fantastic as always and Betrayal which was surprisingly enjoyable!) so the entire day was spent driving to/from Milton Keynes, getting the train into Central London, watching two theatre productions, and then doing the same journey in reverse. It meant we didn’t get home until the early hours of Sunday and though I thoroughly enjoyed the day, it meant Sunday was a little bit skew-whiff too since I woke up later than I ordinarily would and was tired so didn’t really want to pick up Les Misérables as a relaxing Sunday afternoon read! All this is to say this post comes to you a day late for all these reasons, as I’ve only just caught up. But, still, caught up I have so let’s have a look at where Volume Two took us…


Recap of Volume Two: Cosette

We left the last volume on a suitably depressing note: on Fantine’s death. This volume, optimistically titled Cosette, suggests that her daughter may just fare a little better than her mother did. True to form though, the volume doesn’t open with what it says on the proverbial tin – instead, we’re treated to a 50+ page breakdown of the Battle of Waterloo. I kid you not. Now, I don’t know how, but Victor Hugo made me not care at all about a distinctly important battle. Throughout the entire thing I must have muttered ‘but why do I care? I don’t cARE’ so many times that I actually lost count. Genuinely. I was going to do a funny ‘number of times I muttered why do I care’ counter… and then the counter broke. Much like my experience with War and Peace, the war bits were distinctly less interesting that I thought they would be. There’s a reason why long epic battle scenes look so incredible on-screen but are difficult to pull off on the page. Victor Hugo proved that. The only bit I enjoyed hearing about was the (not so surprising) revelation that Thénardier skulked around battle scenes after the fact and stole from the corpses of dying soldiers. Classy af. Basically, he tries to steal a ring from a not-quite-dead corpse and Hugo bothers to have the dying character tell Thénardier his name so he will become Important I’m sure. (Ok, ok, I already know it’s Pontmercy, which is Marius’ surname so the revelatory family connection isn’t going to be so revelatory when I finally get to it.)

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Les Misérables Readalong | Week One: Fantine #MiserablesMay

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue à la première semaine de #MiserablesMay! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, long story short: I decided reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in the space of the month of May would be a good idea. (I was wrong.) If you’re curious about the intended weekly schedule and organisation of this, be sure to check out my announcement post or the post of my co-host Liz.

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Now, week one was always going to be a challenge; my desire to basically separate the book via May’s Monday-Sunday chunks meant that I had to read an entire volume of the book’s five-volume story in the space of five days. When that volume amounts to some 300 pages, that’s no easy feat, but I hoped the excitement of starting the book would encourage me to read. Reader, I won’t lie to you, it didn’t quite work out that way but I knew I had a long weekend (thank you, UK bank holiday) to catch up if needs be. And that’s exactly what I did. But now, let’s talk about the story of volume one, shall we?


Recap of Volume One: Fantine

Volume One: Fantine does not start with the eponymous woman; instead, Victor Hugo’s epic novel starts with the figure of Monsieur Myriel, known as the Bishop of Digne by 1806, and situates this first section in the year 1815. From the very outset the author takes time and (many) words to tell us that even someone as upright and pious as a bishop may have rumours following them, whether true or not. But,  very quickly, these rumours fall away as Monsieur Myriel quickly proves himself worthy of the nickname Monsieur Bienvenu. It may seem overkill to start listing the good bishop’s household expenses but Victor Hugo goes out of his (and the readers’) way to have it be known, in no uncertain terms, just how Truly Good the Bishop of Digne is. He has a wobbly moment when he talks to an old, dying man, an ex-member of the National Convention (someone the rest of the countryside deems a monster, obviously), but within the space of a chapter the bishop comes to understand the old man’s point of view and admonishes himself for his previous ill-natured thoughts, asking only for his blessing before the man dies before him.

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Les Misérables Readalong | Announcement & Schedule #MiserablesMay

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…

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London Trip 2017 | Day One aka “Do you hear the people sing?”

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting London for a long weekend of musical theatre and sightseeing! I feel extremely fortune to be able to see some many wonderful sights and I’m sure anyone who follows me on Instagram is bored of hearing about this trip but, for posterity’s sake, I thought I would do a quick travel diary on this blog to preserve the memories.

The entire trip was planned way back in January of this year for one very important reason – Liz and I managed to grab Monday night tickets to see Hamilton when it opened in the West End. We were both very excited, but it was January, and the tickets for the show weren’t until December. Even so, we started planning with gusto and decided to make a weekend out of it in the capital city. I’m so glad we did as it turned out to be a wonderful weekend full of sightseeing and musicals.

Luckily, Liverpool to London Euston is a short 2-hour train journey and we managed to nab early tickets which meant we got the train tickets very cheaply too – result! So Saturday morning rolled around, our suitcase was all packed, and thanks to a very kind lift to the station from Liz’s dad we were off on the 10 o’clock train zipping towards London. When we got to Euston plumped for a walk to the Travelodge hotel in Covent Garden since it was about 20-minutes away and it seemed a more appealing prospect than battling the Tube with a suitcase in tow. So, we headed off for Covent Garden. One of the reassuring things about trying to locate a hotel in Covent Garden is that, since it’s a major tourist spot, it’s handily signposted everywhere, and I vaguely remembered that, to get to it, you had to walk through universityland (aka UCL and SOAS) until you started to hit some of the more borderland theatres. Luckily, Motown the musical has opened up in a very gold and shimmery theatre just around the corner from the Travelodge so we definitely knew when we’d arrived in the right place!

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Some Thoughts on Theatre

Greetings from London! As I sit and type this (hopefully brief) blog post, I am sitting in a Covent Garden hotel surrounded by West End theatres. The purpose of my visit? To go to the theatre of course! It has struck me over this weekend just how incredibly lucky I am to be able to go to so much live theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in London, it’s not as simple as just strolling on over to a theatre and grabbing a ticket.

But, relatively speaking, I find theatre extremely accessible, if I plan in advance. And it was yesterday, after snow had stranded us at Watford Junction, meaning our original plan to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour was scuppered, that we regrouped in the hotel and wondered how we could spend our wasted Sunday if we couldn’t get to the Studio Tour. A text came from my friend Liz’s dad, as he suggested trying to get return tickets for the Cursed Child play. As the snow had cut off so many people, return tickets were coming in thick and fast as people just couldn’t get into London to see the show. Half an hour later, after a rather reckless purchase, and we’d landed seats in the front row of the Grand Circle for both parts of Cursed Child. I realised very suddenly how incredibly lucky I was to be able to impulsively take that chance of offered tickets and get to see such a sought after play.

(By the way, the price of the tickets? Worth it. So incredibly worth it. The amount of effects and stage craft involved in the performance, let alone the actors themselves, is well worth the price of admittance. But I won’t say anymore because #KeepTheSecrets!)

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Top Ten Tuesday | All About The Villains

toptentuesdayAnother Tuesday, another Top Ten Tuesday. For those who don’t know, Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the book bloggers and list lovers, The Broke and the Bookish, and each week they post a topic for bloggers to respond to.

This week’s theme is: All About The Villains. That’s right – we all love a good villain, right? There’s something strangely enjoyable (if a little worrisome) about seeing a really charming or entertaining villain enjoying themselves. Even if “enjoying themselves” equals the destruction of something. Like I said – worrisome.

Because I do like villains so much, I thought I’d put together two lists – one of film/TV villains and the other their bookish counterparts.

Warning: The answers below contains spoilers for the books Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Bone Season/The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. Also spoilers for the film Frozen… and definitely heed that warning because that reveal actually made me gasp loudly in the cinema. Don’t look if you don’t want to know who the real villains of the piece are!

Without further ado, let’s see these despicable characters…

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