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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Tag | Pastry Book Tag

Today I ignore the post that I really ought to be writing to instead bring you a tag. I’ve decided (if only in my own head until now) that Thursdays will be the day when I post tags – and I’ll keep that up (hopefully) as long as the tags hold up.

Stephanie over at Adventures of a Bibliophile did the Pastry Book Tag aaages ago and it looked like a lot of fun so I considered myself tagged and have only just gotten around to posting this (story of my life).

I love pastries – I scoffed one for breakfast this morning (a pain au chocolat to be precise) and its twin is sat some three feet away from me saying ‘eat me, you know you want to’. I must resist – and continue writing this tag instead! Let’s go…

Croissant: Name a popular book or book series that everyone (including you) loves.
I feel like everyone ever on earth likes the Harry Potter series. And if they don’t, they just haven’t read it yet. And if they still don’t, well then they’re wrong.

Macaroon: Name book that was difficult to get through but worth it on the end.
I feel like Les Misérables is an extremely daunting book to get through. Before you’ve even picked it up, you have to decide which translation to read (if you can read it in French, I’m so jealous, except I’m also not because that thing is huge). Then which edition. Then you open the book and realise just how many parts and chapters there are actually are. Then you get stuck into it, you think you know what’s going on and the plot and then Hugo meanders into a 30-page description of the Parisian sewer system or whatever. It’s fascinating but it also meanders a lot. So, it’s difficult, but I’d say it’s worth it – I mean, hey, I wrote a dissertation on it so I must think it’s at least vaguely okay!

Vol-Au-Vent: Name a book that you thought was going to be amazing but fell flat.
I really don’t get the fuss with Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. People told me it was amazing and I understand some people like its strangely ethereal and dreamy tone but I hate it. I really hated the writing style – I laughed out loud at some parts I definitely wasn’t meant to laugh out loud at because they were meant to be “profound” but I just found them, well, “pretentious”, if I’m being honest. Sorry.

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A Retrospective: Shakespeare and Les Misérables

Oh, why hello there 2012! Wow, you really were a lifetime ago. And guess who forgot about this blog entirely in that intervening passage of time? Yes, me! It’s particularly wonderful to take a look back at 19 year-old me from the position of 21 year-old me, a person who has finished university and is now waiting for results and at the same time anxiously trying to lay down the train tracks in front of a moving train which I don’t yet know the cargo, or the speed, of. Does that metaphor hold up? We’ll see if the train derails come results day, I guess.

Whilst we waiting for that impending crash (or maybe/hopefully not) let’s take stock of what changes have occurred since my last post on 15th October 2012. Well, I’ve had 2 birthdays since then, not bad places to start. Especially since the 21st was celebrated in particularly geeky fashion – going down to Stratford with my ever lovely university friend and housemate, Sarah, to see the RSC’s Richard II. So I spent my birthday in the same room as David Tennant, watching him king it up, not a bad way to spend my birthday and it’s so very me that I couldn’t have asked for a nicer celebration. (Well I could have done without the audience member being taken ill half-way through the show, but, I’m sure everyone could have done without that to be honest). It’s been a year or two of Shakespeare, in which time I developed a shiny new obsession. Namely a certain Mr Thomas Hiddleston – of Loki/Avengers, War Horse, and maybe Suburban Shootout fame (do not Google it, for the love of all that is holy) – and that man’s particular penchant for Shakespeare only served to deepen that pathetic fangirling tendency. So, it made sense that when he was starring in Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus, had to see it. It wasn’t a passing fancy and as the reviews came rolling in, it became a mission. I wouldn’t have succeeded if they hadn’t extended the run a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have succeeded if it had only been me trying to nab those sought-after Front Row tickets. I wouldn’t have succeeded if it wasn’t for the tenacity of aforementioned Sarah whose emotional outburst in the library on that fateful ticket-successful morning (the last ditch attempt too) encapsulated feelings that I just couldn’t express. I didn’t fare very well at the performance itself either. Having seen the production via National Theatre Live (which, quick shout-out, is such an invaluable way of getting theatre to the mainstream) I thought I was prepared. I’d cried throughout the second-half of that broadcast because I knew how the tragedy of Coriolanus would inevitably end. I was not emotionally prepared. It was not pretty. I couldn’t stick around the theatre to give a quick thank you of appreciation to the actors who came out to stage door because if I had I just would have burst into tears in front of Hadley Fraser and Deborah Findlay. And we all know that would have been just a touch embarrassing for all involved.

Seeing the RSC’s Richard II and Donmar’s Coriolanus has been two highlights of my 2013/14 and experiences I will definitely remember and cherish. The sad fact of theatre, unfortunately, is its ephemeral nature. But it’s also its greatest virtue, the connection between audience and actor (if you will allow me to be particularly thee-ah-tar, dah-ling for a moment) is something that changes so much from show to show. Aaron Tveit says it well – it’s an exchange of energy between performer and observer, and there’s nothing else quite like it. 2013/14 has awakened, and firmly cemented, a love for theatre (and for Shakespeare) that I didn’t fully realise back in October 2012. Also a shameless love for a Mr Hiddleston, but we’ll leave that one well alone/to my Tumblr.

Which brings me to another obsession which was well fostered and, oddity of oddities, also at the hands of Sarah who introduced me, in the January of 2013, to a little thing called Les Misérables. Who would have guessed the downward spiral that quickly occurred. I’d never particularly been a huge musical theatre fan. Sure, I’d seen a few things – We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang – but they were more to do with my grandma’s love for musicals than my own. How very wrong I was, and how very naive I was to think that Les Misérables wouldn’t grip me the way it did. In the end, for some godforsaken reason, I ended up doing my undergraduate dissertation on it, the book in any case – though I did spend a sizeable portion of that 10,000 word limit talking about the musical and film adaptations. I couldn’t have guessed that in October 2012. I had no clue that I would have obsessed over a blonde-haired student revolutionary called Enjolras; that I would have synced up Spotify playlists whilst we were in separate rooms and belted out an embarrassingly out-of-tune rendition of the entire film soundtrack with, oh you guessed it, Sarah. That I would have spend countless hours of frustration trying to pin down in 10,000 words why Les Misérables needed to be paid attention to – this is the best I could come up with. That I would, thanks to a well-timed Christmas Present IOU from my parents, be able to perfectly coordinate seeing Les Misérables in the West End with that Coriolanus trip to spend two days in London being incredibly geeky but loving it? I couldn’t have predicted that.

That’s the funny thing about retrospection, isn’t it? It’s hard to mentally rewind to that place of inexperience. It doesn’t have to be huge life-changing moments you want to try to un-remember to see what life was like back then, it can be the little things. It can be trying to re-imagine what you were like in October 2012 having not heard Red And Black yet or having not shivered in terror seeing this still frankly scary-as-fuck single expression from Coriolanus. Maybe my next blog post will be about more serious things, more grandiose things, like graduation, examinations, what on earth to do in the rest of that unknowable thing that is my future. Sounds ominous.