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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