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into the parisian underworld

Les Misérables: Take Three

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Three times I have resolved to read Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.

The first was when I visited Hugo's tomb in Paris at the age of seventeen. It seemed a properly writerly thing to do to visit his tomb, but I did recognize that it would have been a more meaningful pilgrimage if I had actually read the man's work.

The second was a few years later when I stumbled upon a black and white film adaptation on late night television that thoroughly piqued my interest in the character of Jean Valjean. (I think it was this version, but I'd have to watch it again to be sure.)

The third was earlier this year when Danielle proposed reading it en masse.

Alas I did not follow through on occasions one or two. I don't think I even got as as far as checking a copy of the book out of the library. But I feel sure that the third time will be the charm with me and Les Misérables, particularly now that Danielle's suggestion has crystalized into this group read. I'm confident that the enthusiasm the rest of you have for the enterprise will buoy me up if my own flags!

I concede that I haven't found the early passages about the bishop gripping. (Is it sacrilege to say that I understand why the movie didn't begin with him?) But the odd line has made me laugh out loud and I'm sure things will liven up when Jean Valjean enters the narrative. I'm very much looking forward to continuing through the book and to discussing it with all of you along the way. Thanks Ashleigh, for setting up this fabulous forum for our discussion!


posted by Kate S., 21:11


Welcome! Glad you're giving it another go. I can see the validity of creating an abridged version of LM, not just for size but there are many chapters that appear merely to give background information, A LOT of background information that may or may not be completely useful but beautifully written nonetheless. However, I must say the Waterloo bit was tough to get through. Ha! Wow I missed Hugo's grave when I was in Paris... where is it?
Although I didn't find the bishop's section very exciting (you're right there!), I still was interested enough to keep going. He does go on about how good he was, doesn't he. I have a feeling though these sections will be important later on. It does get more interesting when Valjean enters the action and especially with Fantine! I wonder if Hugo was paid by the word for this and if it was serialized? I've not seen the movie, or Hugo's tomb--was it in Pere Lachaise? I visited there, but of course mostly just wanted to see Jim Morrison's grave...how literary of me...not. And I'm glad there is a group reading this to help spur me on, otherwise I'd read a chunk of it and set it aside probably, since it's so long! It'll take me a while, I'm sure, but I'll get there!
I haven't seen the movie or Hugo's tomb, but I saw the musical. :) I liked the bishop's part more than you did, but I totally skipped over most of the Waterloo stuff (I think it's the beginning of Cosette's section). All the talk of Napoleon and strategies made me feel like I was reading War and Peace (I read it in January), and I was getting very disoriented! So I skimmed through it, and read the parts that were more personal.
commented by Blogger Eva, April 6, 2008 at 8:23 AM  

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