April 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , )

Notes from a Les Miserables Readalong

I am reading from the Modern Library edition.

On History

As a reader, I am captivated by novels about the Napoleanic Wars, or more accurately, set during the Napoleanic Wars.  Long have I loved Jane Austen heroines, had my heart pitter patter to the feats of Horatio Hornblower, and kept such writers as Alexander Kent and Patrick O’Brian on my TBR pile.  But I’ve never take the approach of a historian to these wars, and certainly never contemplated the affect they had on the countries involved.  So with a copy of Les Miserables sitting on my night stand, I am now admonished for my previous ignorance.  So much pain, so much chaos, on every level of the human experience: politics, religion, the whole of society has been torn apart.  And just a few pages into Les Miserables, I can’t help but wonder: Is Hugo going to put it together again?

On Writing

Reading old letters in novels always has struck me.  So often characters end with something along the lines of running out of paper or their paper being filled up.  Even as a child, reading all the historical pieces I could get my hands on, this concept amazed me.  The idea of running out of paper!  What luxury we have in this modern age of ours! (Yes, in a book about people starving and not having enough to keep a fire in winter, the luxury I am stunned by is paper, not the fact that I am always well fed!) Never am I out of stationary or cards to write letters; never am I out of journal space, always buying the next one when I see that I am thirty pages or so near the end.  How spoiled we all are that now we are even less likely to run out of room to express ourselves with all the unlimited cyberspace at our fingertips – unless of course while on Twitter, confined by 140 characters.

On Personal Experience

“being in the mountains, the evenings of October are cold there.” – pg. 54

Its always the little things I get hung up on when I’m reading, often distracted by my own experiences.  I see cold and October in the same sentence, I swear, for nearly ten minutes I stop reading and think of all those excrutiating Halloween nights in Texas.  I distinctly remember, and most often recall, that one muggy night spent in a pumpkin suit noisily shifting the newspaper so my chest and belly could breathe.  “Who thinks about pumpkin suits while reading Les Miserables?!” is the thought that occurs to me, bringing me back to the page… only to see traveller and innkeeper and start thinking about Christmas.  That train of thought wasn’t done any favors by the fact that the innkeeper tells the traveller, “Monsier, I cannot receive you […] I have no room.”

On The Bishop

Of course, I adore him.

“In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume, lighted like a lamp in the centre of the starry night, expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation, he could not himself perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind; he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him; mysterious interchages of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe.” – pg. 49

That description is so beautiful.  The man himself is so beautiful.  I envision him sitting around endless vines of jasmine under the moonlight communing with God and its just a very pretty image that resonates with me and does not leave.  Then, later, I nearly cried the moment the bishop ordered the woman to put clean sheets on the bed for the convict.

On Felix, Fantine, and Cosette

Felix is such an irresponsible jerk! And the girls to praise him such with laughter! Fantine is such a fool, never met such a naive character in all my life. And poor little Cosette, the victim of their faults.  Its true that while reading this book your heart just breaks and breaks over and over again.  Hugo doesn’t help matters, the moment I get attached to a character – even in their woe and distress – I am whisked away to be introduced to another.

On Jean Valjean

The story of Jean Valjean is quite possibly the most depressingly awful thing I’ve ever read, until I read about all the escape attempts and deem the man an idiot for not just waiting out his sentence patiently.  For his intial nineteen years in prison, I have no sympathy.  However, he redeems himself and earns my care later, but I don’t want to post any spoilers at the moment… not until everyone dives into the book and gets more than their little toes wet.

Favorite Quotes

“Table talk and lovers’ talk equally elude the grasp; lovers’ talk is clouds, table talk is smoke.” – pg. 115

“He loved books; books are cold but sure friends.” – pg. 142

“Some people are malicious from the mere necessity of talking.” – pg. 155

Fantine Posts from the Kate’s Library Readalong Blog Hop

Kate’s Library

Southern Bluestocking

A Room of One’s Own

If you’re in this blog hop too, please leave a comment below with a link to your post about Part I: Fantine.

Next Les Miserables Blog Post by Anakalian Whims:


  1. Nicole said,

    Wait… what is this? I want to join – I’ve had only 300 pages left in this book for 2 years. Maybe this will motivate me to finish.

  2. Les Miserables Blog Hop « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] My post on Fantine . […]

  3. Marius « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] makes everything worth while and without fail Marius is just as intriguing as his predecessors: Fantine and […]

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