My Miserable Les Mis Movie-Going Experience

December 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

I was hoping to post a review of Les Miserables, the movie, for you today.  My bestie and I went to great lengths to arrange a night out.  My husband has no desire to see an opera and my daughter is two, so Sunday night AMC gift cards in hand, we found ourselves entering the 8:30 pm showing.

We sat through a half dozen awesome previews.  My nerdy self cannot wait to see the new Star Trek, the next Die Hard, Gatsby, and an Oz movie featuring James Franco.  Then we settled in for our ‘feature presentation.’

Not long into the movie… we had just met Fantine and zoomed in on Hugh’s now clean-cut image… and sirens started up, the movie cut out, and we were informed by a voice over the intercom to leave the theatre.

If there had been a fire or actual emergency, I wouldn’t have been so annoyed.  But there was nothing, someone had just pulled the fire alarm.

If there had been a fire or actual emergency, we would all be dead because the mass mob of people were just staring at each other waiting for instructions and the officer just stared back.

If this was the first time this had happened at that theatre, I wouldn’t have been that bothered, but my bestie had the exact same thing happen to her just a few days ago on Christmas day.

AMC 24, Deerbrook Mall, Humble, TX: Get your crap together.  Clearly there is a problem.  Fix it already, please, I really want to see this movie!

Go ahead, if you’ve seen the movie already, leave me a comment and brag about how awesome it was…

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Jean Valjean

December 22, 2012 at 4:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Whether you have read the book or not, most people are familiar with this image:


The story has been a Broadway sensation for ages, the book itself has been a classic for even longer.  And with Hugh Jackman acting the lead role of Jean Valjean in the movie production being released on Christmas Day, more people than ever are going to have the story of Les Miserables running through their heads.

That’s why earlier this year I committed to spending 2012 reading the classic tome along with Kate’s Library.  It was amazing, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember 2012 as the year that I met Jean Valjean.


Ok, I know, I know, that fellow on the left there is not a depiction of Jean Valjean, it’s a picture of Victor Hugo; but despite my encounters with other works by Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), bringing up Hugo will forever remind me of Valjean, not Quasimodo.

Valjean has a beautiful, though depressing story.  A convict running from the law, early in the novel he is changed for life by a man called the Bishop, learns the importance of love and learning and becomes a new man.  As his life progresses, he becomes someone altogether different and even assumes a new name.  With a new name and some money, he finds himself in charge of a town and in a position to help a poor prostitute named Fantine who is dying and has left her only child to be raised by some hooligans elsewhere.  Valjean, now a saint and model citizen, promises to care for the child and goes to retrieve her.

That’s when Valjean and Cosette (the large-eyed little child in the musical posters and book covers) join forces and run away together as father and daughter.

So many adventures, so many trials, life in a nunnery, life hiding out, life raising a child, a love story between Cosette and Marius… but Jean Valjean lives a great life under much mystery, oppression, and misery, and still somehow he finds joy in his little Cosette.  Valjean is a prime example of a life changed, and a life found despite what the world and the government tries to throw at you.

The paragraph above is much too simple of a description of Hugo’s Valjean.  There is a reason Hugo’s novel is 1260 pages long, and not a moment of it is to be missed.  Les Miserables is a story of compassion, love, redemption, and a quest for freedom.  Both the novel and the musical focus on these themes in a powerful way, though they differ in how they address them, typical of a novel to a musical.  In the end, both forms of the story are about Valjean and the idea that if he can learn to love and be charitable after all he has suffered, who is there that cannot learn these things too?  Who could possibly have suffered more?

If you have not read Les Miserables, I urge you to do so, it could change your life.  If you have not seen the musical, watch the movie trailer and then tell me it won’t be epic:

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St. Denis

November 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Click to visit Kate’s Library

My thoughts on Part Four of Les Miserables

Maybe it is a bit shallow and unliterary of me to come away from St. Denis and only have the story of my own marriage on my mind, but that’s the truth of it.  How can you read what has become a nearly epic love story and not think of your own?  Call it what Hugo does, The Stupefaction of Complete Happiness, and then maybe you can forgive me for getting wrapped up in the romance of it all and not caring for the extensive history, the depth of the literature, and all the rest of it.

“From time to time Marius’ knee touched Cossette’s knee, which gave them both a thrill.” – Book Fifth

Do you remember that? That feeling like a shock, but so much gentler, when the object of your affection makes contact; the feeling incredibly enhanced when that person loves you back… Do you remember?

I met my husband when I was fourteen, my freshman year of high school.  He was old for our grade and already fifteen.  By the time I was fifteen too, I was sitting next to him at lunch our sophomore year, just friends but wondering desperately if he would ever want more.  In those days, I thought a knee knock or a hand graze was everything.  Come to find out, it was nothing compared to him taking my hand to walk me down the hall later that year.  Or even much later – years later – when he would hold just my pinky finger under a blanket in college because we were under orders from my then boyfriend not to hold hands.  We were best friends by then and the idea of not holding hands with my best friends was excruciating.  That same evening he leaned in and whispered in my ear, “I’ll always love you,” and then some blithering nonsense about my boyfriend and the direction of our lives.

Things changed then.  Obviously that (very awesome and dear to me) boyfriend didn’t last as a boyfriend, and I finally knew what I had wanted to know all along: my best friend was my truest love.

Our first year as a couple at my 3rd degree black belt test.

The innocent but thrilling touches didn’t end there, we spent an entire summer trying to ease my parents into the idea that he was around.  I neither confirmed nor denied that he was my boyfriend – at twenty I didn’t think it was any of their business – but during the school term we were in different cities so we wanted to take advantage of the time we did have.  It was like a Jane Austen novel in my head, something like Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill: catching glances across the room, brushing knuckles and fingertips in the hall.  Sneaking a whisper and a kiss when no one was in the room.

“What passed between these two beings? Nothing.  They were adoring each other.” – Book Eighth

Apparently, I have thing for secrets, because that was nearly the entirety of all my relationships, relishing in the act of not letting anyone know.  The difference this time is I was dying to scream it from the roof tops: One day I will  be Mrs. Jonathan Klemm!

As for complete happiness, it is still had.  We fight and argue – after all, we are married- but at the end of the day, at the end of it all, I can snuggle up in the crook of my love’s arm and hold his hand.  He will rub his thumb against mine, lean down and kiss my forehead, and all is well again.  The thrill of the small and innocent touches still there – after all, we are married.

Skip to my next Les Miserables post.

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Les Miserables – BANNED

October 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

The practice of banning books is beyond  a bit baffling, it is also fascinating.  The first ‘official’ censorship, of course, began with the Catholic Church in 1559, an extensive list of forbidden books tasked to be made by Pope Paul IV.  Since then, the practice of banning books hasn’t been limited to the religious, but been taken on by governments, schools, libraries, and organizations both public and private all around the world.  Some make the mistake of assuming these books simply ‘must be bad’ if they are restricted so often, but the reality is that somebody somewhere will always feel threatened or offended by the thoughts of another and people of power will always try to enforce their thoughts and opinions on those who are subject to them.  “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world,” said Karl Marx.  Well, I say: The one that chooses the books, rules the world, unless of course you allow them to choose for themselves and then you have to rise up and be a better leader.

I am currently reading Part IV: Saint Denis

Les Miserables, one of the most impassioned and well-written novels in all of history was often a threat to poor leaders.  It is a beautiful story of familial love, sacrifice, tragedy, the history surrounding the French Revolution, and his personal views on the church and government.  Hugo doesn’t pull punches, however, when describing these beautiful and tragic things, he doesn’t leave out a bit wretchedness, he presents the world as it he saw it, and in doing so was punished for it.  Hugo was banished from France for life by Napoleon III for criticizing his government and all of Hugo’s works were banned in Russia by Nicholas I for the unpleasant way which royalty was portrayed in his novels.  Not only that, the Catholic Church added everything Hugo had written to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (often referred to as The Pauline Index) for “sensual, libidinous or lascivious.”

These challenges did not merely last Hugo’s life time.  His works weren’t removed from the Index until 1959.  This essential piece of literature has been considered threatening for portraying prostitution, murder, the church as unimportant, and glorifying the French Revolution.  1959, such a time of the past… but the fight is never over.  In 2007, Hugo’s grandson and an emerging author battled in the French courts over whether or not a sequel to Les Miserables could be published.  This time, instead of contesting Hugo’s work, his grandson is fighting to protect “the spirit” of his work, claiming that Les Miserables should all be considered intellectual property.  Valid perhaps, but what would Hugo say about his grandson banning an author?

Hugo was part of the original literacy war in Paris in 1830.  In addition to his books being banned, his plays were also challenged.  Authors and artists paid professionals to sit in audiences and applaud their plays in order to counter those trying to shut them down.  Duels were fought, defending the right to write, one young man even died for the sake of Hugo’s Hernani.  Protect the spirit of Les Miserables? Yes, please.  Ban literature? No, thanks. It is up to the individual reader/fan to protect the spirit of an author’s work, though, choose NOT to read it. The government should not be able to authorize the restriction.

This coming Saturday, October 6th, Half Price Books Humble will be hosting a Read Out from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.  Come hang out with fellow book lovers and read a line or two from your favorite and most cherished banned or challenged book.

Additional blogs and articles of interest:
Dangerous Pages
Index Liborum Prohibitorum (About)
Index Libroum Prohibitorum (List)
About Hugo
 Les Miserables II
More on Les Miserables II

My post on St. Denis.

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July 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Click to visit Kate’s Library

My Thoughts on Part 3 of Les Miserables

I had a hard time getting into part 3, as I tend to be impatient in my reading constantly wondering about relevance.  But of course, Hugo makes everything worth while and without fail Marius is just as intriguing as his predecessors: Fantine and Cosette.

I love how Hugo builds a story out of lengthy character developments and social commentary.  There’s no story, just life, but in that it is one of the most fascinating stories ever told.  I think that is why I always find the climactic plot points so startling and wonderful – I don’t expect them.  Hugo waits until you’ve settled into not being impatient, gotten cozy with the daily ins and outs of a particular character’s existence, and then shatters your world with a life altering event for them.  The whole thing is beautiful, and depressing, and wonderful. .. think East of Eden, but instead of a sunny dust bowl, you’ve got the dank, cold of Paris.  Why am I so drawn to this kind of literature?

I am 710 pages into this novel with only 550 pages to go, the overwhelming intimidation behind me, now I’m just eager to see what happens to all these people I have come to love (and hate).  I am so glad I joined a readalong to encourage me through this novel, but I have found that the group really hasn’t served the purpose I previously expected.  I hoped to read posts and have discussions, following the thoughts of others in a classroom like manner as I plodded through this masterpiece.  Instead, I impatiently wait for other bloggers to share their reading experiences, only to find they haven’t read or at least haven’t posted about what they’ve read.

So instead, I sit here cherishing Fantine, Cosette, Jean Valjean, and Marius alone.  Instead, I find that few others are sharing my desire to throw the Thenardier’s off a cliff by the mere fact that they are not presently posting the desire.  God, I hope I am not the only one feeling murderess passions toward these useless pieces of crap who keeps “a pipe in his mouth, and was smoking.  There was no more bread in the den, but there was tobacco.”  People who do nothing for themselves, but scrape by off the hard work and sympathies of others, breaking their own windows to appear even more poor to a wealthier man who might give them money.

Misery loves company, and as I am reading Les Miserables – I want company to lament in the utter awfulness of these people who do everything they can to bring the good ones down to their level.  The good ones being those equally destitute, equally at odds with the world, but doing their best to make a life and stay as happy as can be imagined.

Have you read Les Miserables? Care to join me?  We will be all ready to see this at the end of the year:

Read my next post on Les Miserables.

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May 20, 2012 at 3:08 am (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Notes from a Les Miserables Blog Hop

It took me longer to pluck through Cosette than it did for Fantine.  Only because it was so engrossing, I had to take a delicious detour into the historical writings of Charles Esdaile, author of Napoleon’s Wars.  Hugo was quite the scholar, and it shows in his writing, he goes on rants and exciting commentaries on things extremely relevant in his time, but which I feel a little less than educated on.  Not that you need additional reading to follow him, he is quite detailed.  I just like to know what I think about things before someone else tells me what to think of them.  So with new knowledge and a fresh perspective, I dove back into Cosette shortly after finishing Napoleon’s Wars, and I’m glad I did.  I recommend that anyone serious about reading Les Miserables, read a bit about the world prior to the introduction of Jean Valjean.

More than tell me much about Jean Valjean, it told me much about Hugo.  Often when reading work like Les Miserables, where all the characters go through long stretches of being miserable and down on their luck, I wonder what changed the author so to make them either so hardened or so empathetic (as one can write similar stories from two completely opposite positions).  Knowing more about the era, the place, being more familiar with my history, shed some light on those things.  For starters, Hugo writes about the aftermath (and even certain parts of the wars) with such passion.  He says things like, “Napoleon was one of those geniuses who rule the thunder” (pg.285) and “To make Wellington so great is to belittle England” (pg. 301).

Within the pages of Cosette, Hugo often references other writers and literature, comments and allusions to Aeschylus, Virgil, and Voltaire, just to name a few.  This got me even more curious about his frame of reference, his education, and I discovered he was trained to be a lawyer, but chose writing instead.  Not only did he write the novels we are all aquainted with, but poetry, a few nonfiction pieces, as well as founded and edited a literary journal.  He was highly devoted to the concept that everyone should have the opportunity to be educated, and in 1851 took part in the International Peace Congress in Paris.  As a member of the Legislative Assembly he was forced to flee France when Napoleon III came to power.  (  Now, I can’t wait to own everything the man ever touched.  I’d also like to find out if those literary journals are available anywhere, but I haven’t looked yet.

Of course, there’s more to Hugo’s writing than social commentary and history.  There’s a beautiful story unraveling about an old man and a young girl who need a family and have created one in each other.  Funny enough, it reminds me of the story starring Natalie Portman called Leon, The Professional.  Its a personal favorite of mine, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you should definitely check it out.  After reading all of Fantine’s history, and knowing all that Cosette had gone through with the Thénardiers, to have Cosette rescued from them led me to the deepest sigh of relief.  Like the first time you hear the story of Cinderella and discover she is no longer in the clutches of the evil step mother and sisters, Cosette leaving that household felt like she tumbled into a princessdom.  Now, I can’t wait to see what is in store for the unfortuneate but relatively happy pair next.

Follow my adventures through Les Miserables from the beginning.  Here you will also find the links to the Blog Hop’s host, Kate’s Library:

The post on Cosette by the Blog Hop’s Hostess, Kate’s Library, can be found here:

Read my post on Marius (part 3 of Les Miserables).

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Friday Reads, My Favorite Hashtag

May 18, 2012 at 6:43 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably discovered the wonderful, but sometimes frustrating, world of the hashtag.  Hashtags are used to help tweeters search for specific kinds of discussions.  For instance, you can search #books and you’ll be hand delivered all the tweets in the universe that have included #books in their tweet (or status update).  I find this exceptionally handy when I’m seeking out book recommendations and reviews, when I’m wanting to check out #Events in #Houston and so on and so forth.  But my favorite hashtag is #FridayReads.

Friday Reads is wonderful.  Every Friday the whole book community across the entire globe  (with a twitter account) lets everyone know what they are reading.  I love this.  I love seeing what everyone is spending their Friday doing, I love checking out how other book-ies like me wind down at the end of a hard week.  It encourages me to take a break from the busy-ness of the week and spend a big chunk of time reading, at least on Friday, because that’s the most likely time for people to check in and see what I’m reading too.

This week, like a lot of previous weeks, my Friday Reads is Les Miserables.  I’m in the middle of Cosette and loving it.  Part of what I love about Cosette is how many literary references I’ve encountered.  I’m getting a glimpse into my future Friday Reads.  Aeschylus, Virgil, both mentioned and its been years since I read them.  I also discovered while doing some reading up on Hugo that he wrote several books I had never heard of.  The Terrible Year and The Art of Being a Grandfather both peeked my interest.  Hugo was extremely devoted to education, and probably would enjoy the Friday Reads hastag too if he were around to be introduced.

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Napoleon’s Wars

May 11, 2012 at 3:54 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Napoleon’s Wars: An International History

Author: Charles Esdaile

Publisher: Penguin

Length: 622 pages (including appendices and index)

Its amazing to me how history is so often rewritten.  Like the American Civil War and the issue of slavery, history textbooks would have you believe that the French Revolutionary Wars were about liberty alone.  It’s only when you dig deeper into fascinating works like Esdaile’s that you learn better, just like that moment you discover that the Civil War was about State’s Rights.  Esdaile’s book is enlightening, gracefully walking you through power struggles, political schemes, battles, marriages, and all sorts of human conflict.  Silly, I know, as there is always political drama behind the scenes of any war, but I was completely unaware.

I blame this on my childhood education as well as my idealist nature, which begs to believe that things are always done for moral principle and meaning.  I like to root for the underdog and weep for the wronged.  Yet, scholarly study and reality steps in and I discover that Abe Lincoln was not this amazing and caring man elementary schools brain washed us into believing, that the Union was not so kind they fought a war over slavery, rather they were controlling and greedy and wanted to dictate laws on a Federal level rather than celebrate the spirit of our unique existence by allowing States to make their own decisions, much like the war on drugs now.  See, even here I see my brain and heart leaning towards the idea that the South were fighting for their rights with ‘free spirits’!  Also emotionally driven and not entirely accurate.  There’s no winning with me.

I need work like Esdaile’s in my life, to keep my brain on straight.  He writes a beautiful historically accurate reality check, without casting blame or being cruel about the events of our past.  He doesn’t bash nor celebrate Napoleon, he just explains the world that surrounded him.  I picked this book up to help me wrap my brain around Hugo’s Les Miserables world, as the characters are living in the aftermath of the wars.  I needed to comprehend the world at large at that time in order to really understand the characters’ world view, and to help me decide whether or not I even like Valjean! (Stay tuned for further updates on my Les Miserables reading, join my readalongs via the “Readalongs!” page on the right.)

What I found most astounding was the statement by Esdaile that “Napoleon came to power as a peacemaker. “(pg.75)  Clearly, I didn’t know much about Napoleon, the history of France, the Revolution, any of it, before reading this book.  Before, I always thought of Napoleon as a tyrant with a short man syndrome attitude.  But in reading Esdaile’s work, I am reminded that people have to have something going for them to gain that much power.  According to this history, it took quite awhile for Napoleon to acquire his ‘demon-like qualities’ and that ‘among the educated classes, he was widely admired.’  “[…] the emperor himself later remarked that the regime was ‘never afraid of him’ and ‘looked on him as a defender of royalism.’ ”  So how do we get from there to Hugo’s Les Miserables?  Esdaile gives us an answer with a quote from a pamphlet published in 1808:

“Napoleon… may be compared to the vine, a plant that if it is not pruned, throws out its branches in all directions and ends up by taking over everything.  He wants peace, but at the same time wishes to dethrone kings… create new monarchies and destroy old republics… to undo the very globe and remake it in accordance with nothing other than his own will.” (pg. 344)

I love history, but I haven’t studied much of it in depth.  My interests range through all of time and all over the globe, so at best I know a little of this and a little of that, but nothing thoroughly, nothing well.  Prior to this book, if you had mentioned Mustafa, I probably would have said, “Oh, I love the Lion King.” Even that tidbit of ‘knowledge’ is wrong as the Disney cartoon lion’s name is Mufasa, which I didn’t realize until I went browsing for images to use in this blog post!

As a budding amateur historian, I still get excited when my history overlaps.  Charles James Fox has a role in this time period of Europe and when I saw his name my heart leaped for joy.  Someone I recognize, someone I’ve learned something about! Just last year or so, I read Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, where he had a huge role.  As a huge supporter of the French Revolution, I was breathlessly proud of myself and the one little tidbit of something I knew while reading through a few pages of Napoleon’s Wars.

It also means that, even though I already have a book on the subject (but haven’t read it yet), I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that Napoleon went to Egypt (I didn’t realize that he actually went there, I thought maybe he just sent people there the way most rulers do).  I’ve had a long-time obsession with Egypt, King Tut exhibits, Archeological Bibles, Nefertiti, Hapshepsut, the whole shebang.  Even Amelia Peabody inspires me.  So to see that I would have an opportunity to thoroughly study something that so heavily overlaps something I’ve studied, excites me.

I’ve taken so many notes on this book, its so fascinating (if you’re friends with me on facebook or in real life, you’re probably tired of hearing me rant about how awesome it is).  Among my notes are scribblings about how these wars are shockingly worldwide.  Why wasn’t this called a World War?  I am baffled at how many wars (not just battles, but WARS) were fought, overlapping each other in years and on continents, during this time.  Before Napoleon even steps into the picture there’s the 1st and 2nd Coalition Wars (1792-1797, 1798-1802), which I had never heard of because they are always just called the French Revolutionary Wars, which should have given me pause and realization that wars was plural, therefore there was more to the story than just the word “Revolution.”  I’m still not 100% clear on how it all works, as more research is needed, because the Revolutionary Wars are dated as 1789-1802.  Then, there’s a War between Britain and France during 1803 to 1814, but not the same as the Coalition Wars… Third in 1805, Fourth from 1806-07, Fifth in 1809, and the 6th overlaps the Invasion of Russia from 1812-1814 – but apparently is separate from the War of 1812 which was between the U.S. and Britain.  Finally, things wrap up a bit after the War of the Seventh Coalition in 1815.  Not to mention, I totally skipped the Peninsular War from 1808- 1814 which was between France and the allied powers of Spain and only ended when the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814.  Again, I ask you, why was this never referred to as a World War?  Why wasn’t the debate about this being called a World War addressed in school?  Why has this whole ordeal always been flippantly glossed over with literature like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Horatio Hornblower, and then wrapped up with Jane Austen and Les Miserables., not that I have a problem with that literature (they are all wonderful and personal favorites of mine).  Because I read too much fiction, ok, ok, I get it.

Now, more than ever, I want to know more.  I want to take classes at the University of Liverpool where Charles Esdaile teaches.  He’s a professor there with a BA and PhD and a FRHistS (Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, I had to look that up, its so cool).  But, alas, I am not in Liverpool.  Also, I am not in college anymore.

Reading this book made me go do some research that I desperately needed to do.  Not just historical research, but personal research.  I’ve been wanting, planning, gabbing about going back to school for some time now.  But finally, I went to some websites and looked into what that would take.  Instead of dreamily telling people I’d like to go back to school and get a second Bachelors from a state school (I currently have a BBA in Marketing and Management: Entrepreneurship) I can now say: I’d like to join the Post-Baccalaureate program at Univeristy of Houston.  My first class, when I finally get the finances to go, and the nerve to go up to the school and not worry about the fact that I’d be 10 years older than the traditional students (not that anyone would notice my five foot nothing – I get carded everywhere- self), I’d like my first class to be ANTH 1300: Introduction to Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.  There, it’s out there, and you guys are now encouraged to keep me accountable to my dreams.

Until then, I plan to read more books by Esdaile and a number of other historians.  Reading this has been a fabulous experience.

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Les Miserables Readalong Update 5/04/12

May 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , )

I am currently reading Cosette.  It is, of course, fascinating and full of all sorts of history and thoughts about the revolution and so on and so on.  So of course, I had to put it down for a bit and am now reading Napoleon’s Wars: An International History by Charles Esdaile.  So far its exactly what I hoped it would be, a broad picture of the world at large to help me better understand the smaller piece of France Hugo has us tucked away in for 1200 some odd pages.  I am loving it and I hope that others participating in the Les Miserables 2012 Readalong join me with Esdaile as well.  Full reviews of Cosette and Napoleon’s Wars to come.

To join this blog hop/readalong and follow the links to read Fantine:

To read my official Cosette review posted on 5/19/12:

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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:

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