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January 24th, 2013

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10:52 pm - Hopefully, the longest review I'll ever write

Kickin’ off the New Year with possibly one of the enormousest books I have ever read, and I have read some pretty big books: Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo! I figured with the movie coming out and re-igniting everyone else’s high school Les Mis mania, it was a good time to kick my pretentious arse into gear and finally tackle The Brick. This is not my first Victor Hugo novel, so I knew that I was going to have to become ridiculously obsessed with the story in order to actually get through it. This is one of the keys to reading Hugo: you must let him totally eat your life, at least for a while.

There is too much hilariousness and crazy going on over the course of these 1,463 pages for me to have kept all of my opinions to myself over the three weeks it took me to read it, so there is Random Commentary over at the Twitter, most of which is variants on “OH MY GOD. JUST, OH MY GOD” because… this book, y’all, it is the craziest. bookelfe has been reviewing/recapping it section by section over at her own LJ, and I would highly recommend reading her reviews as well: Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Saint-Denis, and Jean Valjean.

So… first of all, the structure of this book, it is très cray-cray. It is, as previously mentioned, about fifteen hundred pages long. It is split into five sections, entitled Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet (or I think more properly The Epic in the Rue Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet, but it is truncated in my copy—which is the Fahnestock and MacAfee translation, Signet Classics unabridged paperback, if anyone wishes to know), and Jean Valjean. Each section is roughly three hundred pages. Each is divided into anywhere from eight to twelve books, each with a title, each somewhere around forty or fifty pages. Each book is then divided into chapters, which also have titles, and may be as short as one page! So basically, this book has several hundred chapters, which winds up with some of them having rather funny names, particularly near the end of the book as Hugo runs out of ideas, like “Deposit Your Money In Some Forest Rather Than With Some Notary” and “Jean Valjean Still Has His Arm In A Sling,” and, either my favorite or my least favorite, “The Cloaca And Its Surprises.”

The first book, Fantine, begins not with Javert wearing jaunty hats and a stern expression at the chain gang, or indeed anything to do with Javert or Valjean or Fantine, but with a sixty-page biography of the Bishop of Digne. It is actually quite good if you are content to read it as a standalone novella and leave the question of “What does this have to do with the plot” until almost the full sixty pages into it, which you are going to need to do if you want to read this novel anyway, because Hugo is really at his best when giving biographical sketches, and a huge part of what makes Les Mis great is that it showcases such a wide array of interconnected people. At any rate, we learn all about the Bishop of Digne and how he ran away to Italy as a young man and how he became a bishop by saying something impressive to Napoleon and how he guilted a band of robbers into returning stuff they’d stolen from a cathedral by being super Jesuslike at them, and a detailed account of his household finances, and the story of how he was a total dick to an atheist that one time. (There is also a lot of dithering about how awesomely submissive his sister and housekeeper are to him, because Victor Hugo’s views on women are rather… uh… chivalrous.) Eventually a grody-looking convict shows up and the saintly bishop gives him dinner and the convict steals his silverware, which the bishop’s sister had been telling him someone would do for several years at this point, and the Bishop is all IT WAS VANITY FOR ME TO KEEP THEM ANYWAY; TAKE THESE CANDLESTICKS AND GO FORTH AND SIN NO MORE, MY BROTHER.

The convict, of course, is our hero Jean Valjean, who after nineteen years in prison is all “I HATE EVERYBODY.” The bishop’s kindness in the face of his thievery knocks his bitter little soul for a loop, though, so he sits down in the woods and has himself a good long think about his life, so that Hugo can tell us about all of his life and all of his thoughts. While he is sitting around cogitating, he, like, accidentally steals money from an adorable little chimney-sweep, by, like, putting his foot on the coin without realizing it. (He will spend the next twenty years or so interrogating and giving money to every single chimney-sweep he meets.) Once he realizes what he’s done he’s all like MAN I AM A RIGHT BASTARD, AREN’T I and decides to morph into the badass but hilariously awkward saint we all know and love. He does this by inventing a new sort of clasp for jet bracelets. No, really. This allows him to become the JET BRACELET MANUFACTURING TYCOON OF MONTREUIL-SUR-MER and eventually its mayor—although since Valjean, now Monsieur Madeleine, is so incredibly weird and self-effacing (he enters people’s houses and leaves them money! …Possibly he enters through the chimney and then flies away in a sleigh pulled by reindeer!), he never actually runs for mayor or anything, and he has to be enormously publicly pressured into accepting the role. The citizens basically guilt-trip him with “But think of all the good you could do!” and “Don’t you want to HELP PEOPLE?” nonsense until he accepts.

Enter Fantine. But first, enter Fantine’s pretentious dickface boyfriend Tholomyès and his three stuck-up student buddies, and then enter Fantine and her three best friends, all of whom are paired up with one of the student dudes. Tholomyès gives a speech about nothing that is about four pages long. The four grisettes tell their boyfriends that they want a surprise! So the four dudes take them out on the longest and most elaborately described quadruple date in the history of people going on elaborately described dates, which involves some frolicking through meadows full of flowers and stuff like that, and then a lovely country dinner, after which the four boys go off to go get the “surprise.” Then the girls all receive a letter that basically says “We’re going back home to our parents to find proper brides! SURPRISE!” and the girls are like “Aha what dicks” but Fantine is like “OH NO” because she is already knocked up.

If you were ever wondering why Cosette ended up with the Thénardiers of all people, no, they are not relations of any sort or anything like that. Fantine is literally wandering along the street in Montfermeil and, in what can only be a hallucination induced by the stress of parenting an illegitimate child as an out-of-work single mother, decides that Mme Thénardier just looks like a really excellent mother and drops Cosette off with her.

This is basically how Victor Hugo describes Mme. Thénardier.

The rest of the book has  a decent staying-on-topic-to-everything-else ratio and describes Fantine’s deteriorating life as she gets sacked, sells all her possessions, stave off creditors, takes on increasingly ill-paying piecework, sells her hair, sells her teeth, and eventually descends into prostitution. Valjean heroically (but awkwardly) intervenes, seriously pissing off Javert in the process, and Fantine dies slowly and tragically of some sort of lung infection. While she is dying, the Champmathieu Affair happens!

The Champmathieu Affair is that thing where Javert saw Valjean save a dude from getting squashed by a cart and was all “I have only met one man that strong!” and tells the police that he has found Jean Valjean and the police are like “Slow your roll; we’ve got him already” and it’s some random guy who looks like Valjean. In the book the Affair is split into two parts, which I am calling the Long Think and the Long Ride. The Long Think is “Who Am I?” but with a lot more detail. The Long Ride is the hilarious comedy of errors that happens when Valjean is trying to get to Arras to reveal himself, and every single thing that can possibly go wrong goes wrong, and Valjean has to force himself to explore every last option that might get him to court instead of giving in to the temptation to say “Clearly the universe doesn’t want me to do this!” It’s all broken wagon wheels and slow horses and stuff and it’s amazing, both psychologically powerful and hilarious at the same time. What is also hilarious is the actual courtroom scene, where Valjean has to interrogate all the witnesses and reveal obscure prison-related biographical details about them in order to get anyone to listen to what he is saying. Then he goes home and Fantine dies and he has to run away from a pissed-off Javert. He is helped in his escape by an awesome nun named Sister Simplice, who is famous for having never ever told a single lie in her life. Javert shows up and asks her if she’s seen Monsieur le Mayor and she’s all like “Nope, haven’t seen anyone all day” and Javert is like “Well, that settles that, then” and Valjean is like, hiding behind the door or something ridiculous.

End book one! Begin book two, Cosette.

Book two begins with The Infamous Waterloo Chapters, which are apparently infamous, but I didn’t know about them when I started reading. There are nineteen of them. They start off with Victor Hugo being all like “There is no need to give a lengthy recap of Waterloo!” but then, NINETEEN CHAPTERS OF WATERLOO. Apparently, in Victor-Hugo-land, this is not lengthy. I had some trouble with it because I kept expecting it to end soon and was like “How does this relate to the plot?” Silly me! I would recommend to anyone else to just roll with it because it’s basically an enormous effusive FEELINGSBOMB about all the feelings Hugo feels for Napoleon. They’re not the most coherent feelings but they are very earnest. Anyway, after nineteen chapters of Waterloo, Thénardier shows up to rob the corpses and accidentally saves some dude’s life while robbing him. This will be super important later, but at the time I was just like “That’s IT?”

So Cosette is a horribly abused and unloved and overworked little child and has turned into a heartbreakingly sad and quiet little creature, and… it is really good, y’all. I almost cried at the bit where Cosette put her shoe out in the fireplace at Christmas so Nineteenth-Century-Santa could put a coin in it, even though there was no way in hell that the Thénardiers were going to give her any money, they only gave presents to their own kids. IT IS SO SAD. But then Valjean, of course, because he never fails to crack me up is never one to give up a chance to play Santa, goes into the kids’ room and puts a louis d’or in her sad little wooden shoe, which I think is equivalent to slipping the kid a fifty or something. Then after a bunch of haggling he takes Cosette away to live in The Old Gorbeau House, Paris’ Only Cheap Apartment Building. The Gorbeau house has two apartments in it. For a while Valjean and Cosette live in one, until Valjean draws some attention to himself by being so self-effacing that he comes out the other side as really obviously weird. Javert hears rumors of a strange old man that dresses like a beggar but randomly gives out lots of money, and is all, “I wonder if that is Valjean? I know he is supposed to be dead”—okay, I skipped the part where Valjean escapes from prison by faking his down death while saving someone else’s life, because what is this I don’t even—“but he is a tricksy little hobbit; I better check this out.” So Javert moves into the second Gorbeau apartment, and Valjean promptly moves out, confirming that it is totally him. Javert hunts him down but wastes juuuuust enough time being smug and leisurely that Valjean has time to MacGyver up a harness with rope from the street-lamps and take Cosette over a wall in a dead-end alleyway. Because Victor Hugo writes like the worst stand-up comic ever—the kind that gets halfway through a joke and is like “SO IN ORDER TO GET THIS YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND…”—in the middle of this exciting police chase, we are treated to a brief (not very brief, actually) history of street-lamps in Paris throughout the nineteenth century.

They land in the garden of the weirdest convent in the history of ever. Men are strictly not allowed in this convent! Except the gardener. In what will become a running theme of this novel—namely, “France Has Only Twelve People In It (And One Policeman And One Cheap Apartment)”—the gardener JUST HAPPENS to be the dude Valjean saved from getting squashed by his cart back in Montreuil-sur-Mer! Valjean doesn’t remember this at all, because he saves people’s lives like all the time. The gardener, named Fauchelevent, allows Valjean and Cosette to hide out in his cabin for a bit while Hugo gives us a long and detailed history of the convent and its wacky traditions and its adorable boarding school. Then they make up a plan for Valjean to pose as Fauchelevent’s brother and help him with the gardening and have Cosette be educated in the boarding school. But then they are all like “How can we get them safely back out so they can come in again by the front door like regular people and not weird fugitives?” Then, VERY CONVENIENTLY, a nun dies, and the nun wants to be buried in the church under the altar, which is against health regulations, and the head nun is all like GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HEALTH INSPECTOR and she and M. Fauchelevent concoct an elaborate plan to secretly bury the nun and send an earth-filled coffin to the licensed graveyard. Fauchelevent and Valjean then concoct an elaborate plan on top of this plan to actually smuggle Valjean out in the coffin and hopefully not get buried alive. This being a very elaborate plan, something of course goes wrong, and Fauchelevent has to come up with a third elaborate plan at the last minute to fix it. Basically, if you can make it through the digressions and history lessons and philosophical ramblings, Hugo will periodically reward you with hugely overstuffed action scenes involving all sorts of wacky hijinks.

After this fabulous heist sequence chez les nuns, Valjean becomes Urbaine Fauchelevent, and Cosette is educated in the boarding school, and they pretty much just kick around like that for ten years, and that is the end of the second book.

The third book, Marius, picks up about ten years later, and introduces us to some of the awesomest characters in the story. Marius, in my opinion, is not one of these, although his lack of awesomeness can often be very entertaining. The first of our totally awesome characters is Monsieur Gillenormand, Marius’ grandfather. He is an arch-conservative royalist pervy old man; he makes fun of everyone and everything and is actually kind of a huge dick to Marius because he’s rocking the amusingly cranky thing so hardcore, but he’s great fun to read. He raises Marius as a royalist, but when Marius learns stuff about his father (like, right after the father dies, because of course) who fought for Napoleon, Marius goes to the library and starts reading all the political documents he can get his hands on and becomes a “Bonapartist democrat” or something. By which we mean he falls so far in hero-worship with Napoleon that he starts randomly shouting things about him in his room? I don’t know; I talk to myself all the time and even I think Marius is unfathomably dorky. I’m really starting to wonder how socially awkward Victor Hugo himself must have been since all his main characters are just so, so weird.

Anyway, eventually M Gillenormand learns that his grandson has become one of those turrible libruls, and pitches a fit about it, throwing Marius out of the house. Marius then rides around in a cart for a while until he is randomly rescued by some of his classmates, Bossuet and Courfeyrac, who are part of a pack of adorable idealistic revolutionaries called the Amis de l’ABC, which is a self-congratulatory pun in French. He sits around the cafes for a while with his new friends, becoming a lawyer and being all mind-boggled that there are people further to the left than Bonapartists while the rest of the students plan a revolution, except Grantaire, who drinks like a fish and makes cynical comments about how stupid the revolution is, but keeps hanging out there anyway because he is totally gay for Enjolras, the most super-seriously revolutionary of all the revolutionaries. Enjolras kind of hates Grantaire, but I love both of them because I adore both cynical drunks and idealistic revolutionaries. Anyway, Marius eventually has a falling-out with his new friends because he doesn’t understand why a bunch of republicans might have a problem with Emperor Napoleon, and basically stops talking to all of them except Courfeyrac, because he is crashing on Courfeyrac’s floor, or at least his official address is Courfeyrac’s floor, because later he moves into… the old Gorbeau house!

The other room in the old Gorbeau house is inhabited by a poor family called the Jondrettes. When we first meet the Jondrettes it is actually because they are adorable plucky street urchin Gavroche’s family, he just lives on the street most of the time because they give no fucks about him. The second time we meet them, it is in the context of their being Marius’ neighbors. Marius doesn’t pay a lot of attention to them because he is busy mooning over this girl he’s never spoken to who hangs out at the Jardin du Luxembourg with her old dad in the afternoons.

This girl is, of course, Cosette, and her old dad is, of course, Valjean. Marius doesn’t know this, because Marius doesn’t know anything about anything. This is where we enter into the storyline that makes me want to bash my head in repeatedly the most, although I must admit it is often screamingly funny.

I’m going to put a bullet in any Serious-Literature-Appreciating cred I may have left and say that the single thing the Marius/Cosette love story reminds me of the most is Twilight. Twilight, if you are blissfully unaware, would be a really great and realistic (minus the vampires) exploration of how abusive relationships develop and work, except for the bit where the author spends pages and pages and pages painfully and elaborately glorifying how totally awesome the relationship is and arguing at great length that it is totally not abusive at all, and anyone who says it is just doesn’t understand how True Love works, and this is totally how True Love works, you guys, let me explain it one more time. If you swap out “abusive” with just plain “stupid,” congratulations! You have alchemically transformed a crappy YA paranormal romance into one of the greatest works of literature ever written. Marius and Cosette both go through absolutely textbook—and brilliantly, hilariously, embarrassingly well-realized—cases of Your First Big Obsessive Adolescent Crush That Makes You Totally Stupid And You Will Be Horribly Embarrassed Whenever You Think About It For The Rest Of Your Life. Except that Hugo kind of ruins it by going off on his big long tangents about his FEELINGS, and his FEELINGS about True Love are about as sophisticated as a fourteen-year-old’s subconscious. It was particularly hard for me to read this part of the story since I was reading it during the few days of Captain Awkward’s amazingly and hilariously honest Open Thread about crushes and limerence, and… man, some of the things in that thread, they are weirdly the same as the things Marius and Cosette do. Except in real life, they usually didn’t end up well, because they are fucking crazy. Like, there is this beautiful comment, which is pretty much the what-happens-in-real-life version of the scene where Marius and Cosette speak to each other for the first time.

That scene takes place about a year after Marius first notices Cosette, during which he spends a lot of time putting on his best suit and going to the Luxembourg so he can walk past the bench she and Valjean are sitting at without talking or making eye contact or anything. At one point Valjean drops his handkerchief and Marius, thinking it’s Cosette’s, picks it up and cherishes it for months. It has the initals “U.F” on it, which stand for Valjean’s current pseudonym of Urbaine Fauchelevent, but Marius thinks it stands for “Ursula” and moons over “Ursula” for like half a year. At one point Cosette, who is also schoolgirl-crushing on Marius because he is like the first dude she’s seen in her life, decides to be saucy and makes eye contact with him when she walks past him out of the park, and Marius nearly has a heart attack, and Hugo goes on a long defensive rant about the power of glances and their role in true love and the interpenetrating of souls. (PS There is really a part in the book where he refers to their souls as “interpenetrating.” I almost barfed. Partly from laughing and partly from just wanting to barf.) Anyway, after a thing where plot actually happens, Marius graduates to stalking Cosette’s house, and finds a weak bar in the garden gate so he can actually go into the garden and, like, sit there and watch her through the window or something totally romantic and not at all creepy like that. He has to go at night because he sparkles too much during the day. After a while he screws up what passes for his courage and leaves fifteen pages of FEELINGSMAIL on the bench in the garden. The contents of this FEELINGSMAIL are reproduced in full, and they are fucking hilarious. They’re just a bunch of disjointed ramblings on the general theme of “Love, it is transcendent and stuff.” It is unsigned; however, Cosette knows exactly who it is from, because she can read HIS SOUL in his words, and she also saw HIS SOUL that one time she made eye contact with him, so she can see it’s the same SOUL, and totally not the soul of Marius’ cousin, who has also been hanging out outside her garden gate making eyes at her, but in the daytime where everyone can see him (apparently this is how you know the cousin is a tool and not a nice soulful gentleman like Marius. Or something). I strongly recommend getting yourself a stiff drink or three for this part of the novel.

After mistaking him for a chimney at first, Cosette finds Marius skulking in the shadows in her garden at night, and didn’t think to wonder what the hell he was doing there because apparently it seemed very “natural” that he should be there, and THEY FINALLY TALK! First, they declare their love for each other. Second, they tell each other “everything,” all on the first evening, because they are the most boring people ever, I guess. At the end of the evening, they introduce themselves to each other. True love according to Victor Hugo: It literally works in the exact opposite way of all other human interaction.

The plot that we give a shit about, meanwhile, has been going something like this: Marius finds out that his neighbors, who are coincidentally Gavroche’s parents, like to scam rich people out of money by writing them piteous letters! They send a piteous letter to Jean Valjean, and Valjean and Cosette show up RIGHT IN MARIUS’ HOUSE, and he freaks out and spies on their visit to the neighbors through a hole in the wall, because spying on Cosette is just what Marius does. It is via his mad spying skillz (the only skill Marius possesses) that he learns that the sketchy neighbors are planning on luring them back later to ambush them, with help from all of Paris’ most notorious criminals! (Apparently it was a slow night for crime.) Marius immediately runs off to the police to report that he knows of an ambush being planned, and gets Police Inspector Javert, because of course he does. Javert is cheerful, attentive, thorough, and basically a model public servant in this scene; the Boston PD could learn a thing or three from him. Javert and the police agree to ambush the ambush on Marius’ signal, which will be a pistol shot. That night, Valjean shows up in this room full of criminals, and we find out why the sketchy neighbors wanted to ambush him so bad: it is because they are the Thénardiers! This wigs Marius out because he knows Thénardier saved his dad’s life back at Waterloo, but doesn’t know about the robbing or that it was an accident or any of that, so instead of firing the pistol, he sits around internally-monologuing helplessly for absolutely forever while Valjean faces down an angry Thénardier and his twelve best hardened-criminal friends. Javert, tired of waiting for Marius’ signal, shows up and is totally awesome for a while, then arrests everybody while Valjean uses some handy-dandy convict’s tricks to escape out a window and also burns himself on a hot iron just to be extra badass. The entire sequence is basically a badassness contest between Valjean and Javert for who can be the most awesome in a single action scene. I’m not sure who wins, but Marius definitely loses. I mean, he sort of helps by throwing a note in through the window at some point, but mostly he just dithers to himself and clings to his pistol.

After Thénardier gets out of prison, he tries to ambush Valjean again, this time at his house, and so Valjean panics and moves, and Marius tries to ask his grandfather's permission to marry Cosette, but M Gillenormand just makes a bunch of saucy comments until Marius gets offended and storms out and then M Gillenormand is REALLY SAD. Then Marius gets all suicidal and goes to check out this revolution thing, except that he has mixed feelings about it, so he again spends like ten goddamn pages sitting around feeling conflicted while his friends are being shot at, wondering what his dad and Napoleon would think of all this.

This is the bit where everyone dies. Eponine dies, and gives Marius the note from Cosette that she stole, and Marius is like “So sorry you’re dead GIVE ME THAT I MUST READ IT RIGHT NOW,” and then Gavroche dies and it is the saddest thing ever oh my god, and all the revolutionaries are dead except Enjolras and Grantaire, Enjolras because he’s lucky and Grantaire pretty much because he’s been drunk in a corner the whole time. As the barricade is breached, Enjolras is surrounded by guards who literally stand around pointing their guns at him for a while but are unwilling to shoot him because he’s just sooooooooooo beautiful. No, really. Grantaire finally wakes up and is like NOOO ENJOLRAS I WILL DIE WITH YOU (BECAUSE I LOVE YOU) and then the guards shoot both of them.

Valjean, who has shown up at the barricade after receiving a letter Marius wrote to Cosette, courtesy of the adorable Gavroche, is not dead, and neither is Javert, because Valjean, saintly as always, set him free after the revolutionaries captured him. Javert is super pissed about this. Marius almost dies, but Valjean drags him away from the battle through the sewers, because he’s important to Cosette, and because Valjean cannot resist saving a life at great personal expense. It is not because Valjean has any positive feelings for Marius at all; he basically hates him as much as I do. But mostly, Valjean carries Marius through the sewers so that Hugo can give us a history of Paris’ sewer system, and discuss at great length all of his feelings about sewers. Because he is such a master feelings-haver, Hugo has many, many pages worth of feelings about sewers and human waste, and the ways in which they relate to the national economy and the well-being of a nation’s people. I personally found a lot of it very interesting. My main complaint about this section of the book is that it uses the word “cloaca” like three times on every page, and then even when the sewer section is done, he still appears to have the word stuck in his head and uses it entirely too often.

After escaping the sewers with the help of Thénardier, again doing good deeds for totally nefarious reasons, Valjean runs into Javert. For the third or fourth time, Javert doesn’t recognize him. Valjean, mirroring a similar sort of pathological honesty that Javert engaged in sometime earlier, is like HI JAVERT, IT’S ME, JEAN VALJEAN! Javert and Valjean awkwardly hire a carriage to bring Marius home, and even more awkwardly ride to Valjean’s house so he can be arrested not totally covered in poop, but then Javert walks away and goes to the bridge and has an internal crisis while pulling on his sideburns. Then, because he is a Victor Hugo character and must be as weird as humanly possible, he marches into his office and writes down a bunch of suggestions for improving police procedure before marching back to the bridge and jumping off it.

Our main antagonist gone, the rest of the book is largely dedicated to wedding crap. M Gillenormand adores Cosette and his happy to have Marius back and not dead and also loves wedding planning, so he is cheerfully ridiculous, and makes this section of the book entertaining. Marius continues to be terrible, doubly so after Valjean confesses to him that he is a former convict. Neither of them tell Cosette, and when she enters the room while they are trying to discuss this, they are both huge dicks to her in trying to get her to leave. I feel bad for Cosette here but I also kind of hate her because she is so damn cheerful and pliant and basically The Perfect Nineteenth-Century Woman, ie, kind of a twit. Hugo tells us on a couple of occasions that she is actually quite bright, but apparently that’s not important enough to anything for him to have any occasion to show us her being in any way intelligent, and he also goes on some long rapturous tangents about how her will had become so wonderfully subsumed under Marius’ that if he so much as didn’t want to think about something, Cosette would forget about it too. Ugh.

But if Cosette’s a twit, that’s nothing compared to what a complete raging douchebag Marius is. He spends the whole last bit of the book trying to edge Valjean out of Cosette’s life completely, by, like, having the chairs removed from the room where Valjean visits, and taking Cosette out at the times when he comes by, and generally being sneaky and passive-aggressive. Valjean takes it all, and additionally seems to be deliberately attempting to make his time with Cosette as uncomfortable as humanly possible by being the most self-deprecating guest ever, like not letting her call him “Father” anymore. Eventually he tells her he is going on a trip and goes home and get sick and pretty much dies of a broken heart. Cosette and Marius show up right before he dies but too late to save him, because that just so happens to be the time when Thénardier shows up trying to scam Marius and accidentally lets him know that it was Valjean who saved him in the sewers. So, once we know that, we’re allowed to go visit the dying father, because it’s goddamn all about Marius, apparently. Anyway, they show up too late to actually save Valjean from dying of his broken heart, since he has already spent his last strength writing a confession to Cosette about how he used to be a convict (FINALLY) and also how to make jet bracelets (no, really).

Verdict on the book as a whole: Really sad! Really informative. REALLY LONG OH MY GOD. Occasionally infuriating. But largely hilarious! Someday I will have to read it again, but probably in like… ten years.

Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Les Miserables--Original French Concept Album

(6 scribblings | Scribble in the margins)


[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2013 04:53 am (UTC)
I CAN'T BELIEVE I FORGOT TO TALK ABOUT MARIUS' FEELINGSMAIL. High up there among the most ridiculous love letters of all time. OF ALL TIME!
[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
The feelingsmail is so epically ridiculous! But there are so many epically ridiculous things going on in this book that it is quite understandable to miss talking about some of them.

PS I just discovered the original French concept album thingy version of the musical, and the SUPER PEPPY music that plays during all of Javert's lines in the beginning is cracking me up so hard. Apparently Javert gets REALLY EXCITED about arresting people in this version?
[User Picture]
Date:January 30th, 2013 01:45 am (UTC)
Your review made me crack up. I will never read the book, but I may share your review with some friends. Do you mind?
[User Picture]
Date:January 31st, 2013 05:16 pm (UTC)
I'm flattered! =) Definitely feel free to share... If I can help anyone make an informed decision about tackling this monstrosity (or more likely, scaring them away from reading it) I will have done a good deed!
[User Picture]
Date:March 10th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
Oh my God, THANK YOU. I am in the process of plowing through this book--93% done, for the dullard and the twit have just gotten married. I keep getting frustrated because there is so much STUPIDITY in this tome. Well, the stupidity and Hugo's everlasting tangents. The man was in dire need of a blog where he could post all this irrelevant junk. (I read most of them--and I wish that I hadn't, for dear Christ, almost all of the essays are tedious beyond words. The one about slang was mildly interesting, though I would have liked it better as a magazine article rather than something interrupting the story.)

And you are not alone in thinking that Marius/Cosette is so very Edward/Bella; good Lord, all they do is stare at each other! And I know I'm supposed to believe that Marius and Cosette really, really love each other, but I don't. All I hear from them is, "Wow, you're pretty! You're so pretty that I can see your beautiful soul AND I KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU." They sound like they're both twelve years old.

I'll be so happy when I've done my time with this damnable book and never have to bother with it again.
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Date:March 10th, 2013 04:18 pm (UTC)
I am glad to help share the pain! There is lots of pain involved in reading this book, largely from repeated headdesking; it must be shared to be bearable.

I hate Marius/Cosette so much. I thought they were useless and boring in the musical, and the musical is actually GOOD because it's only the story and not all the random crap stuffed in around it, but in the book it is just so much worse because they are JUST as useless and boring but at SUCH greater length.

Best of luck with the last 7% of the book! It is... frustrating.

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