Thanks to Tien of Tien’s Blurb for hosting the above read-along.
So originally this post was supposed to go up over a week ago and I could have sworn that I finished it and hit post – but apparently not. I blame it on…umm, my ability to be a complete and utter scatterbrain at times…anyways, here we go. This review is my thoughts on the volume I of Les Miserables (Fantine), along with some discussion questions posed by Tien. This review has the potential to be completely and utterly SPOILERIFIC!! so you have been warned😉
General Thoughts on Volume I
I have to admit that when I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the translation (by Denny) flowed. I was very easily sucked in and reaching my page goal each night (about 15-20 pages) was easy to do. I even found myself reading just a little bit more (which is always a bad idea when you had to be up at 4am for work)…I do have to admit that if I hadn’t had no only Tien, but other friends reading this, I might have gotten distracted but having that buddy support system for reading is great.
My other main thought so far is that I was surprised how well the first part of the musical mirrored what had happened in the book up until the end of the volume. And yes, I was singing various songs from the musical as I was reading.
1.What do you think of Bishop Myriel? He’s definitely described as being truly saintly; I’m wondering if there’s any pessimistic reader out there?
I have to admit that the beginning I was that pessimistic reader – I couldn’t believe that anyone was as perfect, as truely righteous and saintly as Bishop Myriel. But as his story progressed, he started to grow on me and Hugo’s writing style was persuasive in such a way that by the time Valjean’s path crossed with Myriel’s, I was convinced that he was that true saint. The kind of permission that you would expect have been made a Saint in the Catholic church 100 years or so post book setting.
2. For those of you who are reading this for the first time, was there any assumptions you have made previously from whatever source which was just incorrect? Was there anything which surprises you from the past week’s readings?
As I alluded to above, I’m a huge fan of the musical, although I have never seen it live (and yes, I’m still mad at my mom for not taking me to see it because I was too young…) I was pleasantly surprised with how well the musical mirrors (albeit reduced in time and descriptive). Personally, I can’t wait to see the new movie to see how well it has been adapted from the book.
3. What do you think of the contrast between Javert & Valjean?
The dichotomy between Javert and Valjean is intriguing, although I don’t think we have necessarily seen all there is to see yet since overall there was fairly limited interaction between the two. I have to wonder, whether in part, Javert’s pursuit of Valjean is in part jealously of his success – you have Javert who was born in a jail to a convict and made a life for himself that was moderately successful as a police inspector, but comparatively, then you have ValJean, a convict who served nearly 20 years, who is released, doesn’t finish his parole, and turns into a huge success – a rich business owner in a time, when many were struggling to just survive.
4. What has been the high point for you this week? Any quote/s which bowled you over this week?
As I was reading through this section and found a particularly interesting quote, I was bookmarking the page – unfortunately, I forgot to go back and highlight several of them…whoops.
But looking at the pages that I marked, there were several that I thought were significant:
“I mean that the man is ruled by a tyrant whose name is Ignorance, and that is the tyrant I sought to overthrow. That is the tyrant which gave birth to monarchy, and monarchy is authority based on falsehood, whereas knowledge is based on truth. Man should be ruled by knowledge.” – conversation between the Bishop and the old man (pg 52)
“There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. Poverty was his goldmine; and the universality of suffering a reason for the universality of charity.” (pg 69)
“Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man” – this quote epitomizes the book – the choices that we as individuals must make, how many of them are based on promises made to other people. How you choose to live your life is affected by those promises