Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Les Miserables - Part Two: Cosette (SPOILERS)

As with my discussion of Part One this post will undoubtebly contain SPOILERS as I can't discuss it without revealing the fate of the characters in part one. As I discussed in the earlier post, I'm reviewing this book in sections as I don't know how I'd be able to review this monster as a whole.

Summary: This section starts off with a long description of the Battle of Waterloo, thanks to CJ James for the heads up, I skimmed over it and read a synopsis of it on the internet - cheating, but these classic authors do need a good editor! After that things picked up, Valjean a prisoner on board ship rescues a falling sailor and uses this moment as a way to escape. Months later a mysterious man (to dense readers) shows up and befriends Cosette, whose pitiful life we witness at the hands of the Thenardiers. He quickly makes off with her, when Hugo finally reveals his identity as Valjean, for the not so sharp readers.
From then the pair live in seclusion, before Javert comes hunting for them. A night on the run and a few timely coincidences leave them happily living in a Convent safe, for now, from the hands of Javert.

I loved this section and have spent this evening reading it, gulping down page after page. This section reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo; the escapes, the moments of safety and the knowledge that danger still lays ahead. Valjean is quickly becoming one of my favourite characters in literature, he's rich but lives a poor mans life, he dotes on Cosette and his spiderman-like ways as he climbed that wall! Yes, its full of coincidences, and much like The Count of Monte Cristo we get the sense that our hero will survive and out witt anyone, yet that's all part of its charm.
My only gripe is Hugo's unnecessary detail in places - him and Tolstoy clearly had the same problem - the Waterloo scene and the vast description of the Convent (chapters and chapters of it) add nothing to the book, nor does his need to lecture and explain.

1 comment:

C.B. James said...

While I will agree that one can skip or skim the Waterloo sections, I'm going to disagree about needing an editor.

Part of the fun for me, and part of what makes these huge books so good, is that they are so huge. The depth of detail, even the sermonizing, are part of what makes them a unique class of novel. If they were lean and mean like so much of modern fiction is, they would lose part of what makes them wonderful.

I first read an abridged version of Les Miserables, not knowing it was abridged. It moved along at a break-neck pace, was lots of fun, a real page-turner even at almost 400 pages. I think the longer, slower version, the one you really have to work your way through, is the better one.

That's the end of my sermon. ;-P