Sunday 11 February 2018

Les Mis Birthday Check In

I'm 50 this weekend! Yes, really!

What better way to celebrate than with a fellow February birthday bedfellow (Victor Hugo will be 216 on the 26th Feb after all).

I knew I couldn't maintain the very impressive participation rate that I began the #LesMisReadalong with, although I did think at the time, that it might last a little longer than two weeks!

Last time we spoke we were slow reading our way through Book 1 - An Upright Man.
Let's catch up:
  • It's 1815
  • Monseigneur Bienvenu is a very good man
  • Jean Valjean not so much
  • Life in France for the poor & uneducated is very hard indeed 
  • Jean Valjean steals the silverware
  • Monseigneur Bienvenu is a very, very good man despite no longer having any silverware OR candlesticks to his name
  • Two years pass
  • Hello Paris!
  • Four lads and their girls frolic in the springtime
  • Fantine has a baby girl, Cosette
  • That scoundrel, Tholomyes deserts them
  • Fantine leaves Cosette (in what probably amounts to the worse decision ever made in the entire course of history) with the Thenardier's
  • Cosette sweeps the pavement
  • The locals call her the Lark, l'Alouette

This made me think of the French song that I learnt as a little girl Alouette. I found this rather funky version of the song....and quickly realised that it's not the sweet, happy song I thought it was!

Bird dismemberment 101 - who knew?
But now it suddenly seems even more applicable to Cosette's story.

We are now 42 days into the #LesMisReadalong which brings us to Vol 1 Book 5, which Denny translates as DEGRADATION and Rose calls THE DESCENT.
  • Montreuil-sur-mer is a changed town, suddenly propserous
  • But where is Fantine?
  • A stranger, saves the Captain's children from a fire
  • Who is this Pere Madeleine?
  • A captain of industry
  • Says NO to being Mayor
  • Refuses royal honours
  • In 1820 changes his mind
'A good mayor is a useful person. How can you hold back when you have the chance to do good?'

  • Could this be a reformed Jean Valjean?
  • Vol 1 Book 5 Chapter 3 - Sums deposited with Laffitte
  • YES
  • 2 candlesticks on the mantelpiece 

Things I've learnt so far?

The translators often chose rather different words and phrases that created subtle differences in meaning and understanding. I suspect these findings will evolve into a much more comprehensive post at some point.

Twitter is a great forum for readalongs! Forget the hate and fake news and trolls. The #LesMisReadalong page is a fabulous source of fun, fellowship and information. Social media at it's very best.

How are you travelling so far?

Week 2 Catch Up
Week 1 First Impressions


  1. Enjoyed this! And did not even think of M. Madeleine being a reformed Jean Valjean! But I'm getting all fluttery on the inside thinking about that! :) Am loving this book!

    1. Oh I hope my early supposition didn't spoil your reading of this novel. I imagine everyone comes to the 'could this be Valjean?' at different point as Hugo laid several clues right from the beginning on the chapter where another'stranger' comes to town with a backpack and thorn stick, he was 'immensely strong', two candlesticks on his mantlepiece....

  2. Happy Birthday! I loved your wrap up. Keep this up and you might be able to draft a 1 page summary of the entire novel - hee hee. Have you ever read any of the digested reads on the Guardian's website? (be careful -there be spoilers, but they are quite funny often).

    For sure the candlesticks were the clue for me about Madeleine's true identity... I am really enjoying this read along.

    1. I haven't heard of the digested reads before, I will check them out...carefully.

      My first suspicions were roused with the mention of his strength, the candlesticks were the clincher!

  3. Happy Birthday!

    It has been awhile since I read Les Misérables. I remember it being extraordinarily. Have fun with the remainder of it.

    I agree that Twitter is a great place for bookish discussions.

  4. Great summary, Brona! Speaking of L'Alouette, Bellos says that in an early draft of Les Mis, the character who would become Fantine was named Margaret Louet, and her daughter was named Anna. Anna was referred to as "La Louet," making a little pun with "L'Alouette." When Hugo changed her name to Cosette he "kept the association of girl and bird, attributing it not to a pun but to the poetic imagination of the poor."

    1. I think I'm going to have to add Bellos to my wishlist, unless you can keep feeding me gorgeous titbits like this :-)

  5. Happy Birthday! I LOVED Les Miserables when I read it many years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

  6. Happy Birthday Brona! I hope you had a wonderful weekend of celebrations. I love, love,love your summary. And I agree the twitter read along is fabulous- a new experience, and one I'll be keen to repeat.

    1. We've got 10 months to work out what our 2019 read will be :-)

    2. Yes. SO many temptations.


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