Thursday, 14 January 2016

Les Misérables Read-Through #15: IV.ii.3 -

I'm slowly but surely getting back to regular scheduling as I get my stuff together for the start of the next term. Included in that is the weekly Les Misérables post. I'm now officially 66% through, that means 2/3 of the book are done and I've read 1565 pages since August in this book alone. I've now also suddenly realised that the end of the book is relatively nigh, especially if I manage to read every single week. I'm definitely appreciating this way of reading "big books". I guess I should start thinking about which one to start next! Time to go through my 100 Classics List!

Chapter Summary:
Well, it can be said that a lot has happened, but that they're the kind of happenings that fill the gaps between stories, rather than actual major beats of the story. We're getting different points of view, more character development and small, little tangents that Hugo so loves. We get a proper insight into how the relationship between Jean Valjean and Cosette truly works. Although it's a father-daughter relationship, there's also a sense of jealousy and dependency between the two since they're each others whole world. When Cosette grows up, discovers her own beauty and develops feelings for Marius that relationship is endangered. It's an interesting dive into Valjean's and Cosette's psyche, especially since it doesn't necessarily show Valjean in the best light. The love between Marius and Cosette finally becomes tangible in these chapters and I now actually like it, rather than despise it.

The last two chapters are about Gavroche and I'm now starting to understand why everyone loves him so much. He's sort of adorable and when he takes his two little brothers under his wings without knowing so it's heart-warming. The fact he lives in an elephant sculpture is also just amazing.

Feel of the Chapters:
While Hugo describes the tight relationship between Valjean and Cosette there's something a little bit claustrophobic about it all. Neither of their behaviour is completely healthy and that definitely comes across. Similarly, Hugo's prose is infused with languorous romance when he's building up Marius and Cosette's meeting. You can't help but feel that the mood is getting darker as we get closer to the end, which slightly scares me about what's coming next.

General Thoughts:
  • Hugo describes how Cosette discovers her own beauty and some of the things he writes are incredibly recognizable for a female reader. The idea of looking in a mirror one day and realising you've grown up, that some of the childish features have disappeared. I think it's fascinating that Hugo managed to capture that. 
  • One of the chapters is called 'The Chain-Gang' and it allowed Hugo to once again discuss the injustice that the treatment of prisoners was and is. When I started Les Misérables I really wasn't expecting it to have such a powerful, social message but it really does.
  • Another brilliant chapter title is 'The Rose Perceives that it is an Engine of War'. I mean... wow! This is, of course, about Cosette realising her beauty but I thought it fits so well with the whole new genre of YA books in which girls realise their power of their physique. It's not the best representation of women, maybe, but it's a great title.
  • I really feel like I need to take the people who wrote the musical to task. I, of course, understand that in an adaptation you can't include everything from a book, especially if it's as massive as Les Misérables. Still, they've lost so many small moments of such significance that the story loses much of its power.
Something Interesting:
We've covered quite a lot of different things in this section, from guillotines to monarchies to battles, but today we've got something completely new. In this week's section Hugo gives us a little bit of a glimpse as to his music tastes by letting Cosette sing a song he considers 'probably the most beautiful thing in all the sphere of music'! And that is the chorus if Euryanthe, 'Hunters Astray in the Wood'. I've done some searching and unfortunately wasn't able to find that particular piece from the opera, but I do know that the piece of music Hugo is referring to is called 'Die Thale dampfen, die Hohen gluhn' and comes in the third act of the opera. The piece I've added below is the Jägerchor, 'Hunter's Choir', which should at least give you a taste of what the piece of music is like.

It's interesting to think of this as the kind of music either Cosette would be singing or Hugo would love so much. Does it suit your tastes?
'The tiniest worm is of importance; the great is little, the little is great; everything is balanced in necessity; alarming vision for the mind.' p.1500
I loved this quote because it's such a beautiful reminder that everything does matter. It reminds me of the quote in one of the previous instalments, 'Nothing is nothing'. It's an important sentiment and with his crew of social outcasts it's beautiful to see Hugo support it in such a heart-felt way.
'Destiny, with its mysterious and fatal patience, slowly drew together these two beings, all charged and all languishing with the stormy electricity of passion, these two souls which were laden with love as two clouds are laden with lightning, and which were bound to overflow and mingle in a look like the clouds in a flash of fire.' p.1517
This may be one of the most beautiful description of fated love that I've ever read. It tends to get a bit dramatic, usually, and so does this description, but in a very lyrical way. Hugo also spends so much time on letting the love between Marius and Cosette grow that it actually feels real, unlike in the film.
'It will be remembered that she was more of a lark than a dove. There was a foundation of wildness and bravery in her.' p.1567
Yes, I'm giving you an extra quote today because I simply loved this description! In the film version Cosette is such a submissive and un-spirited character, but this quote just made me fall slightly in love with her. The fact that her past has given her a bit of wildness makes me very happy.

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