Jean Valjean

December 22, 2012 at 4:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Whether you have read the book or not, most people are familiar with this image:

les-miserables-2012-comparison-poster

The story has been a Broadway sensation for ages, the book itself has been a classic for even longer.  And with Hugh Jackman acting the lead role of Jean Valjean in the movie production being released on Christmas Day, more people than ever are going to have the story of Les Miserables running through their heads.

That’s why earlier this year I committed to spending 2012 reading the classic tome along with Kate’s Library.  It was amazing, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember 2012 as the year that I met Jean Valjean.

les-miserables2

Ok, I know, I know, that fellow on the left there is not a depiction of Jean Valjean, it’s a picture of Victor Hugo; but despite my encounters with other works by Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), bringing up Hugo will forever remind me of Valjean, not Quasimodo.

Valjean has a beautiful, though depressing story.  A convict running from the law, early in the novel he is changed for life by a man called the Bishop, learns the importance of love and learning and becomes a new man.  As his life progresses, he becomes someone altogether different and even assumes a new name.  With a new name and some money, he finds himself in charge of a town and in a position to help a poor prostitute named Fantine who is dying and has left her only child to be raised by some hooligans elsewhere.  Valjean, now a saint and model citizen, promises to care for the child and goes to retrieve her.

That’s when Valjean and Cosette (the large-eyed little child in the musical posters and book covers) join forces and run away together as father and daughter.

So many adventures, so many trials, life in a nunnery, life hiding out, life raising a child, a love story between Cosette and Marius… but Jean Valjean lives a great life under much mystery, oppression, and misery, and still somehow he finds joy in his little Cosette.  Valjean is a prime example of a life changed, and a life found despite what the world and the government tries to throw at you.

The paragraph above is much too simple of a description of Hugo’s Valjean.  There is a reason Hugo’s novel is 1260 pages long, and not a moment of it is to be missed.  Les Miserables is a story of compassion, love, redemption, and a quest for freedom.  Both the novel and the musical focus on these themes in a powerful way, though they differ in how they address them, typical of a novel to a musical.  In the end, both forms of the story are about Valjean and the idea that if he can learn to love and be charitable after all he has suffered, who is there that cannot learn these things too?  Who could possibly have suffered more?

If you have not read Les Miserables, I urge you to do so, it could change your life.  If you have not seen the musical, watch the movie trailer and then tell me it won’t be epic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuEFm84s4oI

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Marius

July 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Click to visit Kate’s Library

My Thoughts on Part 3 of Les Miserables

I had a hard time getting into part 3, as I tend to be impatient in my reading constantly wondering about relevance.  But of course, Hugo makes everything worth while and without fail Marius is just as intriguing as his predecessors: Fantine and Cosette.

I love how Hugo builds a story out of lengthy character developments and social commentary.  There’s no story, just life, but in that it is one of the most fascinating stories ever told.  I think that is why I always find the climactic plot points so startling and wonderful – I don’t expect them.  Hugo waits until you’ve settled into not being impatient, gotten cozy with the daily ins and outs of a particular character’s existence, and then shatters your world with a life altering event for them.  The whole thing is beautiful, and depressing, and wonderful. .. think East of Eden, but instead of a sunny dust bowl, you’ve got the dank, cold of Paris.  Why am I so drawn to this kind of literature?

I am 710 pages into this novel with only 550 pages to go, the overwhelming intimidation behind me, now I’m just eager to see what happens to all these people I have come to love (and hate).  I am so glad I joined a readalong to encourage me through this novel, but I have found that the group really hasn’t served the purpose I previously expected.  I hoped to read posts and have discussions, following the thoughts of others in a classroom like manner as I plodded through this masterpiece.  Instead, I impatiently wait for other bloggers to share their reading experiences, only to find they haven’t read or at least haven’t posted about what they’ve read.

So instead, I sit here cherishing Fantine, Cosette, Jean Valjean, and Marius alone.  Instead, I find that few others are sharing my desire to throw the Thenardier’s off a cliff by the mere fact that they are not presently posting the desire.  God, I hope I am not the only one feeling murderess passions toward these useless pieces of crap who keeps “a pipe in his mouth, and was smoking.  There was no more bread in the den, but there was tobacco.”  People who do nothing for themselves, but scrape by off the hard work and sympathies of others, breaking their own windows to appear even more poor to a wealthier man who might give them money.

Misery loves company, and as I am reading Les Miserables – I want company to lament in the utter awfulness of these people who do everything they can to bring the good ones down to their level.  The good ones being those equally destitute, equally at odds with the world, but doing their best to make a life and stay as happy as can be imagined.

Have you read Les Miserables? Care to join me?  We will be all ready to see this at the end of the year: http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/50396/the-les-miserables-trailer-a-million-theater-geeks-just-fainted

Read my next post on Les Miserables.

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Les Miserables Blog Hop

April 12, 2012 at 3:08 am (Events, Reviews) (, , , )

I have been picking up and setting down Hugo’s Les Miserables for a few months now.  Its not fair… to me, to the book, to dear Hugo.  I WANT to read it, I do, but I need some buddies.  So I found the perfect solution to my dilemma and I hope some of you will join.

Kate’s Library is this cute little book blog, with a huge following, that I stumbled across on Carolina Cuicci’s blog Reading Against The Clock (.blogspot.com).  It seems I am not the only one with a brain block on Hugo this year and Kate is hosting a read-a-long.  The details are provided below on the link, but I’ll quote a few of the highlights.

http://kateslibrary.blogspot.com/2011/11/chunkster-readalong-les-miserables-2012.html

From Kate’s Library:

Have you ever wanted to read Les Miserables? Do you want to bond with your fellow bloggers through a fun readalong? Do you like big books and you cannot lie? Are you looking for a readalong/challenge that’s incredibly low key? Do you want to grab 2012 by the face and make it the best reading year ever?

If the answer to any of these questions is “YES!” you may consider joining me in a 2012 litventure.  I’m hosting a readalong/challenge to read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo throughout the year 2012.

Each blogger that participates will be posting updates of the sections they have read as they complete them.  So whether you are a blogger wanting to add your opinions to the cyber world concerning Hugo’s great work, or are just a reader wanting follow the hop, check it out.

My post on Fantine.

My post on Cosette.

My post on Marius.

I read Saint Denis during Banned Books Awareness Week, read about it  here.

My post on St. Denis.

My final post on Jean Valjean, the musical, and the 2012 movie.

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