Les Miserables

One Thousand Four Hundred and Sixty-Three.

That’s how many pages are in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.


I started this beast on Sunday. It has been a long time since I have conquered a book like this and it was almost as big a battle as the battle Hugo as writing about.

Ok…maybe not that big. But at times it felt like it. Like when we get through the biggest fight scene in the book–the big drama throw down at the barricade–and then we get a dissertation on Paris’ sewers.

No one kills a climax like Victor Hugo. WOMP.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. It’s impossible to read something this massive without having super strong feelings about it. This book is powerful, no way around it. And because I saw the movie musical first, it’s really hard to separate the two in my head. The entire time I was reading it, I was singing the songs. The main characters were their cast, of course. And I was pleased to find out how well the play actually did follow the main plot of the book…

…when we actually got to see the actual main plot of the book.

Here’s the thing about Hugo (or at least Les Mis, as this is my first Hugo):  he is the KING of context. For every 2 books/volumes of plot, there is at least one of scene setting or character building. For instance, before we even get to the storyline, we have to know every single itty bitty detail about the household of the bishop who redeems Jean ValJean. He’s an important character, sure, but a minor one. One we see him, he’s gone from the story. So why do we need to know Old Testament-level detail about his life? And we get that for nearly every single person who is introduced into the book.

You would think this would be a helpful feature in remembering who everyone is. But it’s actually just the opposite. All of the overcharacterization actually made it harder to keep track of the people in my head. It was just too much information. I didn’t realize until the end that Gavroche was the little boy until he took the note from Marius to Jean ValJean during the battle, or that Enjolras was the leader of the rebels. I actually had those two people backwards. Of course, I knew the main people–Jean ValJean, Javert, Cosette, and Marius–because, helloooo, I will never ever forget an Eddie Redmayne character, ever. But the rest is curtained by Hugo’s overwriting.

On the flipside, some of the extra stuff, even if it gets in the way of the story is interesting. Les Mis is as much philosophy as it is fiction. (Great historical fiction–but fiction nonetheless.) Sewer rant aside, there is quite a bit to be gained from diving into Hugo’s studies, even if it does sound like he’s standing on a soap box preaching at the top of his lungs. I also felt like I got much of the French history that I was missing. I want to go back and read parts of it from yesterday because I was not in the mindset to absorb it all and there was so much there that I have been wanting to learn about.

Les Miserables is a hell of a beast, but extremely worthy of my time and effort. I would suggest that if you’re going to try it, clear the other projects off your list.  This isn’t a book that you are going to be able share your reading schedule with, as I learned the hard way. Hugo requires too much focus for that. It’ll go in my reread pile…but not for quite some time.


Fulfills PopSugar #47:  A play

Fulfills Boxall #92


Currently Reading

I’ve shared before that musicals are one of my husband’s favorite things. And his favorite musicals is Jekyll and Hyde. When he’s in a particularly productive mood, he will almost always be blasting that soundtrack, singing at the top of his lungs.

I, however, have never seen the musical, or read the book. So, it’s time for me to catch up. Since it’s spooky October time, I figured it was a perfect opportunity.

I started it yesterday afternoon, just in time for my H #fmschallenge day on Instagram, hence the selfie. Forgive the sloppy hair…that’s what a phone headset does to you.


The Phantom of the Opera

Most theatre fans will agree that Phantom of the Opera is iconic. We all have our favorite Phantom. Mine will always be Gerard Butler. I know, I know. I can hear you all groaning. But he was my first, ok? I’m drawing a blank on who my husband’s favorite. Someone classic. I’m sure you are all screaming it at the computer right now.


Anyway, I didn’t even realize Andrew Lloyd Weber had based his musical on a book until recently. It quickly made my TBR list when I found out, and not too long after, a coworker found it on a FREE BOOK shelf and surprised me.

I was surprised at how different the book was from the show. The main plotline was followed of course:  You have Christine, and the Phantom, and Raoul. But Madame Giry plays a completely different role, and her daughter is all but invisible. There is an added hero–The Persian. And Phantom even has a name! Erik. It’s weird to associate that with him.

The differences were so profound that it’s almost hard to compare, but I think I prefer the show to the book. I need the music, the drama. I like seeing Don Juan Triumphant, and hearing the taunting and power from the Angel of Music. It makes the story so much more intense.

Which do you prefer? Do you have a favorite Phantom?

Update:  I have been informed that Michael Crawford is R’s favorite Phantom.

Love Song

Richard and I both have a huge love for theatre, especially musicals. If you show up out of the blue at our apartment, don’t be surprised to find one or both of us dancing in the kitchen, singing at the top of our lungs to Wicked or Les Mis or, his favorite, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde (I’m unsure if that’s the actual title of the book-based musical).

As a testament to this love, the first Christmas we were together, we both slyly stuffed each other’s stockings with a brand new copy of Gerard Butler’s version of The Phantom of the Opera. OOOOOOPS. Great minds think alike, right? We know this one by heart, even if we sing it completely off key.

I’ve never actually read the book, but a coworker of mine found it for free a few weeks ago, and grabbed it for me. It sits on my TBR shelf, patiently waiting for its turn to share its song with me.