Les Miserables

One Thousand Four Hundred and Sixty-Three.

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

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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

The Little Paris Bookshop

I have just finished the most wonderful book. (Coming in just under the gun too, since I finally caught up with myself on these reviews!) Blogging for Books sent me a copy of The Little Paris Bookshop, which appealed to me by name alone. I mean…Paris, books…come on. What could be better?

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And then I started reading. Right away, there is so much emotion that it is almost seeping out of the pages. Monsieur Perdu is asked to give up is very last bit of furniture to his next door neighbor because her husband has left her and she has nothing. And sure, why not, because he still has a table left, and he’s given all the rest of his furniture away to everyone else anyway–because that’s just the sort of guy he is. He can hear her weeping through the walls, and if she needs his table…then dammit she’s going to get his table. And a book too, something to help with the pain.

Monsieur Perdu is a literary apothecary. He has a book for every ailment. He runs his service out of his barge on the Seine, diagnosing his “patients” and sometimes grasping the wrong book from their hands and giving them a new one. Or…more likely, an old one. But always, just the right one.

On the anniversary of the day his lover left him, he reads a letter she wrote him long ago. And that letter, rather than the Dear John one he was expecting, was full of love and pain and the announcement that she was dying and didn’t know how to say goodbye. A whole new kind of grief hits him, and so he goes on a journey to “find her.” Along the way he meets several beautiful characters, all looking for love and life and learning.

This is one of the most honest books I have ever read. I wish I could share some of the quotes with you, but because it has not been released yet, you’ll just have to wait. Seriously though, I have pages and pages written down from this book–it was SO inspiring and gorgeous. The prose is just phenomenal. The way George talks about love and the comparison between women and men made me want to weep at times.

The characters were also exceptionally written. I felt I could reach out and touch Monsieur Perdu. I certainly wanted to–his emotion was so real. I was devastated for him, and my heart soared for him whenever something magnificent happened.

I could go on and on about this book, but how about I just let you read it? Go add this to your TBR immediately. It comes out next week, June 23. Please go pick it up. Love this book.

 

Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review.

The Dream Lover

I’ll be honest with you–I have heard of George Sand, the author. But, I thought she was a man. Which I suppose was the point when she chose her pseudonym. It certainly fooled me!

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Elizabeth Berg is coming out with a new historical fiction novel about this famous author from the 1800s, to be released April 7. The novel explores the life of George Sand, who was not just the first bestselling female author in Paris, but also a famous feminist who had a string of equally famous lovers and friends.

The name dropping in this book was crazy. I couldn’t believe how many familiar faces kept popping up. It’s always funny to me how it never occurs to us that our historical figures were actually friends with each other at one point or another. Ah the tangled web we weave!

What really intrigued me about Sand the most was her personal life. It made me wonder, if she was alive today, how she would identify. Because I read an ARC version, I cannot share quotes, but there is a whole section about how she did not want to be a woman nor a man, and another where she fell in love with a person’s spirit, not their sex. But, in the 1800s there was woman and man, and scandals if anything out of the ordinary happened. So, George Sand dressed as a man, and for the most part, did as she pleased. She was scandalous for her time, and screw everyone who got in her way. I think it caused her a lot of pain, and she had her heart broken more than a few times. But she was such a interesting person, and I don’t think you can learn about her without being intrigued by her.

Berg’s story flips back and forth between Sand’s “current” timeline and her past, so the book does get a little confusing at points. I think it would be a little easier to tell if there were two different text formats between the two, or something. But that’s really my only criticism with the book. Otherwise, I found it very interesting, and I’ve added Sand’s whole collection to my TBR. Don’t be surprised to see some of her books pop up on the blog!

 

Fulfills PopSugar #29:  A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

Disclaimer:  This ARC was provided by NetGalley.

The Sweet Life in Paris

For years, I have been wanting to go to Paris. I have always held it in a very romantic light, because of all the reading I’ve done. And then I read Julia Child’s My Life in France and was just enthralled.

But now…despite David Lebovitz’s title The Sweet Life in Paris…I’m thinking that living in Paree is not so sweet. Holy Cow that sounds stressful! I would still love to visit some day…I am not sure I can resist one of the great food cultures of the world. But, I am at my roots an American…and I am also a very awkward introvert.

So thanks, David, for killing my flowery vision of Paris.

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Ok. I’m being dramatic here. Really, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Each chapter was a short piece of life in France. This wasn’t a timeline memoir or narrative. It was a snapshot of different pieces of the city. And, at the end of each snapshot, there was a recipe or two–a few of which I added to Pinterest to try out later. Mmmmmm I do love David’s recipes.

This is a short read–brain candy of the best kind (because…it involves REAL chocolate!).

Anna and the French Kiss

I usually don’t read as much Young Adult fiction as I have been reading. I’m not sure what has gotten into me lately. I stopped reading smutty romances and switched to teenage drama for brain candy. It’s like eating Sour Patch Kids instead of a Snickers.

 

Anyway…there has been a lot of talk about Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss in the Tumblrsphere, so I had to check it out. It was a little young for my taste, and after the first chapter I almost put it aside in distaste. The language is VERY teenybopper. But, I kept going, because everyone seems to LOVE this book, and I wanted to know why.

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I still don’t necessarily get why it’s such a hit, but it’s definitely very cute. Maybe I’m just the wrong demographic for it. The story is about a high school senior who is forced by her parents to go to boarding school in Paris. I get that she doesn’t want to leave her American friends but…come on. P-A-R-I-S. I would have killed to be allowed to spend my senior year abroad. The book is filled with the typical high school drama:  boy drama, girl drama, teacher drama.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they made this into a Mean Girls type movie soon. And for me…it’ll be a DVD rental, not one that I’ll spend booku bucks on tickets and popcorn.

Next!