Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Reading Journal: Les Miserables


I'm currently just under half-way through the beast that is Les Miserables, so I thought it would be a good time to check-in with my initial impressions.  On the whole, I am enjoying it and it's definitely an immersive experience.  The novel is sprawling and massively detailed, which means it's a panoramic view of French society at the time.  

Sometimes I get bogged down in all the detail and it makes it hard for me to push through and keep on reading.  Every now and again, Hugo inserts these random sections that have nothing whatsoever to do with the main plot - Napoleon at Waterloo, or the history of a convent in Paris.  I've found these have jarred my reading momentum and they make the book feel over-long.  Even in the main story there is such a thing as too much detail, and Hugo is dangerously close to crossing that line at the moment!

What I like so far is that the story is so much grittier than the stage and film versions.  For example, Cosette really is mistreated by the people who are looking after her and Fantine's decline is a lot more grim.  Valjean isn't as perfect as he is in the film.  All this is very good, even if I'm not sure about the many not so subtle religious messages in the book.

Les Miserables has been perfect for the winter so far.  There's something so lovely about snuggling up with a big hefty book under a blanket and revisiting familiar characters night after night.  I'm going to be taking a short break from it to read A Christmas Carol with Riv, and to read Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson for some lighter relief.  I also have a wonderful non-fiction book on the go, My Promised Land, which is a history of Israel written with biographical elements.  It's really very good, and I can't wait to finish it.  At the moment, finishing any book will feel like an achievement!

Will I finish Les Miserables by the December 31st deadline?  I'm going to try, but I'm promising nothing!

10 comments:

  1. Great progress! I'm glad you like it because conquerring this tome is something that is still ahead for me personally so all kinds of encouragement is good to hear. It's good idea to keep a it of a journal when reading bigger pieces, I was thinking to do the same when reading War and Peace for example.

    I don't think it's bit deal even if you don't finish it by 31st because it would also be quite cool to be able to say that first book finished in 2014 is Les Miserables :)

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    1. War and Peace is still ahead of me! Les Mis is suprisingly easy to read, once you get past the unnecessarily detailed parts.
      I think it will be cool to say I have finished it at any point :)

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  2. The book is darker than the movie versions! I remember that, too, particularly the sufferings of poor Fantine. And the digressions can become a bit much -- I think it's okay to skip them! Things like the Waterloo section. I think it's fine to skip them, or at least skim.

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    1. I quite liked the Waterloo section, once I got past my initial "why is this here?" reaction!

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  3. Good idea to have some posts as you're progressing. I remember The Hunchback of Notre Dame having those out-of-nowhere digressions. They were such a slog. And as far as book to movie comparisons, well, the movie adaptation I knew was Disney and even as one of Disney's "darker" animated films, it still was way cheerier than the book.

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    1. Hmm, it must be a Hugo trademark then!

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  4. You reading Les Miserables is commendable. Once it is done, it will be like a bucket list ticked! Hang in there you will finish it in no time!

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  5. I'm glad you are enjoying Les Mis! It's definitely nice to break up such a big books with some shorter reads though. :)

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  6. Was Les Mis written serially? I know that's the case with some other overly long books, like Anna Karenina (which despite it's length I've read twice). I'm not sure I'll ever read Les Mis, though I've been thinking of tackling War & Peace for quite a while now.

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  7. Hang in there! You're doing well. You seem to be getting it. Don't worry about racing through for the 31st, just enjoy it. :)

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