Sunday, June 3, 2012

Les Miserables, VIctory Hugo - Post 2 {Cosette}

Quick note - so sorry this is a week late!  I actually started writing it last weekend but came down with a crazy stomach bug.  So much still had to get done (a big grad project and 3 concerts!), and they did get done despite how horrible I was feeling.  Post #2 got put on the back burner until things settled.  Sorry about that!

Time for post #2 in the Les Miserables readalong of 2012!  If you're following the schedule, you're at the end of Part 2, "Cosette".  As I said at the end of Part 1, don't feel behind if you're not at this point in the story yet.  You have a whole year, after all!  I'll include a linky below if you wish to link your own post.  If you're participating and don't want to post or don't have a blog feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.  Also, you should know that since this is a fairly well-known story I'm not being shy about the spoilers!  Oh, and you may want to read some thoughts on Part 1 - Fantine!

There are a few sections that appear in "Cosette".  We open with "Waterloo", which I have to admit was my least favorite part.  I blame this completely on Tolstoy.  Although I adored War and Peace, I'm still a little burned out on anything Napoleon.  I will say I found it absolutely chilling when I came to the realization that it was Thenardier looting the dead bodies.  

Before the story can progress, Valjean needs to rescue Cosette.  As I noticed in Part 1, there are moments of complete darkness contrasted with points of light.  I found it heart-wrenching to read about Cosette living with the Thenardiers.  How can someone be capable of treating a child so poorly?  What kind of society sees this happening in their neighborhood and remains silent?  Cosette walking home with her water bucket - literally in the dark - seemed so desperate until Valjean's hand reached over and helped her.  I loved seeing him baffle the Thenardiers not only with his kindness, but with the loose way he parted with his money.  Seeing him bring her out of that hellhole was one of the brightest moments of the story so far.
The fact that Valjean takes Cosette to a slum - and that she's happy! - says a lot about her previous situation.  I'll never forget that moment when Valjean realizes Javert is there in the old Gorbeau slum hunting him.  Another chilling moment.  The way he escapes into the convent is amazing.  You can only imagine how Javert responds to being eluded like this.  
I know Petit-Picpus is their safe haven.  I know.  I just can't get past the feeling that it's a miserable place.  Maybe it's because I find nuns to be slightly creepy?  Or that ritual and rigidity rule in that environment?  I don't know what it is, but as happy as I was to see Valjean and Cosette find a place where they can slip under the radar (for what could be years?) I was mourning for Cosette at the same time.  Up until this point she had experienced no happiness.  From this point on while living in this environment, she will not experience the same kind of happiness that others experience.  Time (and more pages read) will tell I suppose.
The manner in which Valjean "officially" arrives (as opposed to his original arrival) was really interesting to read.  Of course I knew that Valjean would survive - but had I not known I would have been a little more on the edge of my seat.  (Okay, I was already was, and I knew the outcome!)  
Some overall thoughts almost 500 pages in... fantastic writing that is accessible this many years later.  Once again, I'm really happy with my translation by Julie Rose.  
I was watching the trailer (!!!) to Les Miserables with Dennis (he's never read it), and he commented that it seemed like an amazingly depressing story.  I thought about this because, yes, there is much that shows despair.  But there are beautiful kindnesses, and I think they are all the more beautiful considering what they are surrounded by.  I'm still in love with this book.  I continue to be more and more convinced it will be part of my lifetime top 10.  
See you at the end of Book 3 (on or around July 22)!

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