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Les Misérables
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Past Group Reads > Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (Fantine)

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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Nov 01, 2012 09:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
This is for the discussion of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (Fantine).


message 2: by MBP (new) - added it

MBP I'm in! I realized this had been on my TBR list since I first saw the musical - 20 years ago! I guess it's time, especially with the movie coming out in Dec.

I have to admit, the first 50 pages got a bit tedious... I'm glad it's picked up a bit.


Listra (museforsaken) | 16 comments I know, Hugo is kind of slow in the beginning. I always think that his main concern in writing the 5 volumes is not Jean's story at all. But it's an amazing journey through the lowest caste of human being in that era.


message 4: by Silver (new) - added it

Silver After reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame I was a bit hesitant to read more of Hugo, not that I disliked the book really but I did find it was very tedious reading. But I have been wanting to read this one so I figured I would just jump in.

So far I have to say that I do find it easier going than I found Hunchback to be. One of the things of which I like better about this book, at least thus far is that it is more character driven. While Hunchback spent a lot of time focusing on physical landscape and scenery.

I also do appreciate the short chapters which I find make for easier reading particularly in longer books.

Thus far I am really enjoying the character of the Bishop.


message 5: by Ryan (new)

Ryan (RCS9182) | 25 comments Hey guys, I'm finally able to jump into discussion! (Damn, Sandy!) In any case, I am absolutely loving the read so far. It does have that traditional - very detailed - Hugo way of writing. He is meticulous though I'm not sure it bothers me as much as Melville (I'm just remembering that lengthy chapter in Moby Dick about whales). I think in the case of Les Mis, context is going to be extremely important. If the reader isn't familiar with the Revolution, Napoleon and the events that surrounded it that have contributed to the atmosphere of France in the late 18th/early 19th century, much of the story is going to be lost.


message 6: by MBP (new) - added it

MBP Ryan - I'm running into just that problem with the history. I just finished Book I: Fantine, and my minimal knowledge of the period was enough to get me through that. But Book II opens with a very detailed description of Waterloo, and I just don't have the background knowledge to appreciate it, and I'm afraid I'll miss too much in the novel if I don't fill in a few blanks. So Les Mis will have to wait - hopefully not for long - while I do some research.


message 7: by Ryan (new)

Ryan (RCS9182) | 25 comments MBP, that is what Wikipedia is for. :)

How does everyone feel about the character sketches of Jean Valjean and the Bishop? Obviously this novel is social discourse of France and Hugo is really trying to pound home the repercussions of the Revolution but I wonder if he is idealizing these two characters a bit TOO much to make point. I have no idea if any of this makes sense...it was just something that had occurred to me.


message 8: by Silver (new) - added it

Silver I have not yet finishing with this volume yet, but I have to say that thus far I have quite enjoyed the character sketches made of the Bishop and Jean Valjean.

I quite like the Bishop and I find him to be a delightful and rather amusing character and I think his uncommon goodness and humbleness make him in some ways quite refreshing.

I loved the entrance and Jean Valjean, and the mysterious and ominous air which was cast around him and of which makes him quite the intriguing character, and I look forward to getting to know more about him.

At this point in the story I do not feel that the idealizing of these characters has deterred or distracted from the story.


Listra (museforsaken) | 16 comments Oh yea, sure! The Bishop is the light of the volume. He is such an admirable character. Jean's life started when he met the old man, who told him to be an honest man.

About Idealising the characters, well, I think the Bishop is more like kindness personified, while Jean is more fallible. I like how Hugo shows Jean's emotional battle after he steals from the bishop and also when he's in doubt whether to save or not to save Champmatheau.


message 10: by Ryan (new)

Ryan (RCS9182) | 25 comments That's a good point. I wonder how the female characters will develop throughout the novel. Thus far we have just seen Fantine and the Bishop's sister - both of whom seem to be very complacent figures. I will be curious to see if a stronger female presence will emerge.

Also, on that same topic...Hugo's characters seem to rest on either end of the spectrum as far as virtuous or condemnable figures.


Listra (museforsaken) | 16 comments Ryan wrote: "Also, on that same topic...Hugo's characters seem to rest on either end of the spectrum as far as virtuous or condemnable figures."

It is easy to say that the Bishop is on the 'virtuous' end of the spectrum, as Jean, also in this volume, while we can put Fantine's lover on the 'condemnable' group of the characters. But there are characters that intrigue me such as Javert. I cannot call him either virtuous or condemnable. He's neither black nor white. His action is just 'understandable'.

I also think that if Jean didn't save Champmatheau his decision could be counted as 'understandable', not wrong, because his selfish motive is also mixed with the noble one.


message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 1 comments I am totally intimidated by this book but am going to read it anyway before the movie opens.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "I am totally intimidated by this book but am going to read it anyway before the movie opens."

It's broken up by books and chapters so it doesn't feel like you are reading a long book.

I am reading slow but will comment later!


message 14: by MBP (new) - added it

MBP Help - I need encouragement! Finished Fantine, and am stuck in the beginning of Cosette, with the flashback to the Battle of Waterloo. I did look up the history so I'm not totally lost, but I'm having trouble getting back into it. Every other book on my TBR list seems more compelling right now...


Listra (museforsaken) | 16 comments Is it time to move to Cosette thread discussion? Amazing and heart-touching volume.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Listra wrote: "Is it time to move to Cosette thread discussion? Amazing and heart-touching volume."

Feel free to start commenting whenever you get to the next section. Some people may be waiting for someone else to start :)


message 17: by Jamie (last edited Nov 30, 2012 07:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
MBP wrote: "Help - I need encouragement! Finished Fantine, and am stuck in the beginning of Cosette, with the flashback to the Battle of Waterloo. I did look up the history so I'm not totally lost, but I'm h..."

I think since Listra said Cosette is amazing and heart touching you should definitely start reading it again. I do feel like I am looking up a lot but I think that adds to the experience!


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Im starting to really get into the book now. I want to learn more about Fantine and Jean.

Did anyone else notice a discrepancy with the age of her child. When the guys left the girls as their "surprise" the note said they had been together 2 years and Fantine gives her child away 10 months after the letter and the child is almost 3? It seems like the child should be 2 but the note could have meant 2 years and so many months? It just annoyed me :)


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I'm really getting into the book now. I think I will be able to actually get it done by the end of January :) I just finished the part where Jean exposes who he is at the trial. I think it was the right thing to do and I can't wait to find out what happens next!


message 20: by Silver (new) - added it

Silver Listra wrote: "Ryan wrote: "Also, on that same topic...Hugo's characters seem to rest on either end of the spectrum as far as virtuous or condemnable figures."

It is easy to say that the Bishop is on the 'virtuo..."


I find Javert is quite an interesting character because there is a sort of complexity in his seemingly simple-mindedness. While in some ways he may not appear as being very sympathetic, as he himself will not be moved by pity yet at the same time I find even if I feel sorry for others such as Fantine, I have to admit that Javert is not truly wrong in his actions. The law should not be subjective. A person being unfortunate should not be an excuse if they commit a crime.

He believes in an absolute justice. He is not corrupt and he does not act out of malice, purely out of his own perception of right and wrong, and he is not a hypocrite.

I quite liked his quote toe the Mayor, when he turned himself in for his own actions. "Kindness is easy, Justice is hard"

He holds himself to the same standards of which he holds everyone else to.


Listra (museforsaken) | 16 comments Silver wrote: "Listra wrote: "Ryan wrote: "Also, on that same topic...Hugo's characters seem to rest on either end of the spectrum as far as virtuous or condemnable figures."

It is easy to say that the Bishop is..."


I agree completely. That's why Javert is so interesting because his actions are right by law. I think by putting Javert there, Hugo is trying to show us the limitation of 'the law of men'. That rigid law, although well-executed, even by an upright man such as Javert, fails to change men (as Jean Valjean) to be better. It's not Javert's fault, it's the system's fault. Javert just executes the law, just as a computer executes a line of code.

Javert gains my love when he says the sentence that you quoted. He's ready to be treated in the same way as he treats others. I respect him for that.

(It's so hard for me not to give spoilers here.)


message 22: by Silver (new) - added it

Silver Listra wrote: "Silver wrote: "Listra wrote: "Ryan wrote: "Also, on that same topic...Hugo's characters seem to rest on either end of the spectrum as far as virtuous or condemnable figures."

It is easy to say tha..."


Yes I think you may have a point. That Hugo is stating while the law itself is not wrong nor a bad thing, and has its place, at the same time it is not the law which can change or redeem men. It was an act of kindness of which transformed Jean Valjean into becoming a better person.

And I think that because Javert is such an inflexible person himself, as he would insist upon being treated as hard as he treated others when he has made a perceived wrong, he is unable to accept the fact that men are capable of change.


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