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Les Misérables
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Les Miserables > Les Mis - Cosette, Books 1-2

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Dianne | 1272 comments Cosette, Book 1 - Waterloo - Was this just a very long digression from our story? It was a fascinating narrative but I wasn't sure how it connected with the plot. Hugo goes into great detail about the role of fate, God, weather, random chance in Napoleon's defeat. The only link seems to be when the squirrely Thenardier, robbing dead bodies in the battle of their valuables, is suddenly stopped by a man he presumed was dead, and this man thinks that Thenardier saved his life.


Dianne | 1272 comments Cosette, Book 2 - The Ship Orion

As you would expect, rumors are flying about Jean Valjean and all kinds of crazy tales abound, including that he was Fantine's lover. Thenardier learns from a road-mender that a former prison comrade has entered the forest. The narrator then advises the reader of an article about the warship Orion in which a prisoner fell off the ship and barely had a hold of the foot rope. A prisoner offered to try to save him, and did so, but then fell into the water and was presumed drowned. That prisoner was supposedly Jean Valjean.


Roman Clodia Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 1 - Waterloo - Was this just a very long digression from our story?"

I thought so, at first, but, like Moby Dick, I think we need to assume that everything is here for a reason...

There's something about dates: in Cosette, Book 2, ch 1 ('No.24601 becomes No.9430') we learn that JV was first sentenced in 1796, we know he was imprisoned for 19 years so that takes us up to 1815, the year of Waterloo. JV is released in the same year that Napoleon falls and is exiled.

We're also told that Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon 'is considered the triumph of counter-revolution' (Cosette, Bk 1, ch.17), that Waterloo is 'the date of the confounding of liberty' (ibid.).

So JV is released from prison in precisely the year that the social progress of the Revolution is halted, even reversed. This doesn't bode well for JV and the other non-aristocratic 'misérables' - and we've already seen how JV can't catch a break, and the process of 'justice' that almost caught Champmathieu.

So while Hugo is a bit self-indulgent here, I think he's setting the political background to his story and sketching in the social values that get overturned with Napoléon and which enable the fates of people like JV.


Roman Clodia Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 2 - The Ship Orion"

Worth noting that this is the opening scene of the recent film, I seem to remember.


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I'm struggling a bit with the Waterloo chapters. I don't really like reading descriptions of battles in any book. I am sure it must be important so I will persevere in small chunks.

Roman- Thanks for the note about the dates. I tend to miss a lot of these things, particularly with a first read of such an in depth book (I haven't seen the film or musical either)


Roman Clodia Yes, Heather, Hugo does make us work a bit! There might well be other things going on which I've missed.

The next section looks like it gets back to Cosette and JV - I'm trying very hard not to read ahead!


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 1 - Waterloo - Was this just a very long digression from our story? It was a fascinating narrative but I wasn't sure how it connected with the plot. Hugo goes into great detail about ..."

Cetology! Or the white chapter. I actually didn't care much for Hugo's description of the battle, but that may be because I'm into American Revolutionary history, written in a more modern style. I have a problem with place names throughout the book, partly because I don't know them, but partly because of redundancy. Seems like he says Austerlitz a lot.

But this chapter is important to the rest of the story - very important, indeed. I'm 85% finished with the book. What happens later means nothing without this chapter. What I mean is, this chapter sets up most of the rest of the story.

I loved the Orion chapter. It was exciting.


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That’s good to know, Humingbirder. I will push on with the battle chapter although I’m not sure how much I will remember! I’m looking forward to getting back to the story!


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Heather wrote: "That’s good to know, Humingbirder. I will push on with the battle chapter although I’m not sure how much I will remember! I’m looking forward to getting back to the story!"

You'll remember what's important. I promise.


Dianne | 1272 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 1 - Waterloo - Was this just a very long digression from our story?"

I thought so, at first, but, like Moby Dick, I think we need to assume that everything is here for..."


agree, I definitely think it will help to set the stage. Apart from the same story, it really is quite a horrific tale, and Hugo tells it well. I'd be interested to read more about the battle and see if the role of providence played as large of a role as Hugo implies.


Dianne | 1272 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 2 - The Ship Orion"

Worth noting that this is the opening scene of the recent film, I seem to remember."


Good to know! Thinking about this section again, do you think the drop into the sea was intentional? I have to think it was! Still, even if he masterminded his escape I think he would have saved the sailor in distress even if he did not have a chance to flee.


Dianne | 1272 comments Heather wrote: "I'm struggling a bit with the Waterloo chapters. I don't really like reading descriptions of battles in any book. I am sure it must be important so I will persevere in small chunks.

Roman- Thanks..."


Heather I just finished the next section and it is great! I'll probably be posting for each week on saturdays (today) because the monday thing is just too hectic for me. So hopefully you will enjoy that next section more!


Dianne | 1272 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Yes, Heather, Hugo does make us work a bit! There might well be other things going on which I've missed.

The next section looks like it gets back to Cosette and JV - I'm trying very hard not to r..."


It's a great section! I have to open the threads so I don't reveal anything!


Dianne | 1272 comments Hummingbirder wrote: "Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 1 - Waterloo - Was this just a very long digression from our story? It was a fascinating narrative but I wasn't sure how it connected with the plot. Hugo goes into grea..."

wow you are zooming through hummingbirder that's great! By the way, what is the update with your condo - did you find one?


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Dianne wrote: "Hummingbirder wrote: "Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 1 - Waterloo - Was this just a very long digression from our story? It was a fascinating narrative but I wasn't sure how it connected with the plo..."

I didn't think I'd get so far ahead. We have a list of properties we want to see and will travel soon to buy one, we hope.


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I found the second half of the Waterloo digression a bit more interesting but I was relieved to get back to the story

In the second chapter, I was struck by the relevance of some of the things Hugo is saying to issues today. Firstly the newspaper articles which really don’t tell the true story strike me as ‘fake news’. Secondly when Hugo is listing the cost of the ceremonial cannon fire when the ship comes to port. He says ‘At six francs a shot, that means that nine hundred thousand francs a day, or three hundred million a year, goes up in smoke. This is just a detail. And while this is going on, the poor are dying of hunger’

It’s interesting because both these sentiments are discussed in the world now and are still relevant


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments Good point, Heather. Hasn't changed, has it?


Renee | 23 comments The Waterloo chapter, while veering from the story was fascinating to read. I loved the way Hugo told the story, and would be interested to know if any of that was embellished a bit for the story, or how much of a role fate, and chance played in Napoleon's defeat. The only thing I could see coming back later would be the last part with Thenardier looting the bodies, and finding one of them still alive, Pontmercy.


Renee | 23 comments Dianne wrote: "Roman Clodia wrote: "Dianne wrote: "Cosette, Book 2 - The Ship Orion"

Worth noting that this is the opening scene of the recent film, I seem to remember."

Good to know! Thinking about this sectio..."


I definitely think it was intentional. It was interesting how it was pointed out that nobody noticed how easily he broke the chain around his ankle until after he disappeared. I have to agree with you that I think he would have saved him anyways even if it didn't afford him an opportunity to escape. The Bishop changed him, and he thinks of helping others more now than he did when he was first released. I thinkg that's one of the reasons for all his internal struggle from the previous book.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments I think he did save him anyway. He had probably been thinking of ways to escape, including pretending to fall overboard. But once this opportunity presented itself and the shackles were removed, he could have "fallen" overboard without saving the man. He risked his life anyway.


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Bron (bron23) | 49 comments Well I am still here but even further behind! This thing called life gets seriously in the way of reading sometimes! I enjoyed the section about Waterloo in that I really knew nothing about the battle other than the outcome so it was informative. However I was glad to get back into the story.


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