Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 1: Fantine


I am surprisingly enjoying my read the past week.  Surprising because the first couple of times I’ve picked this up, I’ve never got beyond the Bishop.  I think maybe the glass of wine / honeymead I consumed each reading session helped?  I don’t normally drink and I can safely say, that I’ve probably drank more the past week than I have last year… LOL.  As I was saying to hubby, ‘It’s set in France… France – Wine, am I reaching a bit far, do you think?’

In my ‘Introduction’, Lee Fahnestock commented that ‘Hugo conceived of the book as the story of a saint, a man, a woman, and a little girl.’

What do you think of Bishop Myriel?  He’s definitely described as being truly saintly; I’m wondering if there’s any pessimistic reader out there?

He would talk like that, gravely and paternally, inventing parables when he lacked examples, going straight to the point with a few phrases and a lot of images, with the very eloquence of Christ, convincing and persuasive.

For me, I really do admire him and wish that I could be like him! One thing is for sure, I would probably be happier with life if I’m not so attached to many material things.  However, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t struggling with some things though – although, ‘struggle’ is probably too strong a word. We still see him ‘learning’ things at times – like finally letting go of the silvers (the last luxury items he had held onto for so long) etc.

For those of you who are reading this for the first time, was there any assumptions you have made previously from whatever source which was just incorrect?  Was there anything which surprises you from the past week’s readings?

I somehow assumed that Fantine’s lover was a sailor or something like that – who knows why… that was a wacky assumption on my part!  And he turned out to be some snooty bratty rich dude!  Who, by the by, was not impressive at all – balding with bad teeth!  Okay, so his appearance obviously wasn’t what he has going for him…

According to Wikipedia, there are some differences in the musical:

  • Rather than being fired for being an unwed mother, a fellow female worker steals her letter from the Thénardiers claiming another need for money; the worker presumes that she is a prostitute to cover her debts with the low wages. Valjean sees this, but leaves this to his foreman; the foreman, his advances having been rejected by Fantine, fires her.
  • Fantine also does not appear to be illiterate as when the foreman hands her the letter from the Thénardiers she is able to read it just as well as anyone else.
  • Fantine dies peacefully in hospital with Valjean at her side after entrusting him with Cosette; Javert never reveals Valjean’s true identity to her, as he arrives after her death.

And Javert!!  I always thought of him as truly mean!  But reading his background made me understand just how circumstances made him into such a hard man.  He is pitiable not only because of his background but that he’s not been able to preserve his humanity – the compassion for others.

What do you think of the contrast between Javert & Valjean?

Valjean did not have an easy childhood himself nor did he have an easy time as an adult being incarcerated to begin with and then ostracized for being a parolee and yet… a kindness granted him a new lease of life!  A kindness which drives him to compassions towards others.

Whether true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence on their lives, and particularly on their destinies, as what they do.

Does this provoke a serious review on your attitude towards others?  A little kindness on our part to others (like giving up a seat on the train even!) may make that much of a difference to others.

“The Infinite exists. It is there.  If the infinite had no me, the me would be its limit; it would not be the infinite; in other words, it would not be.  But it is.  Then it has a me.  This me of the infinite is God.”

Over to you!  What has been the high point for you this week?  Any quote/s which bowled you over this week?

By the way, I am actually away for the weekend (playing camp parents at a youth camp) and I think internet connection may be patchy at best, so I’ll get back to you after the weekend!  Have a fantastic one, everybody!

I have this song in my head whilst I’m typing this post, so… does anyone remember this?

Post being edited to include links to other posts:

The Dead Authors Club

Half-Filled Attic

Love Notes in Library Books

Recipes for a Better World


13 thoughts on “Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 1: Fantine

  1. Christine

    Thank you for the discussion questions. I am really enjoying Les Miserables! I posted a link to my blog post, but I’m not sure that it took.

  2. Lisa Sachs

    I am also enjoying Les Miserables but I’m having difficulty accessing the linky to be able to add my blog to the discussion and to see what everyone else wrote. Could you please tell us how to do this?

    1. Tien Post author

      Hi Lisa,
      Just click on the ‘mister linky’ image and it should open a page where you can see links to other blog posts and a little form where you can type in your name & URL to link up.
      I hope that helps 🙂

  3. novareylin

    OH my god!! Just saw this! I have some catching up to do! Totally can not wait especially since I just saw the Christmas trailer. I mean be still my heart, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe AND the almighty and most wonderful Hugh Jackman! Christmas present in itself! YAY!!!

  4. girl a

    Added my post to the links! It turned out a bit wordy…lol. but this book makes me think a lot. One thing that really strikes me is that some things haven’t changed much since Hugo’s time. (eg. Fantine’s situation)

    1. Tien Post author

      Seeing the issues Hugo are tackling, I don’t see how it couldn’t be wordy LOL

      Thanks for your thoughts – I love reading people’s perspectives 🙂

  5. Lisa Sachs

    I have tried doing what you said, but I still can’t access the opinions of the others in the read-along. I don’t see any linky picture when I try to access it. I’d love to hear whatever anyone else has to say about the book. Maybe you could put some link to them under comments here.

  6. Elli D.

    I am looking forward to see the movie, the cast is remarkable and although I haven’t seen anything by the director (not even King’s speech, I am ashamed), I believe that he and his cast are able to give life to the great work of Victor Hugo. The one thing that I am a bit concerned with is the transcription of all the descriptions of Paris’ architecture and atmosphere, since Hugo devoted a large part of the book to it.

  7. Pingback: Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 4: Saint-Denis | Tien's Blurb

  8. Pingback: Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 5: Jean Valjean | Tien's Blurb

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