Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 2: Cosette


I was truthfully quite bored at the beginning of this volume.  50+ pages dedicated to describe the Battle of Waterloo from which Hugo is making a point but it bores me because most of the names & places mean nothing to me.  It might actually makes a difference if I know some of these characters & places. I get it that it was a glorious war – great & cunning generals were involved, weather affecting outcomes, and even Lady Luck played a role.  But in the end, Napoleon was crushed and grave robbers took the spoils – despite it all, nothing truly changes for the better…

The only thing I really liked about this part was how Hugo brought it back to the storyline with the appearance of Thénardier. I had to laugh as to just how ridiculous he is and the whole situation with Pontmercy.

Did you enjoy this tale of Battle of Waterloo?

Valjean could be James Bond seeing the way he was escaping prison.  He planned.  He waited for a good opportunity.  He wasted not a moment and whilst people are distracted he escaped and faked his death at the same time.  Unfortunately, I don’t think he’d made a very good spy [see below].  I loved the way he made his entrance into Cosette’s life (by carrying a too-heavy bucket for her out of the darkest of night).  And when, he picked up Cosette and she laid her head down on his shoulders… *awww* I am touched & entranced – this is trust… the beginning of love… 🙂  On another note, it’s surprising that Cosette retained some sincerity & faith in others noting her past 5 years with the Thénardiers.  Is the point that she is intrinsically a good person?

Thénardier still posed just as ridiculous and his corruptness made just the perfect foil for Valjean.  Didn’t you feel contempt at when he was trying to squeeze Valjean for all he can?  Or didn’t you smirk in triumph when Valjean put him back in his place by showing him Fantine’s note?  or snort when he even considered to tackle Valjean ’til he realised the size differences?  Despite all this ridicule or maybe because he is so ridiculous, I think I actually like this character!  LOL

How do you think Cosette remained to be such sweet child after all these years?

Valjean really needed to disappear and I supposed Paris was a good choice – lots of people there, right?  Will be easy to escape notice, right?  Well, it appears he cannot keep from being noticed due to his strange behaviour, “the stranger who gives alms”.  And then, when he was trying to escape from Javert, he doesn’t know where he’s going! It’s pretty obvious that he hasn’t charted a Plan B (Escape Route when Discovered). Definitely, not a spy material!  Still, his desperation in combination with his superhuman strength is the combo necessary to ensure his & Cosette’s safety.  And he climbed over an impossible wall for the haven on the other side.

Javert is truly a man Obsessed.  He will pursue Valjean not caring of the little girl implicated in his chase.  She is, to him, expendable.  He is ambitious and yet, cautious, in trying to ensure his success to be such that a promotion will be the undeniable result.  This is a man I can envision to be losing sleep as he hunted for his prey, unbending in his faith in the law and their systems.  How terrifying!

One wonders whether Javert has considered all and chose to place his absolute faith in The Law or whether he was in such desperate circumstances that he saw The Law as his only “escape route” and therefore, blinded to all other avenues by his self-imposed blinkers…

*sigh* and we had another tangentials to dwell in the Convent and the Church.  Not a very positive view this time around (in comparison to M. Myriel) yet it highlights the point where a system may be corrupt and yet, there are those with pure faith and in practice too.  Nevertheless, a convent is a perfect ‘retirement’ for Valjean – its seclusion from the world outside gave Valjean the sense of security and peace he has not previously (another chance at life).

I think there is a place in the world for convents – but unfortunately, the one we are particularly seeing in this book, is a very self-serving one.  One where you live in utter seclusion from the world, not being able to see your own relatives much less touch them affectionately.  This is utter tosh to me.  I believe that being children of God calls us to serve others and how can you serve anybody when you are living “outside” of the world?

What do you think life in a convent will be like for Cosette?  Especiall in a harsh one like the convent of Petit-Picpus?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this volume… do link up your post and it doesn’t work for you, leave a link on the comments 🙂

10 thoughts on “Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 2: Cosette


    Thanks for doing this Tien. You’ve posed some interesting questions and I’ve tried to link up to you with my answers. You can see them on 2012,The Issues of “Les Miserables” Live. I’d also like to see other peoples’ comments, but again I’m having technical difficulties.

  2. girl a

    Hey Tien, just letting you know I’m still reading this, just a bit behind. (Mostly stuck on his rambles about convents right now.)

  3. girl a

    I can’t keep up my blog due to work issues so I’ll just put my response here.

    This section felt like a transition/set-up section for later parts of the story. The rest of the book takes place in Paris so Hugo had to explain how the main characters got there. It wasn’t as enjoyable as the first part of the book. All of Hugo’s digressions in this section seemed rather extraneous (especially since, having read the book once before, I know how important or unimportant some of the things he talked about are to the rest of the plot). The Battle of Waterloo was a total snoozefest the first time I read it, but I actually got into it this time. A lot of his comments on the generals and Napoleon’s position as emperor(?) went over my head though, since I know little of French history.

    I did enjoy his comparison of convents and prisons though. Also, Tien, your comment about the convent giving Valjean another chance at life– it’s an apt point because in terms of the law, Valjean cannot be considered a real citizen because he’s a criminal and therefore outside of society (he would be in prison otherwise, which Hugo already established in the previous section as turning men into beasts, or something like that). At the same time, the convent isn’t truly a place of life either being disconnected from the outside world. But for Valjean, someone who is already outside of society and cannot truly live there anyway, it’s a place where he can keep living.

    As for Cossette, I think Hugo’s characters are meant to be symbols rather than real people because I feel like Cossette should have been a very different kind of child after going through what she did. In any case, Hugo doesn’t really explain her character all that well (for me, anyway). And although life at the convent will be harsh, I really don’t think it’s anything that Cossette wouldn’t be able to stand, considering her life with the Thenardiers.

    1. Tien Post author

      Paris & France seems to mean a lot to Hugo and I guess that’s why he made all these tangential / social commentary sections in the books. Like The Battle of Waterloo, it was a little bit hard to know who’s side he’s on to begin with and then you figured out that he likes a certain ideal but disagree on the violent methods.
      This volume definitely bores me a bit – I guess this is where an abridged version may be appreciated but I’m one of those who thinks that if you want to read it, you go for the real thing 😉
      Sounds like you’ve been real busy at work, girl a. I hope you’re still getting good rest in between 🙂

      1. girl a

        I heard that Victor Hugo’s other book The Hunchback of Notre Dame has even more rambles about Paris.. I guess his love for that city is just so great that he can’t edit himself down LOL
        Work has picked up lately but I’ve also been sick, which you’d think means I’d have time to stay home and read but it’s hard to concentrate. 😦

      2. Tien Post author

        Yes, I’ve heard the same on Hunchback! Apparently, Hugo just totally ADORES Paris 😉
        I hope you feel better soon – it really depends on what gets you down to be actually be able to read but this is a hard book to read whilst you’re sick!

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

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

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