Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 5: Jean Valjean


Whoopee!!  Yipee!!  Horray!!  It is done!  It is finished!

The best volume in the whole novel, I believe.  Or at least, one that entertained me most.  The suspense of the barricade, Valjean’s roller coaster mood, and of course, it is when all converged into one glorious ending.

There were a couple of tangential thoughts but not as many as the previous volumes nor as ponderous.  The history of Parisian sewerage, whilst not to my taste, was interesting to note.

Marius, unable to secure his grandfather’s assistance for marriage, could not find Cosette.  She has gone away and life means nothing to him now.  He looks to his death at the barricade.  However, Fate conspires to prevent his death.  Firstly through Eponine (what a heroine!) then Valjean (with Titanian strength and courage).  Marius is definitely a product of the period so whilst I understood the reasoning behind his thoughts, that did not help me in liking him one little bit.  This was mostly due to his cold attitude towards Valjean after his confession.  I kept thinking of the good bishop (M.Myriel) and why Marius can’t be a little like him after all Valjean has done (even in secret) – is he blind as well as dense?!?! (okay, I admit being a little insensible with anger)

I found that I utterly dislike Cosette.  So she’s young (19).  So she’s led a very very sheltered life.  So both Marius and Valjean and everybody thinks she’s an angel.  From the little I’ve read (there really wasn’t much of her), she’s a silly little wench -superficial, easily distracted, timid, unthinking, etc (I think I had better stop now).

Valjean was heart broken to find out that Cosette’s heart no longer belongs to him only.  She loves another with the passion of a woman.  Despite his heartbreak, he wants only one thing: for Cosette to be happy.  With all the strength he has left, he made it all happen: rescued Marius from the barricade, arranged for the couple to marry (without any possible blemish to be found on the security of this institution), and ensuring the future financially.  His sacrifice was complete – he gave his all for the light of his life to continue to shine.

Javert  excites my pity, Thénardier makes me huffed with exasperation and I can only shake my head at the antics of M. Gillenormand.  Despite my disliking Marius and Cosette, Valjean’s light shone ever so brightly.  A beginning full of suspense and action, a middle thick with disappointment and angst, completed with an ending to beautifully crafted -everything packaged neatly into an un-labelled box.

7 thoughts on “Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 5: Jean Valjean

  1. Listra

    What I like about Jean Valjean is that he is just a normal human being like us. He’s not as angelic as Myriel perhaps, but he tries his best to do what is right. He sacrifices a lot for something that actually is not really his duty. He loves someone who has no link with him whatsoever. Despite everything, including some decisions I can’t agree with, Jean has my respect, pity, love, and admiration. He is such a wonderful character.

    Can’t wait to write a review for December 1st.

    1. Tien Post author

      Ah but, Listra, whilst Myriel’s past wasn’t quite disclosed in full to us, I think there were inferences that it wasn’t as clean as its wont to be 😉 So whilst he was angelic – probably he doesn’t struggle or have too much to struggle with as Valjean. In which case, it probably makes Valjean the superhuman angel! I agree that Valjean is probably one of the most wonderful character ever.

      1. Listra T (@museforsaken)

        Yes, indeed Jean is a wonderful person. (Can I kidnap him and take him as my papa?) Yet I feel that Hugo wants to emphasise that it’s not easy at all to be a good person, but even a normal human being with all the conflicts inside him can strive to do what is right, no matter what other people say. (By the way, I have scheduled the final post. 😀 )

      2. Tien Post author

        Hey Listra, thanks so much for accompanying me on this read along! It’s a monster but I’m so glad to have read it this year 🙂

      3. Tien Post author

        Listra, thanks so much for accompanying me in reading Les Mis -it’s definitely one I’m glad to have read! yay 🙂

  2. Lisa Sachs

    I agree that this section did bring everything to closure. It was interesting to me that we were still reading about people in that time and place. Jean Valjean ultimately did not fully forgive himself for having been a prisoner [for having stolen a loaf of bread.] Marius, now a married man, has resumed his class privileges and all the attitudes that go with them. To me, Cosette remains oblivious to all the major politico-social issues swirling around them. Weren’t there women fighting behind the barricades? This is just my preliminary comment. I’ll let you know when I have my blog entry up about this.

    1. Tien Post author

      Were they really women fighting behind the barricade? I don’t think so… Eponine was there in the guise of a young boy and the rest of the crew seemed to be men / boys.
      Cosette was too much cosseted by Valjen then Marius that she really has not a clue, the poor thing!


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