This book is an epic endeavour and should be considered as a long term project. Hugo’s musings and observations explore the impact of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic years and restoration of the monarchy. A chapter a day for a year! Anyone familiar with the theatre play or film has to be patient before identifying the adaptations whilst reading the original story. There is an expansive introduction before the entrance of the first of the recognised characters of Jean Valjean, Cosette and Inspector Javert. The author sums up his writing style in Book 2, Chapter 11, when he wishes to make ‘the circuit of this … to consider under all its aspects’. When Hugo devotes ‘a few words’ prepare yourself for a full chapter of emotive character analysis even for the most minor of characters. Les Miserables is two books combined as one. Amongst the chapters of philosophical debate is an encyclopaedic account of the battle of Waterloo and a love story set in the midst of the French Revolution. Due to the sheer volume of words it would take a very alert mind with supreme concentration powers to identify the relevance of each philosophical discussion to the storyline. One exception to this may be where the discussion added depth to the transformation of young Marius from aristocrat to republican.
The topic does not allow for much humour so the rare glimpses as supplied by the inn-keeper’s wife are welcomed when the reader is encouraged to imagine this female ‘who is not a woman’ but ‘the product of a wench engrafted on a fishwife’. Based on the aftermath of Waterloo and the downfall of Napoleon there are constant references to the revolutions of 1789 until 1815 and its effect on France. Although Hugo’s musings are enlightening as to contemporary perceptions should a reader know nothing of these events there is little wider historiography of the period. However, the reader is assured that neither military nor divine right can be stronger than the nation’s desire. It is a regret that modern adaptations omit the burial scenes of Mother Crucifixion. Defiance of authorities by an unsuspecting Mother Superior allows our hero to depart unknown from a convent only for the perfect plan to lead to comic tragedy. In addition, the chapters that extol the virtuous but tragic Fantine and the rescue of the much maligned child Cosette are the most engrossing. This epic and its author have earned their place in literary fame, not for ther challenge of the reading, but for providing a wealth of material for ongoing discussions.
Homecoming Scotland 2014Are you one of the 50 million people around the globe who can claim Scottish roots? Are you visiting Scotland during 2014 to experience the culture and heritage or for one of the many sports events? Perhaps you just want to see the country whose people gave the world so many of its inventions; television, penicillin, tarmac, tyres, radio signals, Dolly the Sheep and Grand Theft Auto to name just a few.