Tuesday, March 27, 2018


On March 11, 2018 I officially finished the first section titled "Fantine" of Hugo's massive tome.  As a reminder, I am taking part in the Les Misérables one-Chapter-a-Day Read-along hosted by Nick over at One Catholic Life.   I have to admit, I haven't always stuck to the one-chapter a day format: occasionally I read more than one chapter a day and on some days no chapter at all.  But I am pretty much pacing myself and so when I do read ahead or have to catch up, it is only two or three chapters at a time.  

And I admit, I really am enjoying this slow way of reading. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't remember earlier events, but I think I am actually remembering more than I usually would because of the slower pace. Go figure!

The story so far is pretty great. I had never read Hugo before but he certainly reminds me of Dickens in his use of the novel as a form of social criticism and an appeal to the reader for social justice and compassion. Also, characters like the terrible Mme and M. Thénardier are very "Dickensian"  in their depiction. I suspect, however, that using the novel as a form of social criticism was the thing to do in the mid-nineteenth century in Europe. I don't mean to suggest that Hugo was influenced by Dickens or vice-versa.

I am not going to give a plot summery here, but I had certain expectations entering into this book based on its reputation and bits and pieces that I have picked up without having ever read it or having seen a full adaptation of it. It has been interesting in reading first third of the story to see where my assumptions are wrong, such as the majority of the the story takes place (so far) outside of Paris, how Fantine and Jean Valjean meet, etc. 

Now I am knee deep in the next section, named after Fantine's daugther: "Cosette". Allons-y mes amis!

Monday, March 12, 2018

BACK TO THE CLASSICS 2018: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

For the Back to Classics Challenge 2018 hosted by Karen at the blog Books and Chocolate  category  20th Century Classic” I chose Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.   My reason for this title over many others was due to the fact that it is short and it is included on the Modern Library’s list of the  best 100 novels of the 20th century that I have been working my way through since 1998.

Winesburg, Ohio  is a collection of  vignettes (they are not short stories in my opinion) about certain residents of a small Ohio town in the late 1800’s, just before economy and society  moves from farming to factories.    As indicated in the first section of the book, “The Book of the Grotesque” the characters portrayed are shown in a very exaggerated, distorted way which often focuses on the unpleasant; those aspects of a person that one usually keeps hidden.

I am certainly glad to be able to tick this book off my list, but I didn’t really like it.  As short as it was, I found it difficult to read about such unhappy people over and over.  Almost everyone is yearning to escape and connect. But even those who do escape ultimately end up back in Winesburg. There are few happy exceptions.   People determined to finally express themselves lack the courage when finally faced with the opportunity.

Anderson’s writing has many admirers, Hemingway and Faulkner among them as I discovered n the introduction by Irving Howe in the Dover Thrift edition that I read.   But I found the description of the characters’ unhappiness and their expression of despair to be pretty unvaried as the book wore on.