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!