Based on the strong recommendation of Rose, my second favorite college student, and the only one I know who is an English major at Cal, I have started reading Les Miserables.
The back of the book informs me that “Many of the characters are well known: Valjean… Javert… Fantine… Cosette… Thenardier… Gavroche.” Seventy pages in, I have met none of these people. Les Miserables is a long book.
Anna Karenina is also a long book, which several summers ago, I read, thinking that the very act of plodding through it would somehow make me a better person. No. That’s a lie. I read it so that I could say that I read it. And, look here. I’m doing just that.
I read Anna Karenina.
Well. Okay. This may be another lie. I did not read ALL of it. Every other chapter was a political treatise about farmers or poor people or something. They were very boring, and had nothing ot do with the plot. So, after the first third of the book, I started skipping those chapters. Honestly, I’m sure that Socialist propaganda was written for somebody, but it wasn’t me.
I read 2/3 of Anna Karenina.
I mention Anna Karenina only as contrast. Les Miserables is actually very good. Well, so far. The book, at least the edition which I am reading, is twelve hundred pages long. I suspect that the seventy that I have read thus far are, for the most part, a digression, (Can one digress before one has begun?) having little bearing on the plot. But, I don’t care. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting Monseigneur Myriel, the Bishop of Digne. Victor Hugo is very insightful and witty. And the language (even in translation) is poetic.
A few of my favorite quotes:
“A dowager, one of those ladies who mistake audacity for wit…”
“Success is an ugly thing. Men are deceived by its false resemblance to merit.”