One of my resolutions for 2013 is to read the French historical novel Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. I was inspired by the recently released film, and thought that it would be a good project to start off the year. It may keep me busy for the next twelve months. There are 365 chapters, and although they are relatively short, the entire novel fills about 1500 pages. If I can manage to read at least a chapter a day, I will finish the book by the end of this year.
So far I have read the first three chapters; I am ahead of schedule. It’s always more fun to share an experience with others, so I am going to blog about my progress and thoughts as I read this lengthy novel. I invite you to join me at any time. This virtual book club will be a regular feature of the blog.
The first volume of the book (there are five volumes in all) is Fantine. The first book of this volume, A Just Man, contains fourteen chapters, and they detail the background and life of Monseigneur Myriel. I have discovered in the first three chapters that the Bishop is a determined man. He is dedicated to do as much good in the world as possible.
When the story unfolds, the Bishop is already an elderly man. We are not told very much about his younger days, but he is from a noble family, and lives with his sister and a female servant. He was married, and left the country during the period of the revolution, but returned to France after the death of his wife as a man of the cloth. His character is immediately understood to be self-sacrificing when he exchanges his home in a palace with the humble building of the adjacent hospital, because there are so many in one and so few in the other.
This French historical novel was originally published in 1862. The translation that I downloaded from Amazon is easy to read. Victor Hugo wrote meticulously to paint a vivid picture of his characters.