I’ve been reading Les Miserables for half a year now, and it’s been a very interesting experience. I fall behind a few chapters occasionally, but it’s not hard to catch up when the chapters are usually so short. At times it’s hard to stop when the action gets exciting, but I feel it’s a good practice to limit myself to one daily dose. The way Hugo shapes his chapters lends itself to this kind of reading. Each chapter is really a self-contained unit, and though they come in thematic or narrative streams at times, it feels right to give each one a whole day to experience and process it.
Some of the long philosophical or historical sections interrupt the flow of the narrative and stall the forward movement, making me impatient to know what happens next. I get a little weary of this sometimes, but not enough to stop reading.
In the story, after an exciting escape from the horrible Thenardiers, a dramatic chase by the fanatic Inspector Javert, and a brush with being buried alive, the convict Valjean and his adopted daughter Cosette have managed to hide themselves away in a Paris convent. The perspective has now shifted with the third part, “Marius,” named after the new character who has just been introduced. He’s bringing in some new elements, and as they start to come together with those we know already, the final conflict is already being prepared.
It occurs to me that the year has now also turned with the summer solstice; after a time of up-building and growth we are moving toward darkness, toward a decisive confrontation with the evil that lurks in the human heart. But this also brings a chance to connect with the light that still shines within, if we have the courage to do so. Hugo’s massive novel mirrors this development, another reason it seems appropriate to read it over an entire year.
If you are reading along, how is it going? Or if you’ve read this book before, what was your experience? How did you feel at the halfway point?