Before we talk about Victor Hugo, I wanted to share a bit about why we’re reading this book…
When we sit down to choose the books for the year, we (Gwynne, Sarah R. and I) come together with our own lists of what we want to read during the year and try to mesh them while keeping a good amount of variety and challenging ourselves. I told them I felt we needed to go big this year. We needed to read one of the big guns. And I wanted it to be French. (It was either that or a big Russian book, and none of us really wanted to go there :D) We picked Les Miserables in particular because it is such a classic, AND because it’s being made into a movie- yet again- this year. Lucky for us, the trailer came out recently. Take a peek:
Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Amanda Seyfriend. WHAT. and it’s directed by the guy who made The King’s Speech. I am so excited! We might just have to make it a book club event 🙂
So, Victor Hugo. What an interesting man. His life would be an excellent soap opera. His parents ended up on two different sides of the political drama. His mother’s lover was arrested (at his mother’s house) and executed for his role in said drama. His brother went insane at Victor’s wedding (because he, too, loved the bride) and never recovered. Three of his children died before he did, and the only survivor was institutionalized for more than 30 years for insanity. He and his wife were separated and each had long-term extramarital affairs- his wife with Victor’s best friend. He was always political, but transitioned from his mother’s Royalist leanings to being an advocate for a republic. He was exiled for 19 years for his political activity. During his exile, he spent some time involved in seances that had a significant impact on his opinions and beliefs for the rest of his life. He also wrote Les Miserables during his time in exile. Upon returning from exile, he was elected to the Senate on at least two separate occasions.
Despite all the eventfulness of a lifetime, he is revered. Seriously. He’s considered a Saint in the Vietnamese religion of Cao Dai. The French consider him one of their best poets. The world recognizes him for his efforts on behalf of the poor. His two major novels are well-known and continue to inspire (Les Miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris aka: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He campaigned world-wide against the death penalty resulting in changed policy in Geneva, Portugal, and Columbia. He attempted to save the lives of John Brown (USA abolitionist) and emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, but failed. However he was successful in saving the lives of 6 Irish terrorists in the United Kingdom. He even played a role in the development of the copyright, and while he never pursued it as a career, his drawings are fascinating.
I am currently not very far into the book. I am GOING to finish it before our meeting or I’m sure Sarah and Gwynne will have my head for putting it on the list and not finishing it! Haha. But 57 pages in, I know it will be worth the effort. So we’ll see you there! At our yearly picnic? Thursday June 14th, 7PM at Geist Park BYOT (Bring your own tableware) and a salad of any kind to share (green, fruit, pasta, etc.). We’ll be providing dessert and drinks.
*Normally I find my information for these posts only from wikipedia, but this time I also used information from the beginning of my abridged version released by Barnes and Noble- provided by Laurence M. Porter.