A “Miserable” Reading Challenge: Les Misérables Chapter-A-Day Read-Along

Another reading challenge? Do I really need another one?

If it’s the Les Misérables Chapter-A-Day Read-Along, then my answer is HELL YES!

As you may have noticed, with my recent review of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are, I am a bit of a francophile. Anything French is automatically cool and intriguing to me, and although I’m not entirely sure where this obsession originally comes from, it certainly goes back to my youth. My mom took the family to see the musical performance of Les Misérables when it came to Chicago, and of course we eventually ended up singing all the songs from the show afterwards, buying a copy of the sheet music to play on the piano, and so forth.

I was the only one crazy enough to grab a copy of the unabridged Victor Hugo novel that inspired the musical, and attempt to read it all the way through.

All 1,488 pages of it.

I’m not sure I ever actually finished reading this volume, because although I toted it with me absolutely everywhere when I was in high school, I was also very frequently (and, quite rudely) interrupted in my reading by folks who had the gall to ask “Whatcha reading that for? Why don’t you just go see the musical?”

*insert groan of frustration and evil eye aimed at the latest foolish inquirer*

There was, in fact, one particularly annoying boy that I got stuck sitting next to in study hall, who would borrow the comics section of the newspaper from the teacher each day and laugh uproariously at each and every strip, pointing out the most hilarious ones to me and awaiting a similar reaction. When I did not comply, he would nudge me with an elbow and ask why I wasn’t falling all over myself laughing, and then insinuate that I wasn’t smart enough to get the joke – despite the fact that I was clearly reading a larger tome than he would ever complete in his lifetime.

The teacher would always tell him to stop bothering me, but he would always pick up right where he left off the next day. I became quite skilled at ignoring him, while attempting to read another chapter in my book and surreptitiously checking my watch to see when this oh-so-Sartre-esque Hell Of Other People would finally end. (Come to think of it, this is definitely where my hatred of being asked “What are you reading?” by random men comes from. DO NOT BOTHER WOMEN WHEN THEY ARE READING.)

In short: when I first learned about this reading challenge from Lory at The Emerald City Book Review, I knew this was finally my chance to read the book, cover to cover, without any interruptions. At last, I will finally get my revenge on that idiotic boy and his persistent gaslighting and derailing! I will finally get through all of Hugo’s philosophical rambling! I will finally redeem myself as a reader by finishing an enormous tome that is NOT required reading!

In short, this is what the French call le destin.

Now my only dilemma is which translation should I read? I’m leaning towards the one pictured above, as this is the version I attempted to read back in high school. There are quite a number of translations around, and Deacon Nick (who started this challenge) suggests three different options. I am waffling because I usually like to read the same version the teacher or challenge leader is using, but I am a little nostalgic for that fat paperback… plus it’s only 49¢ for the Kindle edition. Okay, SOLD! (I will ponder buying another paperback edition later.)

So, since I am a little over a month behind, it looks like I’ll be spending the rest of my weekend getting caught up on Les Misérables. A sweet – or should I say superb? – way to end an ordinary weekend.

2 Responses
  1. Brona says:

    Welcome aboard the #lesmisreadalong train!
    Once you catch us up, I hope you enjoy the slow, leisurely pace as much as the rest of us. I’m reading two translations at the same time – The Denny and the Rose. It’s amazing how the subtle differences can change the tone or meaning.

    When I have the time I plan to write a post about my findings…..

    It can be hard to stop at just one chapter, esp if that chapter is only one page long so we’re all reading other things in between.

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