One month of “slow reading”: A Les Mis Readalong check-in

Having announced my participation in the Les Misérables Chapter-A-Day Readalong on February 4th, I thought I’d just check in with a quick update on my progress thus far!

Catching up with the group took me a couple of days worth of reading, but since all of the chapters are quite short, this went fairly quickly. I managed to meet up with them on Twitter on February 6th, where they were sharing quotes and comments on Fantine (aka Volume 1), Book 4, Chapter 1, with several comments, including:



If you’re not already following me on Twitter, what are you waiting for? I am obviously on point with my GIFs, here!

Tracking my progress

Instead of simply checking off the chapters as I go, I decided to repurpose my daily Moleskine planner as a readalong tracker, and I’ve been writing down quotes from each chapter as a record of my daily progress.

Color commentary

I’ve also been reading The Novel of the Century by David Bellos, which is a bit spoileriffic in parts (it does assume you’ve already read through Les Mis, or at least watched a stage or screen version once), so I’ve been writing down quotes that I can share with the group on Twitter without ruining it for anyone. Here are some of the bits from that volume that have struck me so far:

[Les Misérables] is a work of reconciliation – between the classes, but also between the conflicting currents that turn our own lives into storms. It is not a reassuring tale of the triumph of good over evil, but a demonstration of how hard it is to be good.”

Quoting from the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert:

“Poverty is the mother of great crimes; sovereigns are responsible for making people misérable and it is they who will be judged in this world and the next for the crimes that poverty commits.”

Commenting on the way that Les Mis deftly avoids sex at every turn:

Les Misérables is unusual among 19th-century French novels for not talking at any point about adultery or even sex. Its main characters are celibate… That, surely, is the main impact of the Biard Affair on Hugo’s intention as the first draft of Les Misérables: to write about everything except that.” (p. 32)

And commenting on the continuous misery Hugo inflicts upon Fantine (whose character was, in fact, inspired by a real-life scuffle between a property-owner and a prostitute that Hugo witnessed):

“Not many of us have to face brutality, or learn how brutal we could be.” (p. 48)

Join us!

If you’re not reading along with the group yet, you can still jump in! We’re still in Volume 1 (Fantine), and as of today the group should be finishing up Book 7, Chapter 3. Join us with your comments on Twitter using the hashtag #LesMisReadalong, and enjoy the novel of the century one chapter at a time.