Three hundred pages into the [full-length] novel, Les Misérables’ second volume, Cosette, still maintains its overall grandeur and elegance, and intertwines the same elements and perspectives that truly define the novel.
In this volume, a captivating tale is told of Jean Valjean’s escape from prison after being recaptured, and further proves Valjean’s righteousness as he rescues Cosette from her abusive caretakers, the Thenardiers, all the while under the pursuit of the inspector, Javert.
At the strongest points in the volume, the story is suspenseful and exciting to follow, and takes the reader on an incredibly detailed and elaborate adventure, with no intricacy left out. The viewpoints and relations of all characters provide the reader with an omniscient comprehension of the events, which only serves to strengthen the magnitude of the volume’s impact.
At its weakest points, the novel struggles to continue on, particularly with an entire ‘book’ (the structure of the novel goes novel-volume-book-chapter, descending in size) dedicated to the history of a religious convent. And as fascinating as some of that history might have been, and, granted, it does play a larger role in the rest of the volume, it feels a bit unnecessary and excessively drawn out.
Similarly, at the beginning of the volume, a large part of the narrative is dedicated to the battle of Waterloo, which, while Monsieur Thenardier finds his beginnings on the battlefield, it just feels like a history lesson rather than a storytelling. It wasn’t that I entirely minded these sections, but they provided clear evidence for why an abridged version might be necessary out of preference (personally, I still prefer all the ‘fluff’.)
I will say, though, that the heart of the story (involving the actual characters) was incredibly enjoyable to read, and the structure and portrayal of the plot was enthralling. The bonds between characters (like Valjean and Cosette, and the devotion of Fauchevelent, the convent gardener who helps hide Valjean) was definitely heartwarming.
Overall, as I’ve seen throughout the novel, the thematics of love, benevolence, and innocence are ever prevalent in the volume. Les Misérables finds many of its roots in religion, especially in Cosette, which definitely fuels these ideas. Altogether, between the exemplification of Valjean’s inherently pure goodness, Cosette’s understanding yet free motives, and the compassion displayed by Fauchevelent brightens the feel of the writing, and is really uplifting.
Furthermore, the novel is exemplary at evoking contemplations by the reader. The perspectives revealed ponder about morality and reason on a broader scale. When Valjean compares the confining and overwhelming religious service and devotion required of the nuns to the prisoners of the galleys, the latter which was, perhaps,even more preferable, the novel makes some very interesting points. Of all the religious discussion, what I found most interesting was debating the extents and power of religion, which in itself is very humbling in many aspects.
If anything, what I love most is Les Misérables’ abundance of personality. Hugo’s writing is full of emotion and character, and the depth that the story is told truly makes Les Misérables the masterpiece it is.
It’ll be a little while until the next Les Mis review, but I can’t wait to continue the novel, especially knowing (from my experience with the play) what wonders lie ahead.