Sunday 28 January 2018

The Legend of Spud Murphy

Eoin Colfer is wonderful, an Irish writer, with a particularly strong case of that amazing Irish sense of humour. His sense of humour is on full display in The Legend of Spud Murphy. I saw him speak at a conference a few years ago, it was more a comedy performance than an author talk. I have been in his thrall ever since. 

Spud Murphy is one of his earlier books, published in 2004. It is a chapter book for younger readers. It is particularly funny. Will and Marty Woodman are the oldest of five boys. One summer holidays they are forced against their will to join the local library. A terrifying thought because they are very frightened of the local librarian, Mrs Murphy. Mrs Murphy runs a tight ship and is said to have a spud gun behind her desk. She is a fearsome, Trunchbull-like character. 
You're probably wonder what we were so scared about. I bet you're thinking that we were a pair of gutless chickens who would have been better off at home sewing our names on to handkerchiefs. But that's because you think libraries are happy colourful places, where the librarians actually like children. That may be what most of them are like, but this one was different. It was a place where serious men read serious books and nobody was allowed to show even a glimmer of a smile. A smile could get you thrown out, a titter could get you spudded. And if you laughed aloud, you were never seen again. 
Naturally the boys are not keen to spend their summer afternoons in the library. 
We had no choice but to go inside. It was just as I feared. There was nothing in there but books. Books waiting to jump off the shelves and bore me silly. 
Mrs Muprhy has some fabulous tricks to keep boys in line in the library, and it is all very funny.
We couldn't fight, we couldn't shout, we couldn't make loud bodily noises. All the things young boys live for. Oh the boredom! My head felt like it would fall off and spin across the wooden floor. I tried everything to entertain myself. Watching movies in my head, following the pattern in my carpet prison, eating strips of paper from the books. But most of all, I just dreamed of freedom. 
"Then one day something strange happened."


Saturday 27 January 2018

Les Misérables The Fall/La Chute V1B2

Finally after 57 pages of buildup, 57 pages of beautiful, wordy preamble we meet Jean ValJean! The story proper, well at least as told in the musical versions can now start.

We are treated to quite a description of Jean Valjean.

It would be hard to come across a more wretched-looking passer-by. He was a man of average height, stocky and robust, in the prime of his life. He might have been forty-six or forty-eight years old. A cap with its leather peak pulled down partly concealed his weather-beaten face streaming with sweat. His shirt of coarse yellow cloth, fastened at the neck with a small silver anchor, revealed a glimpse of his hairy chest. He wore a rolled-up neckerchief, threadbare blue drill trousers with one knee faded to white and a hole in the other, a ragged old grey overall patched on one elbow with a bit of green cloth sewn on with twine, a soldier's knapsack on his back that was stuffed full, firmly buckled and brand-new; a huge knotted stick in his hand, hobnailed shoes on his stockingless feet, a shaven head and a long beard. 
We are warned several times that he is an untrustworthy, dishevelled looking man. 

The sweat, the heat, the journey on foot, the dust, added an indefinable disreputability to this shabby outfit.  
Jean Valjean has been released from his sentence, given a yellow passport and has to report in to town halls on his route. 
Release is not freedom. You are let out of prison, but you continue to serve your sentence. 
On the day after his release Jean ValJean finds a days work unloading bales outside an orange flower distillery in Grasse. I doubt that his day's work was anything like this video, and it's interesting to contrast a world needing orange blossom water for perfume manufacture as the same world that has just incarcerated and tortured Jean Valjean for his poverty for 19 years.

Even though Jean has money to pay for food and lodgings he is turned away from every door in Digne, after news spreads like wildfire that he is an ex-convict, until it is suggested that he knock on the Bishop's door. 

Here of course he is welcomed warmly, he offered a meal and shelter for the night. And finally after 25 chapters, 25 days of reading, we have a real plot point! Some action. 
He raised his iron candlestick as though to force the lock. The key was in it. He opened the cupboard. The first thing that met his eyes was the basket of silverware. He took it, and throwing caution to the wind strode across the room not worrying about the noise, reached the door, re-entered the chapel, opened the window, seized his staff, climbed over the ground-floor window-sill, put the silver into his knapsack, threw away the basket, crossed the garden, leapt over the wall like a tiger, and fled. 
It was so, so tempting to read the last two chapters at this stage, to gobble them up and be ready for Book 3. I was forced to distract myself with housework (ugh) and trying (but failing) to catch up in my French reading , and writing this post (much more delightful diversions). I was unable to resist the temptation though on the second last day, and read two chapters so that I could finish Book 2. 

In the very final chapter we see Jean Val Jean hit rock bottom. Not only has he stolen from the kindly bishop (who has then not turned him in), he has come so low as to steal from a child, and for no apparent reason. 

His past life, his first missed, his long expiation, his outward brutalisation, his award hardening, his release celebrated with so many plans of vengeance, what had happened to him at the bishop's house, the latest thing he had done- stealing forty sous from a child, a crime all the more craven and all the more monstrous coming after the bishop's pardon- all this came back to him, he saw it clearly, and with a clarity such as he had never seen before. He beheld his life and it looked horrible, he beheld his soul and it looked dreadful.

Victor Hugo gave us some spiriting, suspenseful passages in these latter chapters, and it bodes well for all the action to come.  

Slow Reading en français: I'm sad to report very little progress, well actually none, mainly because I've been gadding about the place on holidays. I'm planning on better progress next chapter. 

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?

I had such high hopes for this book. I'd seen both Simon at Savidge Reads and Russell at Ink and Paper Blog rave over it, and it even made their best books of the year (2017) lists. I'm really keen to read short stories after my infatuation began with them last year mainly prompted by The Weight of Human Heart (see my review) and I was excited to explore the genre. So when I found a copy of Whatever Happened to Interracial Love on sale in Sydney last month I was very excited to start reading it soon.

And so I did when I was back in Sydney on holiday this month. But then I really didn't understand it right from the beginning. The first two stories- Exteriors and Interiors are linked I think, but this isn't obvious initially. Exteriors is very short- two pages really, something like a director lighting a break up between a couple. It's really hard to work out what's going on initially. It just launches it into, so I started the book going "what?".
"Okay, it's a sixth-floor walk-up, three rooms in the front, bathtub in the kitchen, roaches on the walls, a cubbyhole of a john with a stained-glass window. The light? They've got light up the butt! It's the tallest building on the block, facing nothin' but rooftops and sun. Okay, let's light it for night...."
Interiors is the internal thoughts of a couple, first Husband then Wife. I see what she did stylistically with the sentence fragments of the Husband section, and the longer phrases, sentences even in Wife. I just didn't like it. 

Only Once documents thoughts about a dangerous man, dangerous to love, dangerous to himself. You know someone like this only once in your life, and yet you can't remember how, or even when, they died. 
He didn't clear the rail. Or maybe he did. Maybe it was later. He mistimed a dive from a high cliff. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe it was even later than that. He shot himself in the head. Thought the gun was empty. Or maybe he knew it wasn't.
Really? I read two more stories and then couldn't go on. I got about half way through. There was occasional lovely phrasing but it was never enough to overcome the large obstacles to my reading and my lack of enjoyment. 
One of those nights when talk spins a thick, womblike cocoon around the talkers and one grows drunk, ecstatic, joyfully sated with talk. 
Eventually after not liking, or even understanding, most of the stories I came to the difficult decision to put the book aside. I'm really not very good at giving up on books. I need to get better at it. I have so many books I want to read that if one isn't working for me then I need to stop, to desist, and to not feel guilty or bad about that. I tend to stall books that I'm not enjoying but by and large believe that I will pick them up again when the time is right. I don't think I'll give this one another go. Clearly, I'm missing something because the book is blurbed extensively by Zadie Smith, Hari Kunzru and Kit de Waal.

Sunday 21 January 2018

The Good People

Not being a great fan of Irish folklore I wasn't naturally drawn to this story, but I loved, loved, loved Burial Rites so much (see my review) that I couldn't stay away for very long. Once again I listened to the audiobook.

The Good People is again set in a rural landscape in the 1820s, this time in Ireland, not Iceland. Once again it is based on a true incident, an event that Hannah came across in a newspaper article whilst researching her first book Burial Rites.

The story centres on Nóra Leahy and her four year old grandson Michael. Nóra has lost both her husband and daughter in the past few months, and then is left to raise Michael on her own in her small cottage. However Michael has a severe illness. Michael was a normal child when Nóra saw him two years ago, but he has deteriorating significantly and now can't walk or talk and requires full time care.

Nóra employs a 14 year old girl, Mary Clifford, to help her look after Michael. Nóra turns to local healer, Nance Roche, for treatments for Michael. She can't afford a doctor, and the priest has told her that there's no hope.

Once again Hannah Kent paints an extraordinarily detailed picture of these womens lives nearly 200 years ago. Her attention to detail is extraordinary. We feel their isolation, their poverty, their struggles, their pride. 

I soon realised that I didn't really know what a changeling was. It's a term that everyone knows I think, but not one that I think of all that much. A changeling is someone who has been swapped by the fairies. A fairy child is left in place of a human child. I'm not sure why the fairies would do that, but it seems they were rather common.

Naturally I was desperate to diagnose Michael, but Hannah purposely did not create his symptoms with a particular condition in mind, and even went so far as to deliberately confuse them. I understand now why she did that (she talks about this particularly in a video with Simon Savidge), but when diagnosis is what you do it's tremendously distracting. 

I loved the narration by Caroline Lennon and indeed I think her lilting Irish accent really helped my enjoyment of the story. The 13+ hours sped by. Although it was annoying that the audiobook did not include the Author's Note (When I can I alway find a physical copy of the books I listen to, to see the layout, any illustrations or diagrams, and check that I'm not missing out on anything).

There's lots and lots of information out there on this books. Lots of interesting interviews with Hannah Kent, and other resources.

How Much History Do You Actually Need For A Historical Novel, an article by Hannah about the varying amounts of source materials she was able to find for both her books. She describes The Good People as "a work of possibility".

A great photo essay of Hannah's photos from Ireland. 

A really great podcast of Hannah Kent at Sydney Writers Festival 2017 where Hannah talks about the paucity of direct sources she was able to find, but talks of her research into the daily lives of rural women in 1820s Ireland, and how she read a lot of Irish fiction to learn the musicality of the language which she really captured.

I do so love being up to date with an author's published works. It is so rare for me. I can't wait for Hannah's third book. 

I listened to this book a few months ago, but am so far behind with blogging this will serve as my first review for the 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Is it just me or does that 2018 AWW badge remind you of childhood neapolitan ice-cream too?

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Les Misérables A Good Man/Un Juste V1B1

I am so excited to be participating in the Les Miserables Chapter-a-Day Read-Along this year. Rather incredibly Les Mis has 365 chapters, making a year long read of this rather massive tome utterly enticing and even a sensible, ordered approach to such a whopper of a book. And it turns out that we're right on trend! Apparently now there is Slow Reading, in the way of Slow Food, Slow Fashion and the many other slow movements

I was rather surprised to find that the grand sweeping saga of Les Miserables starts with a 57 page, 14 chapter study of Monseigneur Bienvenu, a character that I see as a rather small figure in the scheme of things- an expectation that is only based on viewings of the film and stage show. But it was so beautifully written and translated, and I was never bored, only impatient for the story proper to start.  Those 19th century readers must have been much more patient than folks of today- binge watching everything with attention spans of goldfish.

This long buildup, a 57 page preamble, about what the good, kind nature of Monseigneur Bienvenu is presumably so that we are not surprised with how he interacts with Jean Valjean later, and feel that it is completely within his nature, and we will even expect him to behave as he does.

Monseigneur Bienvenu lives a somewhat spartan existence himself so that he can do even greater work for the poor. He swaps his large bishops residence for the overcrowded hospital next door. He lives on a very modest budget, eating simple meals ("his usual meal consisted only of boiled vegetables and soup with oil") so that he can give most of his stipend to charity. His "winter drawing room" is the cow shed. 
Since he made his cassocks last a very long time and did not want anyone to notice, he never went into town without his purple quilted coat. This was a little uncomfortable in summer. 
His one luxury is eating off the silverware that are relics of his past, six silver forks and spoons, and the two large candlesticks that were an inheritance from a great aunt. Monseigneur Bienvenu is a simple man, acting with charity. He does not philosophise. "He did not study God, he yielded to the radiance of God." A man of "No abstract theories, many practical deeds".
Suffering everywhere was an opportunity for kindness always. 
Hugo of course discusses the church. 
A wealthy print is a contradiction in terms. The priest ought to remain close to the poor.... The first proof of charity in a priest, in a bishop especially, is poverty. 
And there is even an atheist senator. 
Did I exist before my birth? No. Shall I exist after my death? No. What am I? A little dust bound together by an organism. What am I to do on this earth? I have the choice: to suffer, or to enjoy myself. Where will suffering get me? To non-existence. But I shall have suffered. Where will enjoyment get me? To non-existence. But I shall have enjoyed myself.... After that, however long you manage to keep going, the grave-digger is there, the Panthéon for some of us, but all end up in the great hole in the ground. 
Victor Hugo himself did end up entombed in the Pantheon. He is in a crypt with Émile Zola and Andre Dumas.

There is just so much within these pages, every page is quotable. Not a word wasted, even though there are so many of them. Although I did wonder at the purpose of Chapter IX The Brother as Described by His Sister, except perhaps to show that even those closest to him felt the same way about him as our omniscient narrator. 

Victor Hugo wrote his masterpiece with a stated aim of social change, even in these early pages we see mention of the Revolution on the first page, and Napoleon on page 2. Indeed it is a chance meeting with Napoleon that transforms Monsieur Myriel to Monseigneur Bienvenu. Hugo in his rather humble foreward:
As long as through the workings of laws and customs there exists a damnation-by-society artificially creating hells in the very midst of civilisation and complicating destiny, which is divine, with a man-made fate; as long as the three problems of the age are not resolved: the debasement of men through proletarianization, the moral degradation of women through hunger, and the blighting of children by keeping them in darkness; as long as in certain strata social suffocation is possible; in other words and from an even broader perspective, as long as there are ignorance and poverty on earth, books of this kind may serve some purpose. 
There certainly is still a modern purpose for Les Miserables. Indeed many. 
Let it be said in passing, success is a fairly hideous thing. Its false resemblance to merit deceives men. 
Occasionally a word struck me as particularly modern, perhaps out of place. 
He considered these magnificent conjunctions of atoms that lend appearances to matter, reveal forces by putting them into effect, create individuality within unity, proportion within the continuum of space, the numberless within the infinite; and produce beauty through light. 
Atoms? Victor Hugo wrote of atoms? But yes, yes he did. 
Il considérait ces magnifiques rencontres des atomes qui donnent des aspects à la matière, révèlent les forces en les constatant, créent les individualités dans l'unité, les proportions dans l'étendue, l'innombrable dans l'infini, et par la lumière produisent la beauté.
I was very interested in the mention of Louis XVII (son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette), and I remembered my visit to La Basilique de Saint Denis in the summer of 2013. Louis XVII died a child, aged 10, and his heart is on display at Saint Denis. Every little conversation, every paragraph of Les Miserables is loaded with meaning. 

Louis XVII is mentioned in contrast with another Louis, not a royal Louis, but Louis Dominique Bourguignon, known as Cartouche, a French highwayman of the Robin Hood type, robbing the rich to give to the poor. Cartouche's brother, Louison, a boy of 15 was hanged for being the brother of Cartouche. The deaths of these two young boys are debated. A dying member of the Convention that Monseigneur Bienvenu visits says:
'Come now! Who is it that you mourn? The innocent child? In that case, very well, I mourn with you. Is it the royal child? I need to think about that. For me, Cartouche's brother, an innocent child hanged by the arms until dead in Place de Grève for the sole crime of being the brother of Cartouche, is no less cause for sorrow than Louis XV's grandson, an innocent child martyred in the tower of the Temple prison for the sole crime of being the grandson of Louis XV.'
The absolute hardest thing about reading A Good Man, was not reading ahead. I was so keen to start Les Mis that I just wanted to keep going, and some of the chapters are particularly short- one to two pages that it's very tempting to say "Oh, just one more".

Slow Reading en français: My progress in French is even slower. Indeed I am stalled at Chapter Two, mainly because I've been enjoying a fabulous summer break in Sydney, and have barely had time to read in English let alone French. I will begin again when I get home. 

I'm hoping to do a wrap up of each book as we progress throughout the year.

Friday 5 January 2018

But You Did Not Come Back

I must really have wanted to read this book because I've managed to buy it twice in the past few months. Though each purchase was during a buying frenzy at Basement Books. Entirely explainable. A French sounding author name, and once you pluck this tiny morsel from the shelf you see the cover picture of Paris (a wintry shot of Place de la Concorde by Robert Doisneau) and a blurb from Le Parisian.

One of the most beautiful books of the year ..... you will read it in one sitting.
And on a day when I'm casting about looking for three books I'm guaranteed to finish to reach my Goodreads goal for the year, then this is the time, this is the moment to read But You Did Not Come Back. It was a great, if sobering choice. I did read it in one sitting, albeit somewhat broken by a nap. 

But You Did Not Come Back is a letter written to her father. Marceline and her father were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. A father she lovesHer father wrote her a note whilst in the camps and managed to have it delivered to her. But Marceline can only remember a few words of what he wrote "I try to remember and I can't. I try, but it's like a deep hole and I don't want to fall in."

Marceline lives to return to France after the war, but her father does not, fulfilling his words of prophecy.

"You might come back, because you're young, but I will not come back."
Decades later Marceline is writing to her beloved father. Marceline describes the unimaginable horrors of Nazi concentration camps.
From my cell block, I could see the children walking to the gas chambers. I remember one little girl clinging to her doll. She looked lost, staring into space. Behind her were probably months of terror and being hunted. They'd just separated her from her parents, soon they'd tear off her clothes. She already looked like her limp, lifeless doll. 
More surprising to me perhaps was her account of returning to France. That she needed to sleep on the floor because she couldn't stand the comfort of a bed. That her family did not survive her father not returning, that her siblings and friends died from the camps without ever having been there. Marceline herself fought so hard to stay alive during the war and yet after she was to attempt to end her life twice. 

Naturally she talks a lot of life and death. 
As children, we knew about death and its rites: the black flag, the hearse that moves slowly down the street. We would encounter death and respect it, we were much stronger than people are today, they're so afraid of death...
After the war Marceline marries twice, her second husband is prominent Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens. She becomes a film maker too, which gives her life a purpose.  
But in order to live, the best thing I could find to believe in, to the point of obsession, like my uncles before me, was that it was possible to change the world. 
Her thoughts on the current world situation are sobering.
I know that anti-Semitism is an eternal given; it rushes in waves along with the crises in the world, the words, the monsters, and the means of every era. Zionists like you predicted it: Anti-Semitism will never disappear. It is too deeply rooted in the world.
She talks of the creation of Israel, 9/11 and the troubled world in which we now all live. 
... I'm changing. It isn't bitterness, I'm not bitter. It's just as if I were already gone. I listen to the radio, to the news, so I'm afraid because I know what's happening. 
Which makes me even happier with my decision to stop watching the news nearly two years ago. It doesn't help. And all of which makes her opening words even more astounding to me.
I was quite a cheerful person, you know, in spite of what happened to us. We were happy in our own way, as a revenge against sadness, so we could still laugh.
An image of Marceline sporting her beautiful smile in her author photo on the back of the dust jacket.

Translated by Sandra Smith

Wednesday 3 January 2018

A Year in Books 2017

It's time to look back at another year in books. Happily I did a bit better with my reading in 2017 than I did in 2016.

In 2017 I read 17, 894 pages in 100 books. Not a bad effort. Up from the 11, 075 in 2016, but not at the dizzying heights of 2015 (20,061).

That 100 books in 2017 is no small coincidence. I had set my Goodreads target to 100 for the year, and for most of the year I was keeping up and on track but things unwound a little in the last few months of the year, and I had to make a concerted effort in late December to get to that magical 100. I did it with 50 minutes to spare! A close call indeed.

I wasn't particularly great at rating or reviewing books in 2017. Some of these I did give 5 stars at the time, some have just really stuck with me.

Scrappy Little Nobody. Anna Kendrick. Audio.

Florette. Anna Walker

The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen. Deborah Abela. Audio

Maggot Moon. Sally Gardner. Audio. My Book of the Year. 

Don't Call Me Bear. Aaron Blabey

The Weight of a Human Heart. Ryan O'Neill

The Hidden Life of Trees. Peter Wohlleben. Audio

Tuck Everlasting. Natalie Babbitt

The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas

Burial Rites. Hannah Kent. Audio

Moonrise. Sarah Crossan

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

12 of my 100 reads were 5 stars.

5 Aussie books. 

4 Adult reads.

2 Picture Books. 

1 Verse Novel.

5 Audio Books. 

3 Nonfiction/memoir.

10 Female Authors.

3 Male Authors

9 New to Me Authors!

The Weight of a Human Heart had a big impact on my reading aspirations being the first short story collection that I've read in many a year. I have now amassed quite a number of short story collections (quite a number), I hope that more will be appearing in the best reads of 2018. 

Also interesting that 5 of my top 12 were audio books. I really have taken to them with gusto. I really loved all of those audio books. Maggot Moon was particularly stupendous of course, but the others are all fabulous. Burial Rites was magnificent and beautifully read, and it was wonderful to hear the Icelandic names and places pronounced rather than stumbling over them every time whilst reading. Noone could be more surprised than I was to actually listen to a celebrity memoir (it's not my thing) and then enjoying it so much. And The Hidden Life of Trees really changed how I view and think about trees. Did I even think about trees before? Not nearly as much. 

Rather incredibly I appear to have not read any Jackie French in 2017 so she can't make an appearance in this list. This is the first time that this has happened since lists began to be compiled. I shall have to rectify this terrible omission in 2018. 

Monday 1 January 2018

Les Mis Chapter One Monsieur Myriel

I am so super excited at starting the Les Miserables Chapter-a-Day Readalong! I couldn't wait to start, so, soon after midnight in Australia I was delving in. I've had the 2012 Penguin Cloth Bound edition of the 1976 Norman Denny translation on the TBR for some time, and always figured that I would read it in my dotage (whenever that happy time comes). I ended up buying the more recent (2013) Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition Christine Donougher translation in the lead up to the read-along so I now have the two translations to chose from. 

Last night I read Fantine Chapter One Monsieur Myriel from both versions to see which one I favoured and which I will read. Both books are whoppers of course, both extremely difficult to manoeuvre whilst reading in bed. One hard back, one paper back. The hardback Denny has a nice ribbon, but feels more chunky in the hand. Both have smallish fonts but the Donougher feels easier on the eye, which is important given that it is 1416 pages long- making it the second longest book I've ever attempted- I did a short lived attempt at a read-along of the 1533 pages of Clarissa one year. Naturally I'm much more hopeful of success with Les Mis. 

And what of the translations themselves? Well there are obvious difference in style between the two, although the basic information conveyed is the same. The opening paragraph:

CD: In 1815, Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel was bishop of Digne. He was an old man of about seventy five. He had been bishop of Digne since 1806.

ND: In the year 1815 Monsieur Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne. He was then about seventy-five, having held the bishopric since 1806. 

From the original French according to Project Gutenberg.

En 1815, M. Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel était évêque de Digne. C'était un vieillard d'environ soixante-quinze ans; il occupait le siège de Digne depuis 1806.

The CD translation seems the more direct, while ND uses a more formal style perhaps. 

A random sentence:

CD: Monsieur Myriel had to undergo the fate of every newcomer to a small town where there are plenty of tongues given to wagging and very few minds given to reflection.

ND: He had to accept the fate of every newcomer to a small town where there are plenty of tongues that gossip and few minds that think. 

I think I feel inclined to continue with the more recent Christine Donougher translation at this stage. It reads more smoothly to me, and brings out the humour more. That view may change of course. I will miss the ribbon.

Given that the first book is entitled Fantine I find it somewhat unusual that the first chapter of Fantine and indeed the entire work is about someone else entirely. I realise he's setting the scene but it seems an odd place to start. Although it is reassuring that the Revolution is mentioned on page 1 and Napoleon just over the page on page 2. Napoleon always comes up. I asked a Parisian taxi driver about the taxi system once and he started talking about Napoleon!

In my somewhat bleary New Years Day early morning state I confused Digne with Dinde! Which means that I googled dinde. Dinde of course means turkey (the bird), I had been wondering why Monsieur Myriel would be the bishop of Turkey, but he is the bishop of Digne, and digne means worthy, so he is in fact the bishop of worthy, which is no doubt obvious to French readers. 

Whilst googling I found a great article from The Telegraph about the various French locations that Victor Hugo used in Les Miserables. I remembered my own visit to Musée Victor Hugo, and learnt that the 2012 movie was filmed in England. 

Even given that turkey confusion later today I'm going to give Monsieur Myriel a go en français! And also check out the audio version at Librivox (which is a rather old translation, 1887! by Isabel Florence Hapgood). Allons-y!