Wednesday 23 May 2018

Les Misérables The Gorbeau Tenement/La masure Gorbeau V2B4

Oh how have I got myself into such a sorry state of affairs? I've kind of stopped reading over the past month or two. Well I am reading, but just a little bit, one book every few weeks, and then I'm not blogging them. I'm not quite sure why, or how, this has happened, but it has. I guess I'm slumped. Which when I read at a snail's pace at the best of times is more than a little bit dispiriting. Especially as it relates to #LesMisReadalong. 

I thought I was behind when I got back from Cambodia in March, but that was just a minor disruption compared to now. I'm too scared to look at how far I'm behind at this stage. I just need to get back on the reading, and blogging, horse and get on with it. 

The Gorbeau Tenement is quite a short book. It's predominantly scene setting as Jean Valjean and Cosette arrive in Paris. They take up residence in a rundown tenement at one of the very edges of Paris. "Like birds of the wild, he had chosen the most deserted spot in which to build his nest."
It was an inhabited place where there was nobody, it was a deserted place where there was somebody. This was one of the city's boulevards, one of the streets of Paris, a greater wilderness at night than any forest, bleaker by day than any cemetery. 
But naturally there are flashes of Hugo's humour and insight along the way. 
The building as a whole is no more than a hundred years old. A hundred years is young for a church and old for a house. It is as though a man's house is, like himself, short-lived, and God's house shares his eternity. 
We do get some more insights into Jean Valjean, and his relationship with Cosette in Chapter 3 Happiness in Shared Misfortune. 
Jean Valjean had never loved anything. For twenty-five years he had been alone in the world. He had never been father, lover, husband, or friend. In prison he was ill-natured, sullen, celibate, ignorant and unsociable. 
And yet "he felt stirred to the roots of his being" when he rescued Cosette.
This was the second vision of whiteness he had experienced. The bishop had brought the dawn of virtue to his horizon. Cosette brought the dawn of love.  
Cosette of course benefits from her rescue and begins to change. She has become cold-hearted by the age of eight, and no wonder. 
She was so young when her mother left her, she could not remember her any more. Like all children, resembling the tendrils of the vine that cling to everything, she had tried to love. It had done her no good. Everyone had rejected her, the Thénardiers, their children, other children. She loved the dog, which died. 
But I was most surprised when I came upon this sentence:
At times he imagined with a kind of gladness that she would be ugly. 
I initially read that as saying that Jean Valjean saw Cosette as ugly, but now I think that's wrong. He's hoping that Cosette would not grow up to be a beauty, to protect her and keep her with him.

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