About: Dak reads Les Misérables and recaps it here, so that she may better retain the information. Things not to expect: deep literary analysis. Things to expect: Spoilers. All the spoilers
Saint-Denis and the Idyll of the Rue Plumet Book 3; Beauty and the Boob
What is this? A recap? I have not abandoned this brick, no. I took some time off to read many other things. So, since it’s been 84 years, let’s recap!
Valjean was hiding in a convent, eating cheese with Fauchelevent, getting buried alive, raising Cosette, and escaping would be murderer/extortionists as well as Javert.
Marius was disowned and had no friends but then fell in with a bunch of radicals via bald eagle. He lost his mind over Napoleon then lost his mind over a girl then foiled a dastardly murder plot and lost all hope and his home (again), so he moved in with Courfeyrac, because…
Courfeyrac was everywhere, Bossuet got kicked out of lawyer school and waxed poetic about butterflies. Jehan knew about love and flowers, Bahorel gave Jolllly good advice about trousers. Enjolras was busy planning revolution; blond hair flowing in the wind whilst Grantaire succeeded at witty banter and dressing the part but failed at inspiring the people and also at dominoes.
The Thenardiers were exposed and Patron Minette was arrested except for mysterious Claquesous and murdery Montparnasse, the evil anti-Enjolras. Javert terrified Paris to the point of thieves and murderers not bothering to resist arrest. He was generally annoyed at all the baddies that have escaped him and one Marius Pontmercy whose name he does not remember. Mabeuf is still trying to grow indigo plants in France, and Grandpa G. was being a dick to every single one of his living relatives.
And finally, Èponine clearly has the hots for Marius, who remains totally clueless about it despite her promises of future domestic bliss, sock mending , and declarations of his attractiveness as spoken from her lips directly into his own ears on more than one occasion. She is currently on her way to deliver our bambi to his one true lady love that he’s never uttered a word to.
But, before we get to this epic clash of true love… I assume it’s going to be epic since we’ve been waiting three or five or whatever years for Marius to finally speak to this girl. First we must discuss in great detail what Jean Valjean has been up to all these years. I swear, after my prolonged hiatus, if we go through this entire chapter without Marius and Cosette meeting, I’m going to be very disappointed. <strike> (I have a feeling I’m going to be very disappointed.)</strike> It has now become clear to me upon completion of this chapter that we are now going to engage in the story that we have already read, but from some different POVs. Maybe I didn’t need a recap after all? Oh, well–onward!
The first thing you might be asking yourself is why, oh why did Valjean leave the safe haven of the convent at Petit Picpus? It was the perfect hiding spot after all. You know, if you’re going to insist on parking it in the same city that Javert is patrolling anyway. I know, Paris is a large city, what are the chances? France is a pretty spacious country too, yet they still keep running into each other. The odds are not in your favor, Valjean.
As for his reasoning for leaving the convent, he is Cosette’s father for all intents and purposes and he didn’t want her to grow to resent him for basically roping her into nunhood before she got a chance to go out and experience the world for herself. This is something Valjean will come to regret. His opening to leave comes when old Fauchelevent passes away.
Let’s have a moment for good old Fauchelevent, shall we…
Valjean tells the nuns that he has come into some money and he shall be leaving them. I kind of feel bad for the nuns. Now they’re out two gardeners in one swoop. Anyway, he sets up three places around Paris a safe distance apart: Rue de l’Ouest, Rue de l’Homme-Armé, and the place at Rue Plumet.
A little history about this secluded piece of the city, because of course, we must have backstory on anything and everything, including Valjean’s house:
The place on Rue Plumet is the place that an old Judge used to keep his mistresses. Back in those days the bourgeois would hide their mistresses while the lords would parade them around. The judge had another little building out in the back of the garden where secret doctors or nurses could come and take care of the secret mistresses and secret babies without anybody knowing about it. There was a secret path hidden by secret gardens that led out the back and emerged a ¼ mile away on a different street. This is the way the Judge would come and go to the house.
The point: Shhh, it’s a secret, and that’s exactly the way Valjean likes it! His days of parading around town doing philanthropic works all willy-nilly as a mayor are over!
Though he would spend time here and there at the other places, Rue Plumet is is where Jean Valjean’s HQ was. He lived there with one old housekeeper named Toussaint, that he chose because she was an old country lady, and Cosette. Cosette lives in a fabulous decked out bedroom in the house and wants for nothing while Valjean makes his home in the secret shack out back. There is also a huge detailed passage at this point in this chapter about the secret garden, because, as we know by now, gardens are super important and very symbolic. (In short: The garden is a microcosm of the galaxy, Cosette is the naive and innocent heart, she has returned purity to this place after all that judge’s shenanigans. etc etc…) This very symbolic garden Valjean has let grow wild so that the neighbors in their fancy houses won’t suspect anything, and nary a soul would even know about the secret path was there. I should hope so. It would be a terrible secret path if everybody knew about it. Oh! But if the birdies could gossip!
As for Valjean himself, he is hiding in plain sight by being in the National Guard. He has no problems joining up and doing his duty as a taxpaying citizen, even despite his passing retirement age. He is sixty now. Officially. And he doesn’t even look a day over fifty. Apparently Valjean is aging backwards, because ten years ago when he picked up Cosette at the Sergeant of Waterloo, he was in his fifties and I thought he was already in his sixties.
He no longer talks of Fantine as Cosette grows older. He doesn’t know exactly why, but that perhaps she her modesty has been returned to her in death and he shouldn’t speak of her so as not to disturb her final peace. Meanwhile Cosette dreams of her as an angel.
Valjean also goes on walks with Cosette at the Luxembourg Gardens choosing the most secluded area to frequent, of course. Just to be on the safe side. He is proud of her and ultimately happy in his life at this point for having Cosette’s love. Unfortunately for him this area of the garden was not safe from wandering students.
As for Cosette, she grows up with the impression that she is just the plainest most homely creature that has ever existed, and maybe she was for a time. She is actually a very sweet child. Even though Valjean seems to be perfectly willing to give her whatever she wants and the front garden for her do as she pleases, she would just rather hang out with him in his out back shack instead of the big house and she insists on eating what he eats etc. But, as life goes on, people grow up, and one day Cosette wakes up, looks in the mirror, and realizes that she is beautiful and that the dudes whispering about pretty girls out on the street are actually really talking about her. She can hardly believe it at first, but it’s true. Thusly, Cosette becomes more interested in going out and being around the front garden where the gate is and the passersby roam rather than hanging with Dad all the time. She likes all the pretty frilly girly things in life now. She’s greatly interested in the fashions of the day and the boys of the day. It’s kind of like the exact opposite reaction that Marius had to people whispering in the street about his hottie status. Basically, Cosette is just a typical teenager doing her teenage thing. Valjean reacts in the dadly way by freaking out about it. He is wholly unprepared for his daughter’s entrance into young adulthood. He has no idea how to react. When Cosette first dons her fashionable ‘LaNoir’ gear and asks what Valjean thinks about it, he wonders why she doesn’t wear her old clothes.
“That getup!” she said. “Father, what would you have me do with it? Oh, I’ll never wear those awful things again. With that object on my head, I look like Madame Mad-Poodle.”
– I think Weird Al made an album about this hat–
Cosette in the meanwhile is greatly interested in that specific student that’s always loitering around that secluded area of the Luxembourg. So, Marius wasn’t totally imagining her interest in some sort of lovesick fever dream after all. Good to know! It’s a requited love story despite the fact that they never speak to each other. In fact, it was Cosette herself that suggested she and Valjean take a walk past Marius that fateful day when they made the eye contact that officially launched Marius into lovefoolish stalker territory. She was completely fed up with his inability to make a move. We heard all about this from Marius’s point of view already, but now we know that Cosette orchestrated it.
Meanwhile, Valjean is over here hating all of this. His daughter is the only love in his life and he’s just in fits thinking about her leaving him. He’s teetering back on the edge of angry convict Valjean again because of this. This of course, makes him really hate poor Marius, whom he constantly thinks of as an awkward boob this entire chapter. Clearly he is no good for Cosette, and Valjean is under the impression that she doesn’t particularly care about Marius one way or the other when he asks her about him.
This is not true. She is 100% into Marius and his passionate nostrils. She just a bit more subtle about it than Monsieur Pontmercy. As for Marius, boy does Valjean have him figured out right from the start. He knows Marius is pretend reading just to be near them and sprucing up his wardrobe to catch Cosette’s eye, and all of that we read from Marius’s point of view earlier.
Well, instead of bringing out intimidating former convict Valjean to just tell Marius to go back to wherever he came from and stop making eyes at Cosette, (I mean, I’m assuming strangers in a public garden in the 19th century were allowed to speak words to each other without kingly intervention. Right? Maybe not.) We heard all about how Valjean tricked Marius into following them around just to make sure that the kid was indeed being a creeper and Marius falls for it completely, even following them all the way to their damn house. Again, C’mon, Marius. Dude.
This is when Valjean moves and stops with the garden strolls. This not only upsets Marius, but also Cosette. It really does nothing to push her back into the old days of her childhood, hanging out in the outback shack with dad. In fact, the next time Valjean suggests a trip to garden, she is overjoyed. Her joy is quickly shadowed by the fact that Marius no longer loiters around there anymore. What would be the point? Cosette no longer gives a toss about garden strolls.
Later, Valjean has found alternate and isolated walking areas at the edge of the city in some nice fields. Cosette likes them so she can run around and play, making daisy chains and the like. Valjean likes them because they are out of the way. Just so happens one day as they are near the Barrière du Maine at dawn when a parade of convicts chained up in carts comes down the road. It is explained that this convoy is going down this particular road to avoid the King’s kingly carriage path. This path was earlier detailed in the chapter in which Valjean first arrived in Paris.
Anyhow, the point of this is not really the King’s comings and goings, it’s Valjean’s chagrin. This is not a thing he wants Cosette to be exposed to, and he for sure doesn’t want her to know about his past life of crime. Unfortunately she’s the one that points out these approaching wagons while Valjean is gazing around at the sky having some cosmic musings while Venus is on the rise. Meanwhile, she is naturally curious about this foul mouthed chain gang now before her with a gathering crowd and a pack of gamin. We learn about each cart having a distinct personality including the final one which is piled up with maybe actually dead people. The guards have no qualms about beating any of the men.
Cosette is the most curious of cats and asks what’s up. Who are they? Where are they going? Are they men? (are they Devo?) Valjean tells her that they are convicts, heading to jail, and sometimes they are men. Any further questions Cosette has throughout the night he doesn’t even answer, because he does not want to discuss this anymore. Later, near bedtime she’s still got them on her mind and is talking under her breath later like a valley girl: “O my God, I would just die from seeing [A convict] near me” Which has got to hurt Valjean right in the heart. Ouch!
Valjean manages to distract her with a conveniently timed festival over the coming week! It works for a short while, but sometime later while he is observing her posing questions of love by plucking the petals of a Daisy (Do I love thee: A little? A lot? Passionately? Not?) and wondering where the hell she learned this game, she asks one more time. What are convicts?
Will Valjean have an answer? A confession?
Will we rehash an entirely different part of the story we already read?
Will we return to Eponine leading Marius to his one true love?
Something else entirely?
Until next time, stay tuned!