Dak Reads Les Misérables / SAINT-DENIS AND THE IDYLL OF THE RUE PLUMET: Book 3


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!

Last time:

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?

Cliffhanger!

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!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 8


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

Cosette: Book Eight: In which nuns violate public health and safety in the name of God, and Valjean is buried alive

Yes, these are things that are happening in this chapter. How did we arrive here, you may be asking, because I’m reading it and I’m wondering that too. Well, let us return to the night Valjean jumped into the garden. This is exactly where we left off on that wild tangent a couple sections ago, but it seems like it’s been a thousand years since Valjean scaled that wall.

He and Fauchelevent are hanging out eating cheese and wine and Valjean is watching Cosette sleep. He has come to the conclusion that he must stay in this convent. It is surely the most safest place to be, you know, besides a different city, or a different country, or any place other than the city in which Javert is currently employed.  Be that as it may, Javert would never suspect him in this convent, since nobody gets in. That’s a pretty reasonable assumption, but there are a couple of problems with this amazing plan.

A. Are the nuns really going to let another dude onto the premises?

B. If they do, they can’t know that he’s already broken into their convent. I’m pretty sure that would quickly get him on their bad side and they’d never allow him back in.

Valjean enlists Fauchelevent to help him scheme a way to accomplish his continued safety at Petit Picpus.

Fauchelevent is rightfully dubious that he can do anything about it. He only has contact with Mother Innocent, and all the other nuns run away from his knee-bell. He suggests Valjean just climb over the wall the way he came in, but apparently that cannot be done in the opposite direction. No. Really? Surely, it would be easier for Fauchelevent to say…acquire a ladder than what’s about to go down? I guess that would too be simple and easy, and we can’t have that.

Well, it just so happens there was a dying nun on the premises and Fauchelevent hears his own personal bell tone that means he’s being summoned to a meeting with Mother Innocent. Once he’s there, she goes into some long speech about the final wishes of the dead, particularly some of the sainted brothers and sisters that have lived their lives in service to God. Surely they deserve to have their final wishes honoured? She goes on to cite a couple of examples as precedent.

Meanwhile, Fauchelevent is explaining that he’s old and decrepit and he could use a little help around the garden. He has just the guy! His “brother” and his “brother’s” daughter should come to live among them and help out.

It seems as if Mother Innocent is down with this on one condition.  Can Fauchelevent procure a lever to lift the stone covering vault underneath the altar in the chapel? Fauchelevent can. He wonders why she would want to do that though.

She wonders if he did not hear the bells earlier that announced one of the nun’s deaths. He says he did not. He can’t hear much in his own little corner of the convent, besides, his bell is the only tone he pays attention to anyway.

Well, Mother Innocent explains, this particular nun’s final wish was to be laid to rest beneath the altar in the coffin that she has slept in during her life.

Wait. Is something lost in translation here again? Do nuns sleep in coffins for real? or was this woman secretly a vampire?

Fauchelevent is taken aback, because burying people under the floor is just not done. There are safety issues! What of the health inspectors? They would never let them just stick a body underneath the altar in the church where alive people congregate.

Mother Innocent is not going to let some silly government or the threat of disease get in the way of fulfilling this woman’s final wishes though. As far as she’s concerned, she’s got a higher authority that she must obey, so what does Fauchelevent think of those apples?

Fauchelevent isn’t going to argue about it any further. So, now to get down to the gritty details… It’s easy enough to conclude they are going to have bury a coffin at the cemetery, so nobody catches on; but how is Fauchelevent going to sneak the empty box out of the convent without the pallbearers knowing it’s empty?

Why is everybody leaving their scheming plans up to Fauchelevent here? He totally did not sign up for this when he fell under that cart.

Good thing Fauchelevents are smarter than they appear. You see, before he fell on hard times and had to turn to being a cart driver, he was a notary. He wasn’t always a simple laborer. He easily concludes that they can just fill the coffin up with dirt and be done with it.

Mother Innocent approves. With the plan in place, she dismisses him to go about his work.

Back in Fauchelevent’s shed of collusion, Valjean is still chillin’, watching Cosette and eating cheese. He asks how the meeting went. Everything is set with to bring in Fauchelevent’s “Brother”, now to get Valjean out.

It’s easy enough to sneak Cosette out, she’s tiny and easy to carry and hide. Valjean threatens her with Thénardiers again to make extra sure she doesn’t utter a peep, which is a tactic I don’t entirely like, but hey…it’s super effective.

And what of Valjean? Fachelevent can’t just throw a blanket over him and carry him out under his arm. I would hate to bear the wrath of these nuns should they find an unauthorized dude on the premises.

He’s just pondering this and how dirt in the coffin isn’t going to feel exactly like a human person … You know where this is heading now, right? You can practically see the lightbulbs appearing over their heads.

And this is why you should read the “brick”. For every endless chapter about nuns or Waterloo, there are treasure chests full of gleaming gems of amazingness like this. I wish the sheer length of this novel wasn’t such a deterrent, because it’s so worth the read. It’s just a thousand more pages to love. Seriously, Valjean just sneaked into a convent, so he could sneak out of a convent. IN A COFFIN. So, he can legitimately enter the convent and hide out there; an opportunity that presents itself just because he ran into a guy he used to know, and a nun happened to die that morning and wished to be buried on the premises rather than in an outside cemetery.

You also won’t know that Valjean is secretly hilarious. I don’t know that he means to be, but he is to my wry funny bone.

“You can come and nail me up in the coffin at two o’clock.”

Fauchelevent recoiled, and began to crack his finger joints.

“But it’s impossible!”

“Not at all. To take a hammer and drive some nails into a board?”

Valjean does not understand why this could be a problem

All plans are in place now. The only thing that Valjean is worried about in this surely foolproof caper is what’s going to happen when they get to the cemetery?

Fauchelevent has that covered though. He knows the ins and outs of the place and is a personal friend of the gravedigger, who is also a drunk and easily distracted in his drunkeness.

Fauchelevent plans to wait until the priest is done giving his blessings and then make sure the gravedigger is plastered then just send him home.

There is one important thing to note about the gravedigger’s duties. This cemetery has a gatekeeper and the only way the gravedigger can come and go after hours is with his card, which he drops into a box and is permitted entry or exit in some sort of 19th century key card system. If the gravedigger forgets his card than the gatekeeper can let him through by sight, but that’s a fifteen Franc fine. This is relevant information this time, I assure you.

So the day comes and everything is just going swimmingly. Cosette has been sneaked out and is hanging out with a flower shop lady for the time being. Poor little Cosette is worried about this of course. I don’t blame her for having abandonment issues at this point. She knows something is afoot though and instinctively keeps her mouth shut about it.

Meanwhile, let us return to: The Great Convent Escape!

Everything has gone perfectly so far on all of Fauchelevent’s flawless schemes. There’s a nun under the altar, Cosette is away, and Valjean is squeezed into a coffin, ready to go.

Nothing could go wrong, I tell you! NOTHING!

I know we’ve been hit with the foreshadowing stick before in this book, but this is a particularly gratuitous beatdown.

As soon as Fauchelevent meets up with the gravedigger everything starts falling quickly apart.

This gravedigger is not Fauchelevent’s drunken friend. This is some other guy who is all business and no drinking. What happened to the drunk? Well, he up and died. How dare he!

Fauchelevent is having a meltdown over here in the meanwhile, and is desperately trying to convince this gravedigger that he really needs to come out and have a drink. He even goes so far as to offer to pay himself, which is definitely above and beyond the call of duty.

New guy sort of relents, but only after his job has been done will he go grab a cup of wine. Fauchelevent tries to convince him that the taverns will close soon, but this guy is really determined to bury this ‘nun’.

Meanwhile, Valjean is chilling in the coffin, waiting for the priest to be done giving a blessing and for Fauchelevent to pry him out of this predicament. That’s when he hears the first shovel full of dirt rain down on him. This causes Valjean to basically have a panic attack, and he just passes the hell right out.

Back above ground Fauchelevent is beside himself. He doesn’t know what to do until he spots the gravedigger’s key card, and he gets an idea. He picks the gravedigger’s pocket and then asks him if he has his card.

The Gravedigger can’t find it, and it’s almost time for the graveyard to close. He must go home and find his missing card or have to pay fifteen francs. This dude is really very extremely opposed to having to pay a fine, so he rushes off home.

The gravedigger won’t be finding that card anytime soon, since Fauchelevent stole it and everything so there’s plenty of time to get Valjean.

Fauchelevent is totally my hero right now.  He is not just some rando that fell under a cart once upon a time.  Okay?

Soon enough, Valjean has been untombed and…well, he’s still passed the hell out, and Fauchelevent assumes he suffocated in there. He has another meltdown, but soon Valjean wakes up, the night air having revived him. Fauchelevent admonishes him for nearly scaring him to death.

All is right in the world again. They escape the cemetery using the stolen card and Fauchelevent stops by the gravedigger’s house (where he has turned everything over in the search for the missing card) to let him know the key is at the gatehouse. Fauchelevent “found” it on the “ground” and finished up the gravedigger’s job for him.

The poor gravedigger is relieved and forever grateful to Fauchelevent. As is everybody apparently.

The nuns are grateful that he’s helped them out with their scheme. They’re so pleased that they even give a report when the archbishop comes for a visit. Everybody is apparently A-Okay with storing bodies under the altar, government be damned!

And Valjean and Cosette come to live with him in the Convent free and clear. Valjean’s new alias is Ultimus Fauchelevent, which is Fauchelevent’s actual brother’s name, but who is dead now and can’t use it. It is also a totally bitchin’ name. ULTIMUS! The nuns just call him “Other Fauvent” though. He gets his own knee bell so they can avoid him forever.

As for Cosette, she goes to live in the school for girls where it is impressed upon her how incredibly homely she is. Which is mean, because she’s Fantine’s girl, there’s no way that’s actually true unless she inherited all of Tholomyès features or something. Which she hasn’t. It’s just something the nuns tell girls, so they don’t get ideas that they’re good looking enough to score a guy or worry about superficial things like appearances.

She gets an hour a day to spend with Valjean and that is the best hour of the day for both of them. Though, Cosette does wish she would have brought Catherine along had she known she was going to be stuck in a nunnery for the rest of her life.

This convent is Valjean’s new life. He dares not leave the convent for fear of being caught again, so that leads him to contemplation about his life in prison and this life here in which there are similarities. In fact, the nuns seem to live in even harsher conditions of their own volition than the convicts did.

And this is how Valjean now spends his days, putting his mad hedge pruning skillz to use and contemplating stuff, like how Godly institutions and/or love seem to enter his life every time he feels like he’s falling back into the abyss to remind him to stay on the straight and narrow.  He prays every night outside while the nuns are praying inside. 

And as for Javert, he’s spent a month keeping his eyes peeled.  Only a month?  I guess so, because that’s the last we hear about this particular pursuit, but we all know it’s not the last we’ll be hearing of Javert.

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Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 6 & 7


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

Cosette: Books Six and Seven: Nuns, Nuns, Nuns, and did I mention Nuns?

Okay, so, stick with me, because…wow, these chapters are kind of tedious after all that exciting chase action in the last one! (By kind of, I mean extremely) Though, if there’s one thing to be said about Hugo, it’s that he usually gives you advance warning that something not entirely pertinent is comin’ at’cha. In fact, one of these chapters is called “Parenthesis” (Y’know, because here’s some tangential information hangin’ out smack in the middle of everything.) But, hey, I’m all for background information, and we’re at a convent now; so, gosh darn, we are going to learn all about some nuns!

So, we learn about some different varieties of nuns, and how some have more or less strict rules than others. These sisters at Petit Picpus are some some of the strictest there are. Outside people are not allowed into the convent, and should anybody come to visit they have sit in this area called the : Locutory, and there is a watch nun, who makes sure nothing/nobody untoward gets in.

Okay, we’re going off my rusty old memory now, because I want to get on with things and I really don’t want to go back and read these chapters again for all the details that probably won’t ever come up again, so I may get things wrong, and maybe I’m rushing in anticipation of getting to the next volume. For reasons. But I’ll point out a couple things here I remember.

A. The convent is really, really, cloistered. The only outside contact they get is the bishop, and they have to hide behind a curtain while attending mass anyway. Then there’s Fauchelevent, who they call Fauvent. He has to wear a bell on his knee so the nuns don’t accidentally catch sight of a dude.

I still think this is a really weird place for a bell to be located. Why his bum knee? I guess that makes it ring more often then bells on his belt maybe, or is something lost in translation here? Is it a French thing? Is it a nun thing? Is it a 19th century thing? Is it a Fauchelevent thing? I don’t know!

B. The Convent is divided into three parts: The part where the nuns of this particular order live by their strictest of rules, the part where other nuns go to retire from all over from orders of varying strictness, and the part that is a school for girls. They are pretty much expected to follow the rules too, but they will climb up on roofs just to catch a glimpse of a person who has been playing a flute in the street next door. They’d built this guy up in their minds to be some kind of handsome, romantic, young man, so of course they had to risk life and limb to see this fine fellow. Who, as it turns out, is just an old blind guy back from exile whiling away the time in the alley.

The girls also manage to steal a rule book that nobody is allowed to read. This seems to defeat the entire purpose for having a rule book in the first place. They find the passages about the sins of boys to be of particular interest.

C. There is no C, just a bunch of anecdotes about different people who live at the convent. There’s a nameless old lady who’s a hundred years old and doesn’t visit with anybody because the Locutory is too gloomy. She covets an item and doesn’t let anybody see what it is. They only find out it is a Faience Plate when she dies and they bum rush her room to find it because it’s been a topic of gossip for a while.

Then there’s Madame Albertine, who isn’t even a nun, but she lives there anyway. She never utters a word and walks around in a corpse-like state. She also knows a new priest by his first name, which she stands up and shouts out in the middle of everything one day: Auguste! Nobody knows why, and we never find out. Though there is naturally plenty of speculations. Somebody write the fanfic!

And those are the only ones remember. Hah! I promise, if any of this ever comes up again, I will totally revisit it.

And finally D. This particular order has been dwindling in numbers through the years and by the time Valjean manages to break into this impenetrable fortress of Nuns there isn’t very many left.

After we learn about convents and everything, we go on to ruminate on the merits and demerits of living in a monastic setting for a while. It can be great, or it can be terrible. Feel free to read along with the actual “brick” and leave your thoughts in the comments, because I already started reading book eight and am supremely distracted by the forthcoming antics that seem to be in store for us!

Yes, that’s right. Antics!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / COSETTE: Book 5


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.

 

Book Five:  Return of the Wolf Puppy

Alright, people! Are you prepared for Hugo to drop some real realness in your eyes? Well, here it goes. He does that thing that I usually despise by interjecting author notes directly into the story. He wants to let us know that this Paris he’s about to describe is the Paris of the past. It has changed through the years and this is how Hugo remembers it. Have some of his thoughts about it:

While we come and go in our native land, we imagine that we are indifferent t these streets, that these windows, roofs and doors mean nothing to us, that these walls are strangers to us, that these trees are like any other trees, that these houses we never enter are of no use to us, that the pavement where we walk is no more than stone blocks. Later, when we are no longer there, we find that those streets are very dear to us, that we miss the roofs, windows and doors, that the walls are essential to us, that the trees are beloved, that every day we did enter those houses we never entered, and that we have left something of our affections, our life, and our heart on those paving stones. All those places that we no longer see, which perhaps we shall never see again, but whose image we have preserved, assume a painful charm, return to us with the sadness of a ghost, make the holy land visible to us, and are so to speak, the true shape of France; and we love them and call them up such as they are, such as they were, and hold onto them, unwilling to change a thing, for one clings to the form of the fatherland as to the face of the mother. (Now that we’re all thinking about where we grew up and how it’s all changed…)

Oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know…Hugo was in exile for fifteen years after speaking out against Napoleon III (This novel was published while he was away). So, there’s that. I think I don’t mind the interjections and digressions, because it may not be relevant, but it’s definitely interesting information that I don’t mind being in my brain.

Back to Jean Valjean, who is now traversing these streets of Paris, and I suppose that disclaimer up there is sort of relevant, because he lists off the many streets Valjean is traveling down, even down to a sign advertising a sale outside a shop as he passes by. He doesn’t really have any destination in particular. He’s letting God lead the way, and as for Cosette? She trusts Valjean, and goes with him without any fuss.

He comes to the realization that Javert is indeed on his tail. He thinks he shakes him several times, but Javert and his men are never too far behind. Valjean crosses a bridge and becomes trapped at Petit Picpus when he notices a sentry is posted at the outlet of the street. He knows he can’t go back the other way, because Javert is back there.

What’s a guy to do?

There is an old decrepit door there, but Valjean soon realizes that the thing isn’t actually a door. When is a door not a door? When it’s just hanging there on the wall for no apparent reason. He knows it’s a waste of time to break it down if there’s not going to be an opening behind it. He eventually formulates a plan to go over one of the walls.

It’s an easy job for himself. He used to scale walls like a spiderman back in prison, but he’s got Cosette now, and he can tell that the police are moving in on him. They are taking their good sweet time about it though, methodically checking out every crevasse as they inch slowly toward him.

He finds a rope attached to a street lamp that he can use to hoist her up after him and thus begins his ascent. Cosette’s getting a little bit worried at this point and wants to know who these people are that are after them. Valjean gets her to be quiet by telling her it’s the Thénardiess. This is an effective bogeyman, and we won’t be hearing a peep out of Cosette now. They make it over the wall and into what is apparently the creepiest garden to ever creep. It’s super gloomy and weird things are afoot there.

Valjean finds a shed to hide in and they remain silent as they listen to Javert and his buddies searching around out in the street. It feels like they’re sitting there for quite a while. Valjean peeps inside a nearby building and sees what looks like a dead body, but isn’t a dead body? Whatever the case, it’s really weird, and then there’s the singing, and the sound of a bell coming from what appears to be a guy tending garden. Is Valjean trippin’ ? Because this is just strange. Maybe there’s a reasonable explanation?

As he sits there, he reflects about Cosette and how she’s everything to him now. He’s going to live his life for the little girl and do everything for her, and it is at this point that he notices she has gone cold as she’d fallen asleep in the freezing night air. He has only one recourse and picks Cosette up, rushing to the guy with the bell. He has to warm her up fast and this is the only option, even if it means being caught.

The old man is extremely excited to see Valjean there. He’s surprised and delighted to find Monsieur Madeline has apparently fallen from the sky straight into his garden. Wait a minute…

Who is this old man who seems to know Valjean from another life? It’s Fauchelevent! You remember Fauchelevent, right? He’ll refresh everybody’s memory now, because Valjean doesn’t even remember him.

 

Fauchelevent was the guy that was trapped under a cart once upon a time and Valjean saved his life that day despite Javert and his suspicious eyes being all over him. What Valjean has stumbled into is the Convent at Petit-Picpus, the very same place he procured work for old Fauchelevent. The guy is only out in the cold night to put jackets on his melons so they don’t get frosty. The reason he has to wear a bell on his bum knee so the nuns stay away from him, and he has no idea about Valjean and his post mayoral trials and tribulations. As far as he knows, Valjean is still Madeline. He’s also a bit put out that Valjean had no idea who he was and calls him an ingrate, but is still willing to help him out in any way he can. To be fair though, Valjean’s got a hell of a lot on his mind right now.

And he’s totally going to take advantage of Fauchelevent’s cluelessness right now. He only has a couple things to ask for and that’s a warm place for Cosette and that he doesn’t utter a word about this to anybody. Fauchelevant is happy to provide and soon Cosette is sleeping warm and cozy in a bed by the fire and very much not dead.

That is how Valjean evaded the clutches of Inspector Javert and found a safe haven, but how about we take a look at it from a different angle? It’s time for Javert’s point of view now!

So, after he played a crucial role in bringing Valjean in after he escaped in Montreuil Sur Mer, he was given a position in Paris. Seems as if his zesty zeal in catching Valjean did not go unnoticed. This is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Javert is in Paris, and, as it turns out, he has not been ceaselessly chasing after Valjean every waking second of the day and also in his dreams (okay, maybe in his dreams). These two have a history now.

In fact, Javert probably would have gone on about his business of terrifying the rest of the Paris citizenry, content with the knowledge that Valjean, the dangerous criminal, is back in Toulon serving his time where he belongs, had he not happened to open up the paper for the purposes of catching up on Monarchy news. It’s the only reason he was even looking at it; he usually doesn’t read the paper. This is where he saw Valjean’s death notice.

Again, Javert is was totally taking this at face value and was on the road to forgetting about Valjean, since he was dead and everything.  The wolf has new things to sniff out, so there’s no reason for the old stuff to stick around, right?  This is when he gets word through police networks of a girl kidnapped from Montfermeil. This piques his interest greatly, because that was the area in which Valjean was last captured, and Javert knew exactly why he was there. He still thinks it’s hilarious that Valjean had the audacity to ask him for three days grace to go fetch Fantine’s little girl right in the middle of being arrested. It just so happens this little girl is the same girl that had been reported missing.

I’m telling you, were Javert the star in his own crime procedural, we’d all be rooting for him and the exemplary sleuthing skillz he’s putting on display here. He would have his own show on USA and nobody would call him the villain. He would still be the annoyingly uptight, straight-laced, absolutely frustrating by the book 100% detective, and they would team him up with the loose cannon, rule breaking newbie with a heart of gold though.

In any case, Javert wants to be really sure that he’s right about this. He doesn’t want the press to have a field day should he wrongfully arrest an innocent man. So, he puts in the requisite work rather than going off half-cocked on some wild goose chase.

He goes to speak with Thénardier, who filed the report and regrets it now that he’s got a wolf on his doorstep. He attempts to recant and says that Cosette wasn’t stolen away. She merely went to go live with her grandfather. Lol. Those townspeople, you know how they talk? Javert doesn’t really believe this, but he does have doubt seeds growing. He really doesn’t want to get this wrong.

He hears about the beggar who gives alms, and this gets his gears working too. He goes undercover as one of his police informants. Who is his police informant? It’s the beggar that Valjean regularly funds, and this is the point at which Valjean first peeped spy!Javert, and Javert first laid eyes on Valjean again.

They are both still not sure though. Javert gets the aid of the landlady in his spying, so Valjean was correct in assuming they were in cahoots when he decided to make a run for it. He dropped some coins on the floor which gave him away though, and the Landlady ratted him out to Javert.

It really isn’t until they catch sight of each other at various points during the chase that they are really surely sure that what they are seeing is what they had believed to be true. I guess neither one of them had been able to wrap their mind around it until everything unfolded right in front of them.  Javert had honestly had doubts up until this point, and he couldn’t in good conscience make that arrest.  On top of that, he followed instead of arresting Valjean right away, because he was slightly worried that if this man were not Valjean, then he might be some sort of criminal underworld mastermind.  In this case, Javert would want to follow him and see what he was up to.  A premature arrest wouldn’t be wise if that were so.

 He had asked for resources from the higher ups though, without telling them exactly what he’s been up to for a couple of reasons:   He doesn’t want anybody to think he’s insane or be eviscerated in the press. Remember, he already got accused of the crazies when he thought Mayor Madeline was Jean Valjean while a different man was in custody, and wrongful arrests were starting to be a problem.  Valjean’s not even supposed to be alive, remember?  On top of that, Javert knows, being a relative newcomer to the Paris police, those higher ups are going to take credit for his great feats of detectiving.

No. He wants this great masterpiece of police work to be a surprise (He loves surprises!), only to be revealed when everything falls neatly into place and he can ride into work the next day on the stallion of triumph, having been the one dude smart enough and sly enough to capture a man everybody else thought was dead.

Javert? You are familiar with the saying about what pride precedes, right?

He keeps his eyes on Valjean the entire time he’s trying to escape down all those streets. Even while Valjean thought he was safe in the shadows, Javert’s suspicious eyes were there. He follows along with his goon squad at a safe distance, picking up backup and random patrolling soldiers along the way to aid him, until he finally traps Valjean in Petit Picpus.

Having caught Valjean, and thinking there’s no way the man is getting away now, he takes his good old time searching every single nook and cranny from both ends of the street in for the express purpose of messing with Valjean’s mind like a tiger playing with a mouse before eating it. As we know now, Valjean was totally sweating this. Unfortunately for Javert,Valjean isn’t a mouse. This dilly-dallying gave him enough time to formulate an escape plan that we have seen.

By the time Javert and his wolfpack meet in the middle, Valjean is gone.

You say you like surprises, Javert? Well… SURPRISE!!!

They can’t figure out where the hell Valjean went, though they assume somewhere over the wall because they spot the rope, but where it’s lying is a misdirect. They still can’t find him, searching gardens in the opposite direction from the one he’d actually gone in. There are a few paragraphs devoted to what an egregious fuckup this is for Javert. Apparently his failure to arrest Valjean straight away is right up there with the greatest tactical blunders of all time. Ouch!

He returns to work riding on the donkey of shame instead.  This was not how he thought things were going to go.

What’s going to happen now? Is Javert going to try and get himself fired again? I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see until next time!

Dak Reads Les Misérables / FANTINE: Book 5


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.


BOOK 5
: BEAD BUSINESS

A little background on Montrieul sur Mer…apparently the main form of industry in this town at the time was bead making. The materials were expensive and the cost too high though. The bead business was slow until some guy, we’ll call him Madeline, breezed into town, bringing with him ideas to revolutionize the industry. He changed the materials to something cheaper than what they were using, and basically ran around town doing awesome things for everybody with the piles and piles of money he had made with his business. He owned a factory that would pretty much hire everybody, he built schools, he built shelters, he paid teachers out of his own pocket, and everybody pretty much thought he was the bees knees.

Except for this one guy. He was the chief Inspector of the town, and his name is Javert. Javert is basically described as a walking coat and hat with amazing facial hair, and his spirit animal is the wolf puppy voted most likely to kill all his siblings. He was born in a jail to a fortune teller and considered himself a permanent outsider, which in his mind only left him two career options: crime or law enforcement. He chose the latter. He detests all forms of revolution. He considers all law breaking a form of revolution. He’d even turn in his own mother for breaking parole, and believes that a criminal will never change his stripes. M. Madeline reminds him of somebody he used to know from back in the day, and he walks around with suspicious eyes. Being a wolf himself, he feels he knows a wolf in sheep’s clothing when he sees one.

This all culminates in an incident where a poor old guy named Fauchelevent, who only owns a cart and a horse to make his living carting stuff around, has somehow managed to get himself caught underneath a load when his horse breaks its legs there in the street. He is basically being crushed under the weight of it and there is not enough time to wait for a jack. M. Madeline keeps offering more and more money for anybody who is willing to go under the cart and lift it up off the guy, but there are no takers. He’s not doing it himself because there is somebody keeping an eye on him.

Javert is there to announce that nobody’s offering because nobody’s strong enough. Only one person he has ever known would be strong enough: this convict he used to know when he worked down in Toulon. It gets to the point where M. Madeline can no longer stand by and watch the man perish despite Javert heavily implying left and right that nobody on Earth could do the job except for that one guy. wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Madeline raises the cart himself along with Javert’s suspicions, and once everybody is safe and sound, he buys the broken cart and the dead horse and sets up Fauchelevent with a new job in Paris once he is healed.

Now, if you thought gossip traveled fast down in Digne, then you haven’t met Montreuil sur Mer. It kind of feels like the rumor capital of the world here. First of all, there is all kinds of talk about M. Madeline; where he came from, and what his motivation is for doing all the awesome things that he does. There has to be some kind of reason he’s so nice, right? At first they just think he’s in it for they money, but he can’t give that stuff away fast enough. Then they just think he’s an ambitious dude, but he keeps refusing every accolade offered to him. He refuses the Legion of Honor, and he continually refuses a position as mayor of the town until the people finally beg for him to just take the job already. He introduces himself to every traveling boy looking for chimney sweeping work who wanders into town so he can give them money. Word gets around. It’s a popular destination. (I wonder what that’s all about. Hmmm.) He’s pretty much a well loved enigma, and the fact that he very publicly mourns the passing of the Bishop of Digne just adds more grist to the rumor mill. (Let us take a moment to mourn with him. 🙁 ) All he will say is that he was a student of the guy once a long time ago.

Those aren’t the only rumors flying around town though. Let us return to Fantine, who had happily procured a job in the women’s side of the bead factory. (They are separate from the men so as to preserve their modesty of course.) Everything started out well enough for her.  She was so optimistic that she even took out some credit to purchase furniture for her apartment there. But well, as we all know, the Thénardiers kept jacking up their price for taking care of Cosette, and on top of that…

Well, M. Madeline had employed a certain overseer for the factory. Here she is an old lady who delights in malicious gossip for no other reason than keep herself entertained, and she’s got her sights set on Fantine. Fantine, who can neither read nor write and has to employ someone to pen her letters to Cosette, which she sends often. So, the rumor mill starts to turn, and they find out about Fantine’s illegitimate daughter. Scandal! Apparently this impropriety is reason enough for dismissal, and she’s sent packing. M. Madeline has no idea this is happening, and Fantine doesn’t go to him for help since she has him pegged as the source of this trouble anyway, so what good would that do?

So, begins Fantine’s descent into abject poverty. She tries to get odd jobs sewing with a friend that lives in her building, but it definitely isn’t pulling in enough cash. She definitely has some kind of ailment, because every so often it is pointed out that she has this lingering cough. It’s been around since she left Cosette at Montfermeil. She owes for her rent, she owes for her furniture, and the Thénardiers keep asking for more money or they’ll turn Cosette out on the street. She’s making it work at this point, and can still look in the mirror, and brushing her hair makes her feel okay… But then come the extra expenses.

First it’s only ten francs for wool skirt. Fantine heads straight off to sell her hair. Instead of sending the money, she sends the skirt. The Thénardiers give it to Èponine.

Then Cosette is ‘sick’ and needs ‘medicine’ by sick and medicine, the Thénardiers mean neither of those things. They just want some extra cash, and this time it’s forty.

Fantine’s beside herself, because how can she come up with that? Just so happens there’s some people in town buying teeth. They are interested in Fantine’s two front ones, which will just so happen to bring in the exact amount of money she needs. I know I failed to mention this before, but Fantine’s teeth are fabulous and pearly white. It’s mentioned more than once. She doesn’t go in for this idea right away and even talks it over with her neighbor, but in the end she decides to go through with it, because what’s she going to do? She gets rid of her mirror, and she can’t even brush her hair to feel better anymore.

The Thénardiers write again, and this time it’s for a hundred, because why they hell not? So, Fantine is still behind in credit (even though she’s returned all of the furniture) and rent and now has to pony up another extra hundred so her kid isn’t turned out on the street. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t climb her way out of this debt she’s accumulated. She can see no other option than turning to prostitution. All this she blames squarely on M. Madeline, because if she repeats it enough then it must be true. Boy, does she hate that guy who she once adored along with everybody else.

And this is where we find Fantine, with little hope and no prospects, when she stumbles upon a M. Bamatabois. This guy is a dandy, an idler, he layers his waistcoats and wears more chains than necessary on his watch. In his circle they wear boots and spurs and have “fierce mustaches”. The fiercer the better. This is quite a picture that’s being painted in my mind.

One day, he’s just hanging around with his dandy buddies doing idle dandy things, spurs and mustaches and all, and Fantine just happens to be there, pacing back and forth and muttering to herself. Naturally, these guys proceed to harass her, because Fantine really can’t catch a break at all. It comes to the point where Bamatabois puts snow down her back and this finally is the last straw. She comes after him and manages to lay a smackdown on him before she’s apprehended by the police. And by police, I mean Javert, because Javert just happens to be in all the right places at all the right times these days.

He takes her back to police HQ and is quite determined to send her to jail for six months. He’s unmoved by her pleas for mercy, and there are plenty. Meanwhile, unseen, the mayor has entered, and he’s hearing Fantine’s sad story as well. (He must be following the same bat signal that Javert is.)

Madeline asks for a moment of Javert’s time, and upon realizing that this is the mayor…sole cause of her whole situation…Fantine spits right in his face. Madeline orders her free.

This is when things start to get a little crazy.

Fantine is beside herself and she goes on a long rant about how great and awesome and forgiving Javert is, because she seems to be under the impression that he’s the one who set her free. The mayor couldn’t do such a thing, since she’s built him up as such a bad guy in her mind.

While this is happening, Javert’s brain has apparently broken. He’s standing there at a loss for words, because A. The Mayor is ordering this wrongdoer free for no reason. She’s clearly committed a crime and must be punished for it accordingly! B. She just spit in the mayor’s face! An inconceivable affront to authority! Still he orders her free!, and C. This guy might be that one convict from Toulon. I guess to be fair, ‘C’ is always lurking in the back of Javert’s mind.

Finally, Fantine’s mistaken impression is corrected. She cannot believe this shit. Javert can really not believe this shit. He attempts to argue with the Mayor, but he shuts the inspector down and pulls rank on him. What can Javert do?

He’s getting articles of law quoted at him, and if there’s one thing Javert is, it’s a stickler for the rules.

So, that leaves Fantine and Madeline there, Javert having left them to their own devices apparently. Here, Madeline offers Fantine all she’s wanted for the past few years…he will pay her debts, he will reunite mother and daughter, either there or in Paris. Whatever Fantine wants. He basically offers to fund the rest of Fantine’s existence so she’ll never have to work again. She falls to her knees and kisses his hand in thanks and then promptly faints.

Cliffhanger!