Les Miserables Book 4: The Idyll of the Rue Plumet and the Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book 4 of Les Miserables, The Idyll of the Rue Plumet and the Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis, is the only book that is not named after a main character. Instead of exploring one particular character, everything comes together. First, Marius and Cosette, after weeks and months of batting their eyes at each other, finally meet and fall in love, and second, the barricades rise and the epic battle that is the climax of Les Miserables begins.

Being more familiar with the musical rather than the novel, I was always fairly annoyed with Marius and Cosette's relationship -- they simply bump into each other on a crowded street and fall into insta-love. The story is infinitely better in the book. I had forgotten how lovely Hugo can make a romance. So much of the book is history, and no matter how well that history is written, it can get a little dry after a few hundred pages. The romance is the perfect dessert after a vigorously healthy, multi-course meal. While Marius and Cosette are attracted to each other from a distance for a long time, once they get to know each other, their relationship is sweet and endearing. I loved the description of their first long talk --
"These two hearts poured themselves out to each other and into each other, so that at the end of an hour, the young man had the soul of the young girl and the young girl had the soul of the young man. They entered each other, enchanted each other, dazzled each other."
I also absolutely melted at the letter that Marius wrote to Cosette before their first meeting. If you love a good romantic story, it is worth wading through the history just for this moment alone.

So much for the Idyll of the Rue Plumet. The Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis brings us to the death of General Lamarque and the riots that erupt across Paris as a result. Heading it off, of course, is Enjolras, the man whose only love is France herself. I absolutely love the Friends of the ABC and their various personalities and different ways of relating to the cause. Book 4 generally just builds the tension to a head, bringing in all the main characters -- Eponine, Javert, Jean Valjean, Gavroche, Marius. For the most part the heroic sacrifices are saved for the final book, but we do see Father Mabeuf, old friend of Marius' father, give up his life on the barricade. This second part of Book 4 pales in comparison with the beginning of Book 5, but of course, to have a Book 5 we need a set up.

I've finished the book so I am excited to wrap up my thoughts with my review of book 5 next week and the complete review the week after that. Reading Les Miserables has been an amazing experience!

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