My favourite characters in Victorian literature | A Victober series

Hello, beautiful people!

Today, I’m here for my third post in my Victober series, which is a weekly feature during the month of October that’s all about sharing my love for Victorian literature.  I wasn’t quite sure about what I wanted to write about this week, until last night, when I finished my third read for Victober. I realized how often we discuss our favourite books, but discussing our favourite characters is equally as important and I really wanted to do so, especially to introduce you Victorian heroines that made a lasting impression on me, because they were so ahead of their times. There is only one male character that makes the list, actually, because most Victorian male characters are dreadful, but anyway. Without further ado, let’s discuss my favourite Victorian characters, and I hope that sharing my love for them will make you want to read the novels they’re in!

♡ Bathsheba Everdene, from Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd is one of my top 3 favourite novels ever, so of course I have to talk about it! Its main character, Bathsheba Everdene, is at the head of a farm, defying expectations from Victorian society, because she is a woman. I admire her, because she’s ambitious, independent, headstrong, determined, and free-spirited. She makes it clear, time and time again, that she doesn’t want to become a man’s property and that she will manage her farm by herself. How can you not love her, when it’s 1874 and Thomas Hardy makes her say things such as:

“Well what I mean is that I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can’t show off in that way by herself, I shan’t marry-at least yet.”

It’s true that she makes mistakes, and sometimes acts in a very stupid way. But she is a feminist heroine, even though she’s often forgotten. She knows she will have to work twice as hard as any man, to earn respect from her employees, and she does it. She is ahead of her time and isn’t scared to defy expectations, which she does amazingly. Many people are mad at her for some of her romantic entanglements, but she does her best in a society dominated by men and she stays true to herself. I adore her so much.

♡ Helen Graham, from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë is my favourite Brontë sister because of this novel and because of Helen, who is such a strong heroine. She is a fierce, loyal, caring and brave character, who puts her safety and her son’s first, even if it means being criticized by all. She aims to be financially independent and not to depend on men (in any case, she’ll fight it as hard as she can). Most of all and that’s a very famous scene in the book… she slams the door on her husband’s face, protecting herself and not giving in to his abusive behaviour. She argues with him, she resists him, even though this wasn’t discussed as a possibility at the time. I didn’t know what to expect when I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so reading about Helen couldn’t help but amaze me, for she’s one of the strongest 19th century heroines I’ve ever read about.

♡ Gabriel Oak, from Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Yes, I know, another character from Far from the Madding Crowd, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Gabriel Oak is the only male character in Victorian literature that ever makes it to my favourite characters post, because he’s such a kind, caring and selfless man and unlike every single Victorian male character, I don’t have anything to be mad at him about. I love Gabriel Oak, because he can take no for an answer, he isn’t frustrated that a woman is above him in a hierarchy, he will always try to help people, even if it hurts his feelings and he is nothing, but kindness. 

♡ Lady Audley, from Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I read Lady Audley’s Secret during Victober last year and adored it, especially Lady Audley herself, who was one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across in literature. She is a brilliant and ambitious woman, who defied all social conventions, had questionable morals and the reader has doubts about her for the whole novel. I am completely in awe of her character, because while she doesn’t always make the right choices, she did everything to get what she wanted in life and I can’t entirely blame her for that. Besides, I love morally ambiguous characters and she’s a perfect anti-heroine!

♡ Maggie Tulliver, from The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Last but not least, Maggie Tulliver actually gave me the idea for today’s post and it’s also all thanks to this amazing article on Literary Hub, defending Maggie, as she’s often considered to be George Eliot’s most underrated heroine. Maggie makes so many mistakes in her life, that’s true, but many of them are due to the men around her, as well as society in general. She is the type of heroine who is too much for her time, she is considered too clever, too passionate, too impetuous and commits a grave crime in Victorian society : she occupies space that has been denied to her. I knew I’d get along splendidly with her from the moment she was reading books people would advise her not to read! I have issues with The Mill on the Floss, that’s true, but Maggie was such a great character.

That’s it for me today! I hope that you had a wonderful week and that everyone participating in Victober is having a great time. 

Thanks for reading,
Lots of love,

My journey with Victorian literature | A Victober series

Hello beautiful people!

Today, I’m here for my second post of my Victober series, which is a weekly feature during the month of October that’s about sharing my love for Victorian literature. This week, I wanted to talk about my journey with Victorian literature, which is linked to my journey with classics in general. If you don’t know about Victober, it’s a month-long readathon I’m participating in and I talked about it more here.

Getting introduced to Victorian literature…

When I was younger, I used to devour classics, I always became curious when literature professors talked about them with us in class, which led me to discover so many books I wanted to read. I was discussing this my mom just this week: I had always been so excited to learn how to read, then to read all the books people older than me talked about. As I am French, I started my journey with classics with French literature, especially falling for 19th century literature… As I told you last year, my obsession with Les Misérables started at a young age, and then there was Emile Zola, whose works I adore so. As I loved 19th century French literature so much, reading Victorian literature was a logical path, in a way.

I only heard about English literature years after, and when I was a teenager (I was about fourteen or fifteen), there was a summer where I decided to read some of the Brontë sisters’ works, which were my first introduction to Victorian literature. I remember having a whole schedule to make sure I read a certain amount of pages each day, but I just ended up devouring Wuthering Heights very quickly, because I couldn’t get enough out of it. Right after that, I jumped right into Jane Eyre, which I also loved, even though not quite as much as Wuthering Heights. I was so obsessed and even got a box set with an adaptation of some British classics that Christmas, eagerly watching the 2009 ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights. I didn’t read many Victorian novels in the following years, even though The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare made me want to read a lot of Victorian literature and I got introduced to Charles Dickens through Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, which are my favourite novels by him so far.

Falling in love with Victorian literature…

I’ve talked about it a lot since last year, but I’ve been trying to figure out what my reading tastes truly are for the past two years and trying to understand that… Led me to fall in love with Victorian literature. In September 2016, I was participating in an online book club and the theme of the month was “Victorian literature”; we had to vote for which novel we wanted to read, and… 

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy won. 

It wasn’t even my first pick*, but I read it out of curiosity. Needless to say, as it’s now one of my top 3 favourite books of all time, this book changed my life, I deeply fell in love with it (and Gabriel Oak), watched the movie adaptation right after and it was all I could talk about for months. I was listening to the soundtrack of the movie and was singing along Let No Man Steal Your Thyme all the time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Finally, at long last, this book made me want to explore Victorian literature, because I didn’t know that many Victorian authors. At that time, I was also introduced to the Penguin English Library editions and that was the beginning of another obsession, as many Victorian novels are edited in those (two birds, one stone).

*North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell was, I read it two months after and adore i
t so much.

While Far from the Madding Crowd reignited the love I had started to feel for Victorian literature through the Brontës, falling in love with Victorian literature wasn’t quite over, I was still a baby in that matter. Many things changed in my life in 2017, one of those being that I started buddy-reading way more. My friend Clara and I started buddy reading Thomas Hardy’s and Charles Dickens’ works together, which was so motivating, and the more time passed, the more I was reading Victorian literature on my own. I focused so much on Victorian literature last year and the 2017 edition of Victober really helped me as well. I kept discovering authors whose writing style I adored, which led me to read and want to read more and more books. All bookworms know that it’s quite an endless circle, which is quite exciting!  

And now what?

That’s pretty much the story of how I came to read as much Victorian literature as I do today, it really changed my life. Discovering that part of literature also introduced me to a part of the bookish community I didn’t know too well and I adore talking with people who love classics in general as much as I do. Reading Victorian literature makes me really happy, I’m quite proud of my journey and on my little scale, I get  asked for recommendations often, and I’ve been called the PEL Queen as a joke (I totally claim that title, though). 

I still consider that I’ve barely scratched the surface, because while I know most of the famous authors for sure, there are still so many I want/have to discover and I know so little… But I do try to document myself as much as possible on topics that interest me (that’s the Ravenclaw in me)! So far, I’ve mainly read Victorian novels and some short stories, but thanks to this edition of Victober, I have finally dived into plays and I’m hoping to read poetry in the future as well, I’m probably missing out a lot on that topic! 

In any case, I’m really just getting started and I’m glad I have time to explore that part of literature.

Thanks for reading,
Lots of love,

Recommending my favourite Victorian novels | A Victober Series

Hello beautiful people!

As you might have seen in some of my previous posts, I am once again participating in Victober this month and I couldn’t be more excited to dedicate a lot of my time to Victorian literature again. I also wanted to focus a bit more on Victorian literature on the blog as well, so I thought I would try* to post once a week about it in October… So it’s the beginning of a month-long Victober series! For this first week, I wanted to talk about my favourite Victorian novels, so without further ado, let’s do this!

*we’ll see how this goes, as I’m quite busy with uni, reading and everything else, haha.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)

Far from the Madding Crowd is the novel that started it all, reignited my love for classics and made me fall in love with Hardy’s writing, it also is one of my top 3 favourite novels. It follows Bathsheba Everdene, an independent and proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men, making her the object of scandal and betrayal. I adore how it discusses the place of women in a world dominated by men and how strong Bathsheba is (even though she can be quite annoying at times), the way Hardy describes rural communities and most of all, I adore Gabriel Oak so much. I’d also totally recommend the 2015 movie adaptation with Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, it’s one of my favourite movies and I listen to the soundtrack all the time.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848)

If you don’t know Anne Brontë is my favourite Brontë sister, even though I love them all. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall impressed me so much, it was so ahead of its time and Victorian society wasn’t really ready for it, which only makes me love it more. This novel is about a mysterious woman who lives at Wildfell Hall, running away from her past (I don’t want to say too much, so I shall stay quite mysterious in my summary)… It deals with so many important themes, such as gender roles, abuse and alcoholism, and is considered a feminist novel. Helen is one of the strongest female heroines I have come across in the 19th century and I can’t help but to adore her. If you still haven’t read Anne’s works, please give her a chance, she deserves it so much.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Wuthering Heights is the first Victorian novel I read as a teenager, because I was curious about English literature and it sure didn’t disappoint. This novel starts when Lockwood has to seek shelter at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the tempestuous story of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how it influenced the lives of their descendants. I adored Emily’s dark and twisted characters, the story and her writing style as well as the chilling atmosphere on the moors. It’s been so long since I first read this one, so I’m hoping to reread it before the end of the year or at the beginning of the next one, we’ll see.

Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy (1891)

I know it’s not very original to mention one of Hardy’s novels for the second time in this post, but he’s one of my favourite writers and I rated so many of his novels 5/5 stars. This one is about Tess Durbeyfield who has to claim kinship with the wealthy d’Ubervilles family, but meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. Later on, Tess meets Angel Clare, who seems to offer her love and salvation, but she has to decide whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. Once again, I adored the themes Hardy addressed in this one, with the theme of the ‘fallen woman’ in a very patriarchal society, as well as the criticism of social conventions and the thin line that exist between what society considers right or wrong. It’s a very heartbreaking read, but a stellar novel. I also adored the 2007 BBC adaptation, which starred Gemma Arterton as Tess and Eddie Redmayne as Angel (okay, I first wanted to read this novel because of Eddie, I’ll confess it).

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell (1853)

Another Victorian author I adore is Elizabeth Gaskell and my favourite of her works is Ruth, which isn’t very well-known. This novel is about Ruth, who works in a sweatshop and is selected to attend a ball to repair torn dresses, which leads her to meet aristocrat Henry Bellingham. They form a secret friendship which goes horribly wrong for Ruth when she discovers she is pregnant. It centers around the ‘fallen woman’ theme again, which might seem a bit weird, but a lot of my favourite classic novels deals with that topic. I find it really interesting when authors take a stand and criticize how women who had children out of wedlock were judged and treated by society, even though it’s quite revolting and heartbreaking. I love how compassionate Gaskell’s take was, especially considering it was the first half of the 19th century. I also adore North and South, her most famous novel, but this one definitely took me by surprise!

So there you have it, here are my favourite Victorian novels! You can quite tell who my favourite Victorian authors are thanks to this post for sure. I have so many Victorian novels I am eager to read, though, so I hope this list will grow bigger and bigger as time goes on.

Lots of love,

#Victober 2018 TBR

Hello, beautiful people!

October is almost there, and with that, Victober is well on its way. I first participated in this amazing event last year and I was so excited for it, I’ve been making lists of books I really wanted to get to for months. If you don’t know what Victober is, it’s a month-long readathon hosted by Katie (Books and Things), Ange (Beyond the Pages), Kate (Kate Howe) and Lucy (Lucythereader), where the goal is to read Victorian literature. While you don’t have to read a certain number of books for this readathon (read one book? You did it!), there are challenges for those interested and that’s what I based my TBR off. Still, the whole point is to have fun and to share our love for literature of the period. 

Here are the challenges for this year:

  • Read a book by one of the hosts’ favourite Victorian authors (Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell or Thomas Hardy).
  • Read a Victorian book with a proper noun (i.e. a place name or person’s name) in the title.
  • Read a book from the first ten years of the Victorian period and/or a book from the last ten years of the Victorian period ‘i.e. 19837-1847 or 1891-1901).
  • Read a Victorian book written by a woman anonymously or under a pseudonym.
  • Read a Victorian book and watch a screen adaptation of it.

1. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy (1887) 

It won’t come as a surprise to you that Thomas Hardy is my favourite Victorian author, I’ve said it enough, so I’m beyond happy I had an excuse to pick up some more of his works. This time, I really wanted to read The Woodlanders and will do so with my friend Clara @ The Bookworm of Notre-Dame. This novel narrates the rivalry for the hand of Grace Melbury between a loyal woodlander and a sophisticated outsider. According to the Penguin Classics edition, The Woodlanders, with its thematic portrayal of the role of social class, gender, and evolutionary survival, as well as its insights into the capacities and limitations of language, exhibits Hardy’s acute awareness of his era’s most troubling dilemmas. It sounds amazing, as all of the works of Thomas Hardy that I’ve read so far, I cannot wait to read it.

2. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (1853) 

I am so happy I still have some of Gaskell’s works to read, because the last two novels I have left both have a proper noun in the title; I picked up Cranford, which title’s comes from the name of the town the story is set in. It was first published in several instalments in the Household Words magazine (edited by Charles Dickens!), before being published in book form two years later. Cranford is considered to be an affectionate and moving portrait of genteel poverty, as well intertwined lives in a nineteenth-century village. It also is a very short book, so I’ll be able to read it very quickly and I’m so curious as it’s one of Gaskell’s best-known works.

3. The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays by Oscar Wilde (1891-1895) 

I am beyond excited to finally get to Oscar Wilde’s plays, this edition featuring The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, Salome, An Ideal Husband, which have all been published between 1891 and 1895 (during the end of the Victorian period!). I’ve been meaning to read more plays for a while and as I adore Oscar Wilde (I still haven’t recovered from the exhibition about him in Paris two years ago), I thought it would be a great place to continue with his works. I’m particularly excit
ed about The Importance of Being Earnest, as it’s so famous, but also about Salomé, as it was written in French (and I’ll read it in my language, of course <3). I'm really curious about other readers' picks for this challenge, and if I still have enough time to read more books, I'll try to pick up a book from the early Victorian period!

4. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860) 

I’ve been meaning to try to read George Eliot’s works for ages and this year… I finally read Middlemarch and adored it! George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, so the fourth challenge is giving me an excuse to continue reading more of Eliot’s works, starting with The Mill on the FlossI have heard from several readers that The Mill on the Floss was more approachable than Middlemarch, but I got through that one, so I’m confident I’ll enjoy it as well. This one follows Maggie Tulliver, who is always trying to win the approval of her parents, but her personality often brings her into conflict with her family. It is said to have an interesting portrayal of sibling relationships, which is something I adore in literature and that it’s considered George Eliot’s most autobiographical novel. Moreover, I’ve heard such amazing things about the heroine of this novel and I cannot wait to meet her. 

5. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848)

Vanity Fair is quite an intimidating novel because of its length and how famous it is, but I’ve been meaning to get to it for so long. There is an adaptation of it currently airing in the UK, and as the last challenge is to read a Victorian novel and watch its adaptation, I thought it would be the perfect time to motivate myself to read it. I’ll be buddy reading this one with my friend Anna, I’m sure we can do this! Vanity Fair follows the lives of two women: Becky Sharp, an alluring and ruthless woman from an impoverished background, who wants to clamber up the class ladder, and Amelia Sedley, who comes from a wealthy family and longs for a soldier. We’ll see how it goes!

Are you participating in Victober?

Lots of love,

French classics recommendations | Celebrating Bastille Day

Hello, beautiful people!

Today is Bastille Day, the French National Day! It celebrates the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th 1789, as well as la Fête de la Fédération (Federation’s Party I guess?) celebrated on July 14th 1790, which celebrated the unity of the French people. 

Happy Bastille Day!

While I’m French, I mostly read in English, because there are so many books I want to discover that were written in that language and that’s also why I’m always speaking in English on social media. However, I have many French classics that I adore and I thought today would be the perfect excuse to share that with you all!

Side note: all the Goodreads links are of course, for the translations in English! I’m not completely sure whether the Marcel Pagnol books I recommended were translated, but they can be a good place to start if you want to try to read in French. *wink* The first three recommendations are my ultimate favourites, then I put the books in publication order!

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1862)

I couldn’t start this post with any other book, because Les Misérables is my favourite book ever. It is set through different time periods and places, but mainly follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who tries to put his past behind him. His path crosses many times with memorable characters, such as Fantine, Javert, the Thénardiers, Cosette, Gavroche or Marius. It is such a masterpiece, depicting history so closely (a lot of it is set in 1832 during the barricades), crafting such fleshed-out characters, with a gripping plot, even though it’s more than a thousand pages long. I won’t even get started on Marius and Cosette, but I adore them so much. I dedicated an entire blog post to Les Misérables last year, as it’s both my favourite book and my favourite musical, so if you’re interested in that, it’s here. Please, whether it’s the abridged version or the musical, give it a chance, it’s so worth it.
The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839)

Many readers know Stendhal thanks to his novel The Red and the Black (Le Rouge et le Noir), but my personal favourite is The Charterhouse of Parma (La Chartreuse de Parme), set in Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. It follows the young aristocrat Fabrizio del Dongo, who wants to go to war to fight for Napoléon. He stumbles on the Battle of Waterloo, ill-prepared, yet filled with enthusiasm for war and glory. He goes back to Milan and is entangled in a series of amorous exploits, fuelled by his impetuous nature and the political chicanery of his aunt Gina and her lover. According to Balzac, it is the most important French novel of its time, a compelling novel of extravagance and daring, blending the intrigues of the Italian court with the romance and excitement of youth. I read this one for a literature class four years ago and I absolutely fell in love with it. Fabrizio and Clélia are my ridiculous babies and I love them so much.

The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola (1883)

Ever since we had to read The Ladies’ Paradise at the end of middle school, I’ve been obsessed with Emile Zola and one of my life goals is to read his entire Rougon-Macquart series, which follows the fates of an entire family during the Second Empire in France (from 1851 to 1870) and is made of twenty novels. The Ladies’ Paradise is by far my favourite novel by Zola and the first I have ever read. The novel recounts the rise of the modern department store in late nineteenth-century Paris. Its main character, Denise Baudu, is particularly interesting, because she’s such an independent and hard-working woman, very different from Zola’s usual female characters. She wasn’t even supposed to be the heroine of this novel at first, as it also follows Octave Mouret, founder and owner of the store, and I love her even more knowing that. The store itself is a character, it’s a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family: it is emblematic of changes in consumer culture, in sexual attitudes and in class relations taking place at the end of the century. 

Interesting fact: The BBC period drama series The Paradise was inspired by this novel. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m planning to, at some point!

Salammbô by Gustave Flaubert (1862)

Gustave Flaubert’s most famous works are Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education, but plot twist, I haven’t read any of them just yet, but fell in love with this historical novel, Salammbô. This one is an epic story of lust, cruelty, and sensuality set in Carthage in the days following the First Punic War with Rome, with such historical details that there aren’t many French historical novels that can compare to it. I’m fascinated by this novel, because I studied history and adore understanding what people knew of history during their time, how they viewed it, how they studied it and Salammbô is a great example of that. 

A Love Story by Emile Zola (1879)

My second favourite novel by Emile Zola is A Love Story (Une Page d’Amour), it’s also translated as A Love Episode sometimes. It follows Helene, a young widow who lives a secluded life with her only child, Jeanne, a delicate and nervous girl who jealously guards her mother’s affections. When Jeanne falls ill, she is attended by a doctor, who falls in love with Helene. Jeanne realizes she has a rival for Helene’s devotion in the doctor, and begins to exercise a tyrannous hold over her mother. This novel is an intense psychological and nuanced portrayal of love’s different forms. Zola’s study extends most notably to the city of Paris itself, whose shifting moods reflect Helene’s emotional turmoil in passages of extraordinary lyrical description.

Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (1885)

Bel-Ami is fairly well-known outside of France, especially since there was a movie adaptation with Robert Pattinson a few years ago (I don’t think I ever watched it, though). This book is the scandalous tale of an opportunistic young man corrupted by the allure of power. George Duroy, the main character, is offered a job as a journalist in La Vie Française and soon makes a great success of his new career. He learns to become an arch-seducer, blackmailer and social climber in a world where love is only a means to an end. It also describes very accurately the life of Paris in the Belle Epoque very accurately and I’ve read it several times, I really love this one.
Swann’s Way (1913) and In the Shadow of Young 
Girls in Flowers (1919) by Marcel Proust

Swann’s Way (Du Côté de Chez Swann) and In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flowers (A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs) are the first two books in Marcel Proust’s In Search for Lost Time (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu) series, which is set at the beginning of the 20th century in France. I love reading about society at that time and the author portrayed it so well. In this seven book series,  Proust attempted the perfect rendering of life in art, of the past recreated through memory. It is both a portrait of the artist and a discovery of the aesthetic by which the portrait is painted, and it was to have an immense influence on the literature of the twentieth century. The first two books follow the narrator as a child and as a young man, there are a bit hard to read at times because they don’t have many chapters, but I enjoyed them so much. I’m so glad I got motivated to read them three years ago, thanks to one of my literature professors, and I’m finally going to continue with Guermantes’ Way soon enough, as I want to have read the entire series by the time I turn twenty-five!

Marius (1929), Fanny (1931) and César (1936) by Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Proust is a French author I adore, I’ve read most of his plays when I was a teenager and I have such a fond memory of it. My favourites are a trilogy set in Marseilles in the 1920s, namely MariusFanny and César (the names of the three main characters). To sum it up, it follows Marius – the son of César, owner of the local bar on the port – who is torn between his love for Fanny, who sells shells for a living, and his desire to travel the world. I adore these characters and relate so much to them, to the point that reading the plays made me cry, when I still haven’t seen them on stage (it’s going to be so much worse). Anyway, it’s my dream to see them on stage one day. Marcel Pagnol usually writes about the south of France and I really enjoy that, because I don’t know that part of my country very well.
Antigone by Jean Anouilh (1946)

I read this play for a class when I was younger and adored it. This play in one act is a tragedy inspired by Greek mythology and Sophocles’ own play about Antigone. She is the daughter of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta and the main character in this story, in which she attempts to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polynices. Oedipus’ s
ons, Eteocles and Polynices, had shared the rule jointly until they quarrelled and Eteocles expelled his brother. When Polynices came back, he attacked the city of Thebes with his army and both brothers were killed in battle; Polynices is considered a traitor and can’t get a proper burial, but his sister Antigone defies this rule. This play was originally produced in Paris during the Occupation and was published after the Second World War. What’s interesting about it is that it depicts an authoritarian regime and the play’s central character, the young Antigone, mirrored the predicament of the French people in the grips of tyranny. I’m fascinated by Greek mythology, so of course I’m always interested to learn more about it, but seeing it reflected in French history is so clever and what makes this play great to read and see.

There are still so many French classics I want to get to and writing this blog post motivated me even more to finally get to them. Who knows? I might have more recommendations next year!

French classics I want to get to as soon as possible:
If English isn’t your first language, what are your favourite books in your language?  Can you read in another language? Have you ever read French classics? If so, which ones?

Lots of love,

TOP 5 // Classics I want to read this summer

Hello, beautiful people!

It’s been a while since I last wrote a ‘top 5 books I want to read’ post and I had really missed those, because I love talking about books I really want to read, especially when it comes to classics. Now that I’m almost on holidays, I have way more time to read classics and I couldn’t be happier about that, I feel like I haven’t read that much of them this year (sure Lucie, you managed to read War and Peace, Middlemarch and Shirley, which were quite lengthy ones, and others). So today, I’m here to talk to you about those I desperately want to read; funnily enough I found two of them second-hand yesterday, when that post had been drafted for a week.

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848)

It has occurred to me that I haven’t read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell since Victober 2017 and I’m a bit mad at myself for that, especially since I have so little of her novels left to read (Mary BartonSylvia’s Lovers and Cranford, but I never know if that one is considered a novel or not). Granted, I also have her biography of Charlotte Brontë and some of the novellas and short stories left after that, but still, it’s not the same. Anyhow, Mary Barton was Gaskell’s first novel and I’m so looking forward to reading it. The main character, Mary, rejects her working class lover Jem Wilson, thinking of marrying Henry Carson, the mill-owner’s son, in the hope of making a better life for herself and her father, a trade unionist. But when Henry is shot down in the street and Jem becomes the main suspect, Mary finds herself painfully torn between the two men. It sounds so good and I still can’t believe I found the Penguin English Library edition of it (see the picture at the beginning of the post), as it’s out of print!

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860)

I recently read Middlemarch by George Eliot and adored it so much that I’ve been thinking about picking up the rest of the author’s works. I had heard from several readers that The Mill on the Floss was more approachable than Middlemarch, but I got through that one, so I’m confident I’ll enjoy the first as well. The Mill on the Floss follows Maggie Tulliver, who is always trying to win the approval of her parents, but her personality often brings her into conflict with her family. It is said to have an interesting portrayal of sibling relationships, which is one of my weaknesses in literature and that it’s considered George Eliot’s most autobiographical novel. Moreover, I’ve heard such amazing things about the heroine of this novel and I cannot wait to meet her. By the way, have I mentioned that I’m planning on getting the Penguin English Library edition? It’s absolutely gorgeous, but no one is surprised. 

Let’s take a moment to stare at it:

L’Œuvre by Emile Zola (1886)

You might not know that about me, but Emile Zola is one of my favourite French writers. I have a very special relationship with L’Œuvre (The Masterpiece in English), because I’ve been meaning to read it for almost nine years, ever since we had to imagine what happened after one of the scenes for a class. Yet, I never got around to read it, still telling myself, years after years, that I needed to get to it. This summer, I have no more excuses, because I borrowed my grandmother’s copy and I can’t wait to finally know what happened after that scene. L’Œuvre is the story of a young artist moving to Paris to find success and is conquered by the flaws in his own genius. While his childhood friend becomes a successful novelist, the artist’s originality is mocked at the Salon and he gradually turns to a doomed obsession with one great canvas. It is said to be a quite autobiographical novel for Zola and to provide unique insight into Zola’s relationship with the painter Cézanne. 

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy (1887)

I haven’t read anything by Thomas Hardy since The Mayor of Casterbridge in February (which was amazing) and I really miss his writing, so I have to read as many of his works as possible this summer, starting with The Woodlanders. This one narrates the rivalry for the hand of Grace Melbury between a loyal woodlander and a sophisticated outsider. According to the Penguin Classics edition, The Woodlanders, with its thematic portrayal of the role of social class, gender, and evolutionary survival, as well as its insights into the capacities and limitations of language, exhibits Hardy’s acute awareness of his era’s most troubling dilemmas. It sounds amazing, as all of the works of Thomas Hardy that I’ve read so far, I cannot wait to get to it.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier (1941)

Last but not least, we’re leaving 19th century to move on to modern classics and Daphne du Maurier, as always. I adore Daphne du Maurier, both as a writer and as a woman, she’s one of my biggest inspirations. Frenchman’s Creek is the only one of her most popular novels I have left to read and I’m so looking forward to it, I have missed Cornwall, her words, her characters and the atmosphere she always manages to create. It’s going to be my sixth novel by her, then I’ll try her short stories, because I’m so curious about The BirdsIn the meantime, this novel follows Lady Dona St Columb, who seems to be involved in every intrigue of the Restoration Court, but she secretly despises the Court life. She retreats at her husband’s Cosnish estate, but it used to be the base of a French pirate, hunted down by all Cornwall. Upon meeting him, Dona’s thirst for adventure has never been more aroused and together they embark on a quest, which will force Dona to make the ultimate choice, between sacrificing her lover to death, or risk her own life to save him.

That’s it for the classics I want to read the most this summer! I also want to read more French literature once again, The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires) by Alexandre Dumas and Guermantes’ Way (Le Côté de Guermantes) by Marcel Proust are also patiently waiting for me, but I’ve mentioned them on other ‘top 5’ posts and I haven’t forgotten about them.

Are there any classics you want to get to this summer?

Lots of love,

A very Danish book haul

Hello, beautiful people!
Ah, to believe that two weeks ago, I was on the plane to Copenhagen. *sigh dreamily* Like I said in my last post, I traveled to Copenhagen last month and I completely fell in love with that city. I so wanted to remember every second of my time there, and while buying items in souvenirs shops can be fun, I was thinking that I wanted to bring back books that would remind me of Copenhagen and Denmark. I know that when my friend Aseel @ Lights and Pages traveled to Paris last year, she bought several books that reminded her of France, whether it was French literature or books in French. I decided to do that as well, because it’s an excellent idea and to present you what I got in this little book haul, because obviously all those books have Denmark in common.

Fairy Tales: A Selection by Hans Christian Andersen

Genres: classics, fairy tales

You’ve all probably heard of Hans Christian Andersen, even if you don’t recall his name: this Danish author is best-known for his fairy tales (he wrote so much more than that though!), such as The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen, The Emperor’s New Clothes and so many others. He lived in Copenhagen for quite some time, a boulevard was named after him and there is the statue of The Little Mermaid on a waterside at the Langelinie promenade. While my parents read me many of his tales before I went to sleep when I was a little girl, I am so curious to revisit them as an adult and I thought it was the best time to buy them, because I was in Andersen’s city after all. I also read a French YA novel* last year that featured Andersen as a character and have been so curious about him ever since, so I really didn’t need any excuse anyway.

*For French people, I’m talking about Animale : La Prophétie de la Reine des Neiges by Victor Dixen, that I adore, while I’m not a huge fan of his Phobos series #sorrynotsorry.

Genres: non-fiction, psychology, self-help

This book has been all over bookstagram for the past year or so, I’ve been meaning to get to it for so long, but I don’t know, when I bought books I wasn’t really thinking about getting that one. However, when I was in Copenhagen, I felt so peaceful and happy, yes it was due to the fact I was traveling with my boyfriend, but more than that, it was the atmosphere of the city. The Little Book of Hygge was written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, so once again, if I didn’t buy it here, when would have I gotten it? Anyway, Denmark is presumably the happiest country in the world and the reason for that is supposed to be hyggewhich has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. This book’s purpose is to try to make the reader understand hygge and it seems like quite an interesting concept, so I’m excited to finally discover what it’s all about!

The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist
Genre: historical fiction

It’s quite interesting that I bought this novel, because it was actually written by a Swedish writer and I got to Sweden right after Copenhagen, so it’s pretty much the epitome of my trip. I first heard about this novel because Christine @ Wee Reader read and adored it, if she loves a historical novel, I know I will love it too. It’s thanks to her that I discovered Susanna Kearsley after all. Anyway, The Royal Physician’s Visit is set in 18th century Denmark, during the reign of Christian VII. His wife, Queen Caroline, fell in love with his most trusted advisor, the court physician Struensee. It also follows the conflict between Struensee, who is introducing Enlightenment ideas in Denmark and Guldberg, the cold-blooded religious fanatic. I so want to know more about Danish history and apparently it’s done very well, so I’m looking forward to that. Besides, there is a movie called A Royal Affair with Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen that also tells this story and I’ll be able to watch it right after.

Can you feel my love for Scandinavian countries grow?
I sure can.
That’s it for my little book haul today, thank you for reading!

Lots of love,

TOP 5 // Reading Bucket List of 2018

Hello, beautiful people!

With the beginning of a new year, I realised there were so many books I wanted to read in 2018. Making lists of them motivates me a lot to read them, that’s what I’ve done twice in the past on my blog; I actually read all of the classics on the first list and I’m still making my way through the second one that focused on 20th century literature. As I last did one of those in November, I thought that doing one at the beginning of 2018 would be perfect to get through all of these books. Once again, you will notice a trend in the books I want to read the most in 2018: all of them are quite lengthy as I’ve been meaning to get to all the big books I have never read and I am so excited! As a matter of fact, War and Peace would have been first on the list, but it was the very first book I read in 2018 and I’m sure it will shape my reading year.

Side note: I’m going to scream that I really dislike Napoléon a little too much in this post, I don’t know how it happened, but now you’ve been warned.

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871)

I will confess that I was first attracted to Middlemarch for its cover, as it is one of the most beautiful covers in the Penguin English Library collection (everyone knows I am completely obsessed with it). After doing some research, I discovered that George Eliot was considered to be one of the greatest English writers and she seemed to have led quite a life. Middlemarch is set in a provincial town and is about diverse lives and changing your fortunes within your community. I am not sure if it’ll be my very first George Eliot, as The Mill on the Floss has been eyeing me a lot and I’ve seen people saying it was easier to start with that one, but we’ll see. In any case, I am so looking forward to discovering George Eliot’s writing in 2018!

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)

If there was one book I could buy right now, it would be this one. It is set during the Napoleonic Wars, so I will cry a lot* because I truly don’t like Napoleon (and I’m French…), but it’s about two magicians who reveal themselves when people thought magic was long dead in England. They join forces in the war against France (yayyyy, let’s defeat Napoleon! Okay I’ll stop), but one of them is drawn to more perilous forms of magic, which is straining his relationship with the other magician. *dramatic music playing* A book set in the 19th century with magic is my kind of thing and I’ve only heard amazing things about that one. Besides, I’ve heard that it almost reads like a history non-fiction book, I need it even more.

*I like being overdramatic, as I know it’s set during that time period, I’m prepared and, in any case, I’m so siding with the English for that.

3. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

The reason I still haven’t read The Three Musketeers is quite stupid and presumptuous, I have to say. I studied history for three years and one of my professors criticised The Three Musketeers a lot, because it was set in the era he was teaching us – he also hated Napoléon, and that however, I’m completely here for – and after some time, I didn’t want to read this book anymore, since I knew so many things about the reign of Louis XIII. As a matter of fact, I didn’t read a lot of historical fiction when I was studying history, because I would have yelled at any inaccuracies (that’s the curse of history majors really). However, I’ve thought of the book a lot lately and talked about it in several conversations on bookstagram, which made me realise that yes, some of Dumas’ choices might pisses me off in his historical interpretations, but I really want to read it anyway, because it sounds so entertaining and it would make me see how that part of French history was seen in the 19th century. I also read one of Dumas’ lesser-known novels in high school, Pauline*, and I had absolutely loved it, so it’s time for me to discover the rest of his works.

*I’m not sure if that one has been translated into English, but I adore it and it has Gothic elements, I definitely recommend that one!

4. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (1996)

I’ll confess it straight away: I’m up to date with the show, but I still haven’t read any of the novels. Oops? To be honest, the A Song of Ice and Fire series has always intimidated me, I was scared I wouldn’t like it and I told myself the show would be enough – as I’ve had my ups and downs with it – until I decided lengthy books didn’t scare me anymore and realised that I would have to wait two years for the last season (I loved seasons 6 and 7 so much and I need more). I’ve seen many people saying the show had erased some characters they loved, that they were better (of course!) and eventually, I got convinced. I think that it’s been a while since I read epic fantasy, and I truly miss it. I adore the world I have seen in the show and I really need to see more of it, so this is it, 2018 is the year I will read the A Song of Ice and Fire series (but I only put A Game of Thrones on the list, one book at a time haha).

5. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (1849)

I’ve only ever read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, but never got around to read the rest of her novels. Last year, I read both Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë and told myself 2018 would be the year I read the rest of Charlotte’s novels (which means I’ll also get to Villette and The Professor soon). I didn’t know where I would start, even though I’ve owned a second-hand copy of Shirley for the past two years (bless my mom for finding me this one), until my favourite BookTuber Lucy @ Lucy The Reader read it and it became her favourite book. Truth be told, I don’t want to know too much about this one*, I know it’s by Charlotte Brontë and that Lucy adored it, that’s all I need to finally jump right into it.

*I actually do know it’s set during the Napoleonic wars, which is ironic as you’ve gotten it, I don’t like Napoleon, but this time period is so interesting in other countries (I’m so sorry for all the anti-Napoleon comments haha).

Have you read any of these books? Which books are on your reading bucket list for 2018?

Lots of love,

My favourite books of 2017

Hello, beautiful people!

With only two days left of 2017, I thought now would be the perfect time to talk to you about my favourite books of the year. It was actually quite easy to make the list for once and I can say that I truly adored them, because upon writing this post, I wanted to reread them all. This post is a bit long, that’s for sure, so let’s start it right away!

10. Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary novels, but sometimes, I stumbled upon some that gets me. Tash Hearts Tolstoy was such a novel. This novel is about Tash, the creator of a webseries that’s a modern take on Anna Karenina, who finds herself in the spotlight after a shoutout from a famous YouTuber. When her webseries is nominated for an award, the perspective that her flirt with a fellow award nominee might become something more IRL dawns on her, because she has to figure out how to tell her crush she’s romantic asexual. It might not be the greatest novel, I do realise that, but before I met Tash (and Molly from The Upside of Unrequited), I had never met another character I could relate to that much, which is why this novel will always have a special place in my heart. 

9. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

“I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back. A perfect alignment of feelings and circumstances. It’s almost unfathomable that it happens as often as it does.” 

I read Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda when it came out two years ago and loved it, but not as much as everyone else. I went into The Upside of Unrequited without any expectations and ended up reading it in one sitting, because I found so much of myself in Molly. My sixteen years old self was so much like Molly, with a million crushes without doing anything, self-conscious, suffering from anxiety and weird around boys. Sometimes, I was reading her reactions, thinking: “Well, if this isn’t me”. The Upside of Unrequited is the book I wish 16 yo me could have read, for it would have made her love herself more and stop caring about getting a boyfriend before the end of high school (I’d like to scream at myself that it was very stupid haha).

Me @ 16 yo me
(someone is way too obsessed with Kylo Ren, but I’m not even sorry)

8. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
“He read while he walked. He read while he ate. The other librarians suspected he somehow read while he slept, or perhaps didn’t sleep at all.” 

I discovered Laini Taylor through her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy a few years ago, and I had fallen in love with her writing style as well as her unique universe. Like so many readers, I anticipated Strange the Dreamer for two years, being a bit sad when its release date was pushed back at the end of 2016, and yet, it did not disappoint. Once again, I loved Taylor’s writing style, the world-building of this new world, and most of all, Lazlo Strange, one of the most relatable characters for us bookworms out there. He read all the time and that was his strength. He even broke his nose because a big book fell on him once. Strange the Dreamer was quite an adventure and it swooped me in from the very first line. I haven’t talked that much about it on social media, but this very poetic story is quite special to my heart and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Muse of Nightmares.  

7. Making Faces by Amy Harmon

“Everybody is a main character to someone…” 

I am so happy I finally started reading Amy Harmon’s books this year. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of contemporary novels, and yet, this is the third one that won its place in this top. From the first moment I started reading this book, I fell in love with Harmon’s writings, put way too many post-its because there were so many quotes I wanted to remember. Everything the author wanted to talk about was very important and done in the right way, I know this one left a lasting impression on me. The main characters were absolutely amazing, in their different ways. I can’t tell you who I loved the most between Fern, Bailey or Ambrose. I went into Making Faces expecting another romance, got out of it having read one of the best contemporary novels I had ever read. I see myself rereading it years after years, falling in love with it every single time.

6. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

“There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.”

Wintersong has a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads – some of them from fans of Labyrinth, because it’s not really a retelling of it apparently, but I haven’t watched the movie, so I don’t really mind – but this is another book that spoke to my soulWintersong the story of Liesl, whose sister is taken underground by the goblins. Liesl goes there to rescue her and makes a pact with the Goblin King: a life for a life. She agrees to marry the Goblin King and the more time she spends underground, the more her life fades away and the more her musical talents grow.

It is set in 18th century Austria, the main character’s full name is Elizabeth, the Mozart family is mentioned a few times, music plays an important part in it and it might have my favourite cover ever (go check what it looks like, please). One of the scenes gave me strong Evermore vibes, because I’m very obsessed with this song (a new song from Beauty and the Beast), but you know. Now, all of those elements seem very random, but they all mean something for me in different ways, and it’s one of the reasons I adored this book so much.

5. Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

“Did it never strike your mind that what every woman says, some women may feel?”

Last year, I discovered Thomas Hardy with Far from the Madding Crowd and it was my favourite book of the year. In 2017, I read a lot more of Hardy’s novels and he became one of my favourite authors, I’d trust him with anything. Tess of the d’Ubervilles was the second of his novels that I read and it left me speechless. Thomas Hardy, while being a Victorian era (aka from a totally different time) writer, stood up for women in his writings, showing how much men could be at fault and should be held accountable for their actions (we still have a long road to go, even though we’re almost in 2018). In Tess of the d’Ubervilles, he portrays two men in a completely different way while showing all of their flaws, and makes us wonder what is right and what is wrong, in very specific situations. I cannot express how much I loved this book, but Thomas Hardy definitely is one of my favourite authors and I need to read all of his books.

4. The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier

“High above the clustered houses and the grey harbour waters of Plyn, the loving spirit smiles and is free.”

I first read Daphne du Maurier’s novels this year and she quickly became one of my favourite authors. I had put My Cousin Rachel in this spot at first, but realised it wasn’t right and almost didn’t put anything by her in here, because I hadn’t rated The Loving Spirit five stars, at least not at first. Then, I remember how much I loved this book. It was du Maurier’s debut, it’s a family saga on four generations and it is set in Cornwall. I could feel the sea whenever I was reading the book, it became an actual character in the novel and I loved it so much, since I’m obsessed with it. The characters were so interesting, complex and deeply flawed. Every time I finished reading about one of them, I became so sad, because I didn’t want to say goodbye, and then I read about the next generation and felt for them. 

In a way, the Coombe family became mine, as I was along them in their hardships, their joys, their pains, their dreams. From the second I finished this book, I started missing it. I badly want to reread it, because it somehow feels like home. Du Maurier gets my feelings for the sea, as we have the same ones, and I’m so grateful I realised that while reading The Loving Spirit. 

3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

“My heart is too thoroughly dried to be broken in a hurry, and I mean to live as long as I can.” 

Anne Brontë is often seen as the forgotten Brontë sister, but she might be my favourite. I read Wuthering Heights by Emily and Jane Eyre by Charlotte a few years ago, but never got around to read anything by Anne, until this year. I didn’t know what I expected, but I completely fell in love with this novel. I had only started getting back into classics, but it’s definitely the book that made me realise I never wanted to stop reading them. Victorian England definitely wasn’t ready for Anne Brontë and that’s one of the reasons I admire her so much. I absolutely adored reading about Helen, the way Anne portrayed relationships and the darkness of the human soul. She was much more of a realist when you compare her to her sisters, and it might be why her books aren’t as talked about as theirs. In any case, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of my favourite classics ever.

Actual footage of me with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

2. Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare

“Everyone is afraid of something. We fear things because we value them. We fear losing people because we love them. We fear dying because we value being alive. Don’t wish you didn’t fear anything. All that would mean is that you didn’t feel anything.”

You probably all know I adore Cassandra Clare’s books and that they mean the world to me, as they made me read in English. Lady Midnight, the first book in The Dark Artifices trilogy, was the book I waited the most on in my life, and I completely fell in love with it. Lord of Shadows didn’t disappoint me either: I absolutely loved how Clare talked about topical subjects, wrote amazing characters, plotlines and relationships once again. As I’m writing those words, I’m reading this book for the third time of the year, and there couldn’t be any better way to end the year. I can’t put into words how much I love this book and I still haven’t been able to write my review. Nevertheless, it’s absolutely amazing and the Shadowhunters books only get better and better with every single one of them.

Lord of Shadows was actually my favourite book of the year for a long time, until I read…

1. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

“The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.” 

I’m sure most of you won’t be surprised, considering I’ve been talking about this one a lot and told everyone it was my favourite book of the year anyway. *Ahem* Les Misérables and I actually have a lot of history and you can read about that here. It’s one of the best books I have read in my entire life, I read it in three days. I put way too many post-its in it, loved the characters and all the historical details, ‘accidentally’ fell in love with Marius Pontmercy (which makes absolutely no sense, but anyway), laughed, cried, gasped. I own a 1662 page long edition and yet I want to reread it again and again. It’s nothing to say that it is a masterpiece, but it is a masterpiece and it changed my life.

So there you have it, here are my favourite books of 2017. I hope you had an amazing year reading-wise. I’d love to know what your favourite books of the year were!

Lots of love,

Les Misérables: a book, a musical, a movie, and what it means to me

Me hugging Les Misérables, because hugging your favourite books is good for the soul.

Hello, beautiful people!

As you probably already know, I am completely obsessed with Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, as well as the musical and its movie adaptation. I had read the abridged version of the book when I was twelve and absolutely loved it, but this year, I decided it was time to read the unabridged version. I finally did so this month, and I fell in love with it all over again, except that it’s even more powerful than it used to be. Today, I just wanted to talk to you about my story with Les Misérables (it’s been thirteen years in the making. yup.) and to try to tell you why I love it so much.

What is Les Misérables about?

Les Misérables is a French novel published by Victor Hugo in 1862 and it’s really emblematic in French literature. It describes the lives of miserable people in 19th century France, both in Paris and the countryside, following more specifically Jean Valjean’s life, a former convict.

My story with Les Misérables

I remember hearing about Les Misérables for the first time when I was about seven or eight. A teacher in elementary school once said ‘Come on Cosette, go fetch us some water’ as a joke, before explaining where the reference came from. For some reason, it always stayed in my mind, until I was twelve and had to read the abridged version for a class. We were supposed to read it for January or February, but once my parents bought me the book in October, I devoured it, stayed up way past my bedtime to read it, and became completely obsessed. My schoolmates complained a lot about having to read it, and I went through it twice. I fell in love with Victor Hugo’s writing, the characters and the story. Now, as you probably already know, I’m French. What most of you don’t know is that I come from the north of the country. The first book of Les Misérables is set there, most of it in Montreuil-sur-Mer (my actual hometown is the place where the fake Jean Valjean’s trial takes place, it was fate). I’ve been to this town for as long as I can remember, walking along the battlements and the old castle. Every year, Montreuil-sur-Mer has a sound and light show, a sort of reenactment of Les Misérables, as part of the story is set there. I begged my parents to go the year I first read the book and they took one of my brothers and I. It was a very cold summer evening (it’s the north of France, after all), but while I was freezing, seeing the characters alive in front of my eyes amazed me and I have such a fond memory of it. That’s how I first became obsessed with Les Misérables.

As you can see, I definitely didn’t know about the musical… Until they decided to adapt it into a movie. I saw a lot of gifs on Tumblr and decided to start listening to the songs, which I completely fell in love with. I didn’t see the movie right away, because I’m not sure they showed it in my hometown or I had someone to watch it with me, and it was years until I finally did. I was already obsessed with Eddie Redmayne by then and you know… He’s playing Marius’ part in it (hence 60% of my love for Marius). Anyhow, I watched the movie and fell in love all over again (it was also a weird experience the first time, because I started watching it in a train with lots of noise…). I listened to the songs for months on end and I still listen to them at least once a week. 

Then, back in September… I saw the musical live in West End, in London. It was one of the best moments of my entire life and I cried most of the time, because it was a dream come true. I can’t thank my boyfriend enough for buying us these tickets, I thought it would be way too expensive and didn’t dare to dream going for at least a few years. Now, I’m planning on going back again and again, I know I’ll never be tired of it.

Last but not least, this month, I read the unabridged version of the novel. While it’s 1662 pages long… I read it in three days. I still don’t know how. It is one of the best books I have ever read and it made it into my top 3 books of all times, without even needing to try. I’m already thinking about rereading it over and over again. After I finished it, I rewatched the movie again, have been listening to the songs on repeat again, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Why do I love Les Misérables so much?

Now, that is a complex question, because Les Misérables is a book, a musical, a movie, my entire life. I will never be able to do Victor Hugo’s words justice, nor the musical’s.

I love the book in all its complexity. I won’t lie, it’s not for everyone, because it has long descriptions, a lot of historical facts and it can seem boring sometimes (I guess?). Yet, I love history and being so engrossed in a book that I feel like I time-traveled in a different era. With Les Misérables, I time travel and for me, there aren’t too many words, it’s just fine. Hugo describes everything perfectly to give you a sense of what early 19th
 century France was like, of why these characters act like this or why the plot is going that way. He’s always going back to give a backstory to his characters and because of that, they’re perfectly developed. You all know how obsessed I am with Marius Pontmercy, and I feel like I know everything I need to know about him. He could have been a real person, for all I know. Victor Hugo’s characters are perfectly fleshed-out, he shows you the good, all of the bad, he doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything. I got something out of every character in this novel. Les Misérables is about the hardships of life, how you can make the right choices and yet seem all wrong in society’s eyes, how you can still dare to hope and fight for your dreams, to be recognised and even if it didn’t work, at least you tried (that last part isn’t so happy but hey, it’s life). Les Misérables is the story of a society that is still relevant today, a heart-breaking tale, an adventure, a sum of knowledge, a romance, and so much more. For me, you can’t fit it in one genre (it’s considered to be a historical, social and philosophical novel), unless you consider ‘a literary masterpiece’ as one.

One of the other reasons I love Les Misérables so much can seem pretty random, but it’s relevant to my life. Like I told you, I come from the north of France, which always made the first part of the book important to me, because it was set home, in a way. For a long time, it was the part of the story I knew the most, I didn’t know that much about Marius, or Cosette when she was older. Recently, it struck me. I moved to Paris for my studies, to begin my adult life, four and a half years ago. The second part of the novel is set in Paris, Cosette is older, like I was, in a way; the friends of the ABC meet in the Latin Quarter, so close to where I live. It might be one of the cheesiest things I have ever written, but the geography of Les Misérables is the geography of my life, somehow. This story will always be even closer to my heart for personal reasons I can’t exactly explain, but it makes me love the book even more.

For me and many other people out there, Les Misérables also means the musical. I discovered it later, but it’s a masterpiece on its own as well. All the songs are absolutely amazing and now that I’ve read the entire book, I can tell you that all the lyrics have twelve times more meanings than you might think. Every little thing is a reference to a detail of the book. Every time I listen to the songs, I discover a new one. The songs of the musical are moving, unforgettable and even iconic today. The musical has run continuously in London since October 1985, it’s been thirty-two years and the theatre is still full whenever they play it. I first saw the musical as a movie and I love it with all my heart, but when I was about to see the musical on stage… I wondered how they would do it. Let me tell you that the staging is genius, the costumes, amazing, the actors, so talented. It’s perfect. It’s my favourite musical by far, and I’m a huge lover of musicals. I’m sure the musical will still run for a long time, and I know that I’ll go back to see it as many times as I can.

I can’t convey all of my thoughts into proper words, but I do love Les Misérables with my entire body, soul and heart (I’m being overdramatic, but I couldn’t care less). It’s a story that has been following me since my childhood and will never truly leave me. My words will never be able to do it justice, but at least, I tried. Writing this post was a cathartic experience for me, because I know that my words are stocked somewhere and that I will always be able to reread them. If you read this entire post, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your time means the world to me.

Lots of love,