Realism and Romance in Sequel to `Les Miz'

By Reviewed Jan Garden Castro | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 16, 1995 | Go to article overview

Realism and Romance in Sequel to `Les Miz'


Reviewed Jan Garden Castro, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


COSETTE The Sequel to "Les Miserablesl" A novel by Laura Kalpakian 672 pages, HarperCollins, $24

VICTOR HUGO'S classic novel "Les Miserables" and the musical version end with the death of the long-suffering sage, Jean Valjean. After spending 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Valjean was stalked and persecuted by a creep named Javert.

Hugo (1802-1885), writing about his own era, immortalized the honest peasant with an angelic soul. Just as "Les Miz" is a page-turner for some readers and turgid prose for others, Laura Kalpakian's sequel "Cosette" re-introduces the same relatively flat "good" and "bad" characters. "Cosette" is more optimistic, realistic and, at 672 pages, half as long.

One benefit of taking the time to read "Cosette" instead of waiting for the TV miniseries is to experience how the author depicts the sweeping social changes in 19th-century France.

The story of Cosette and Marius Pontmercy begins in the pages of "Les Miserables" and is retold in the first book of "Cosette." These soul mates meet secretly in the garden of Cosette's protector, Valjean. Valjean is about to flee with Cosette to England when Marius joins the ranks of revolutionaries fighting in the short-lived barricade of rue de Mondetour of 1832. Marius's working-class values - liberty, equality, fraternity - are aligned with the 1789 French Revolution. Few survive. Valjean rescues the wounded Marius by carrying him through the famed sewers of Paris. Another survivor, Clerons, becomes a spy for Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, a vain political opportunist who soon heads the Second Republic (1848-52) and the Second Empire (1852-70). …

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