Sorry I didn’t post last week, I was reading like mad to finish Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables. A massive brick of a book, but wonderful, touching, and heartbreaking, Les Miserables is the story of France in the aftermath of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. The title (which translates to the poor, the wrenched, or the miserable) is fitting because almost every character, no matter their situation, is indeed miserable.
The protagonist is an ex-convict named Jean Valjean who was imprisoned for five years for stealing a loaf of bread but ended up in prison for nineteen years in all for attempting to escape. When he is released from prison, he is bitter at the world for his imprisonment and believes that the world is evil. However, when he meets the kind Bishop of Dinge, Jean Valjean undergoes a change of heart and decides to become a better man. His journey takes him first to the town of Montreil-sur-Mer, where he meets a poor and dying prostitute Fantine, then later to Paris with Fantine’s daughter (where he takes part in the Friend’s of the ABC’s “revolution”). While trying to help those in need, Jean Valjean is pursued by Javert, the relentless police officer determined to throw Jean Valjean back in jail for breaking his parole.
While the length of the book may seem daunting, you really should just read it. Not only is it one of the greatest and most well-known classics in the world, it is also filled with philosophical lessons that everyone would do well to hear. And if you’re still not convinced, the Broadway musical “Les Mis” is–somewhat obviously–based on the book and there will be a movie adaptation coming out this December! The cast includes Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and will include many other well-know actors like Russell Crow, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, and supposedly Taylor Swift (I know, I’m disappointed about that last one too).
Just read it, it’s definitely worth it.
Everyone has at least heard of The Three Musketeers. But I doubt that many people of my generation have actually read the book, or even seen any of the older film adaptations. I have no doubt in my mind, however, that the new film adaptation will cause scores of teens to read the novel… then be disappointed by the lack of flying pirate ships.
I won’t lie: the new film was really fun. I thought it was well made and just a beautiful film to watch. The fight scenes were amazing, the costumes gorgeous, and the actors believable. (And yes, the flying pirate ships were cool as well.) What the film failed to capture, however, was the very essence of the novel. The novel paints a vivid and realistic image of the time period (1600s) while the movie was unrealistic. The entire film seemed to take place in some sort of alternate reality or futuristic world instead of the 1600s.
The romantic plots were enjoyable to watch but nothing like they were in the novel. The novel is filled with affairs and mistresses but the film made all romantic relationships pure. The entire premise of the novel is the affair between Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham, and what that affair does to England and France’s relations. The main plot of the film, on the other hand, is Buckingham’s flying warship. In the film, the relationship between the Queen and Buckingham is only a rumor started by the Cardinal. In the novel, both Porthos and Aramis have mistresses; in the film, they have no romantic interests. In the novel, Athos had been married to Milady de Winter but hanged her (though she survived and came back with a vengeance) when he finds out she is an escaped convict; in the film, none of that happened. In the novel, D’Artagnan has an affair with his landlord’s wife at the same time that he has an affair with Milday de Winter and her maid; in the film, he only loves Constance, who is not married. I feel as though the director was under the impression that modern audiences would not be able to sympathize with characters who were constantly indulged in sinful relationships.
The Three Musketeers was a good film, and the fact that it’s not a good adaptation shouldn’t deter you from seeing the film if you’re at all interested. But, if you want my opinion, watch the ’70′s versions (The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers) with Michael York. The films manage to accurately portray the original story while adding a comedic effect.
Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red
(translated from German by Athena Bell) is a page-turner about a time-traveling gene. The gene has been present in two separate families for centuries, and the birth-dates of the inheritors of this gene were calculated by Isaac Newton and the rest of the “Guardians”. So, when ordinary (okay, it’s kind of a lie: she can see and talk to ghosts) sixteen-year old Gwen–who was born the day before the calculated date–inherits the gene instead of her perfect cousin Charlotte (who has been trained to live with this gene since she was born), it comes as a surprise to everyone. Suddenly, Gwen and Gideon (her gorgeous, stuck-up, and cold-at-first-but-he-grows-on-you fellow time traveler) have to time travel to collect blood from the ten other gene-carriers so that they can unlock the secret of the chronograph, which they suspect is immortality.
Ruby Red was first published in Germany in 2009 and has become a sensation around the globe. Just look on Youtube and you will find tons of Ruby Red videos, ranging from trailers to people reading the books to “dream casts” for the film. If you are fluent in German you can also check out the sequels–Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green. I, however, am not so lucky and will have to wait until the English translation comes out. The English translation just came out this month.
I read Ruby Red in less than twenty-four hours. I started before I went to bed last Saturday (and couldn’t put it down until I was 140 pages into it) and finished Sunday afternoon. I highly recommend it–especially to girls, but some guys may enjoy it as well. it is technically a young adult novel but I believe that it would make a great summer read for any age.
I don’t think it does the book justice, but this book trailer can give you a little more information.