STARRED REVIEW
August 25, 2015

Eponine’s ‘Les Misérables’

By Susan Fletcher
Review by

I admit it: In junior high I had the soundtrack from Les Misérables on permanent replay. I saw the musical on Broadway and even read the unabridged book by Victor Hugo, all 1,500 pages of it. So when I heard that adult author Susan Fletcher’s debut YA novel would retell this classic novel from Eponine’s point of view, I jumped at the chance to review it.

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I admit it: In junior high I had the soundtrack from Les Misérables on permanent replay. I saw the musical on Broadway and even read the unabridged book by Victor Hugo, all 1,500 pages of it. So when I heard that adult author Susan Fletcher’s debut YA novel would retell this classic novel from Eponine’s point of view, I jumped at the chance to review it.

Fletcher’s story opens just as Eponine’s closes, on a French street the night of the failed Paris uprising of 1832. It then backtracks to Eponine’s childhood as the oldest daughter of the amoral Thenardier family, who become the guardians of Cosette, a girl Eponine’s age whose mother cannot afford to keep her. At first, Eponine and her sister have lavish clothes and dolls (for which they help their family steal) while Cosette sweeps floors, fetches water and endures the endless taunts of her foster sisters. Fortune changes, and 10 years later Eponine, not Cosette, finds herself begging and dressed in rags. The teenage Eponine is determined to be a good person despite her family’s thieving ways, but amid swirling political unrest, can she expect to find forgiveness for her past crimes—let alone love?

Fans of the book (and the musical) know this story well and will recognize familiar characters like Marius, Inspector Javert, Jean Valjean and even little Gavroche. The magic of Fletcher’s work is in the way she weaves in and out of Hugo’s classic tale, giving a voice to one of literature’s most tragic, voiceless characters.

I had to dig up my old Les Mis tapes (yes, tapes) as I read; I dare any other Les Mis fans not to do the same!

 

Jill Ratzan teaches research rudiments in central New Jersey. She learned most of what she knows about YA lit from her terrific grad students.

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A Little in Love

A Little in Love

By Susan Fletcher
Chicken House
ISBN 9780545829601

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