Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Novel of the Century

The Novel of the Century. David Bellos. 2017. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from chapter one: Victor-Marie Hugo was born in 1802 in the garrison twon of Besancon, where his father was stationed.

Premise/plot: The Novel of the Century tells the story of Les Miserables. It seeks to do two things, really: 1) It tells how Victor Hugo came to write, edit, and publish Les Miserables; 2) It discusses the impact of the novel since its publication to the present day. It is a book for literature majors and/or history majors, especially. It is simply packed with information.

Did you know that...
  • Victor Hugo lived in exile for decades; France's most popular, much-beloved writer was exiled with the new regime that came into power in the mid 1840s.
  • Victor Hugo started the novel in the 1840s, but, it wasn't finished and published until the 1860s.
  • Worried that the book might be banned and/or destroyed, NO review copies were sent out before its publication, and the contents of the book were kept very secret. Still the book needed to be promoted, so they used BILLBOARDS of some of the interior illustrations to advertise.
  • The book was released in five parts of two volumes each, I believe.
My thoughts: I am so happy and so thankful that I got a chance to review this. Les Miserables has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in 1997. I had not heard the often dramatic story of how the novel came to be. This one isn't so much a biography of Victor Hugo's whole life or career as it is finely focused on his years writing, editing, publishing this one novel of his. The chapters vary between an entertaining narrative style that just about anyone can understand and appreciate and a more technical, scholarly style which may or may not hold every reader's interest. I really found many of the 'interludes' to be fascinating.

For example, "Reading novels as historical resources is not a way of paying attention to what the author meant to say, but a matter of identifying what was once so obvious that it didn't need to be said."

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Tamara said...

What an interesting perspective for a novel. Pick a classic, describe its authors position, and infirm the reader about the classic story,.. victor hugo has a real following, but i wonder how many people knkw some of your facts