Tuesday, December 8, 2020

1000 Books Project: French Classics 2021

Challenge Backstory:
I picked up a copy of James Mustich's amazing 1000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life Changing List and upon looking through it, I realized it really is a well-rounded reading recommendation book. I was pleased to discover I have read quite a few of the books he lists, and that many of them are on my personal reading lists (and they are books I own). So, to ever expand my reading horizons, and include others in the journey, I decided to create a read-along challenge, or project, if you will.

Note: 2020 was non-fiction. We had four books which were supposed to be quarterly read-alongs. Sadly, I only managed to complete the first quarter book which was Herodotus' The Histories (which was a daunting read!). I moved house in August (from Tennessee to Michigan). It was a major move with months and months of packing (I have thousands of books) and months and months of unpacking (just finished shelving the bulk of my books and STILL unpacking). So, planning the read-alongs last year was overly ambitious. Going to scale it back (a bit) this year. 

Without further ado, the project for 2021 is French Classics. Particularly...

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas:  January - June 2021

From 1000 Books to Read Before You Die...

The Fastest 1,200 Pages You Will Ever Read

When it comes to page-turners, The Count of Monte Cristo is the great granddaddy of them all. Despite the novel's gargantuan dimensions--it runs to more than twelve hundred pages in most editions--each of its chapters is like an exhibit in a compendium of narrative suspense; it's hard to imagine any thriller plot on page or screen that isn't foretold in the fantastic adventures of Edmond Dantès.

Dantès is an earnest, responsible young sailor who, as the novel begins, has returned to Marseilles to marry his beloved Mercèdès. Yet on the eve of their wedding, he is nefariously accused of being a traitor, wrongfully convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment in an impregnable chàteau. So begins Dumas's sprawling tale of vengeance, cunning, patience, and hope. As Dantès is transformed into the unforgettable figure who gives the book its title, he comes to combine the attributes of Odysseus, Robin Hood, a Western gunslinger, and James Bond, meting out his artful and implacable justice with equal doses of vindictiveness and generosity. 


Les Misèrables by Victor Hugo:  July through December 2021

From 1000 Books to Read Before You Die...

An Epic Tale of Injustice and Adversity, Love and Hope

In his long life, Victor Hugo amassed glory on a scale we can scarcely imagine today. Upon his death in 1885 at the age of eighty-three, his body was laid in state in Paris beneath the Arch de Triomphe, and tens of thousands paid their respects to the revered poet, dramatist, and novelist before he was buried (in a pauper's coffin, as his will stipulated) in the Panthèon. Hugo's epic funeral dwarfs the earthly farewell of other writers the way Les Misèrables--in its length, scope, and magnamity--towers over all but a handful of novels.

The product of two decades of literary labor, Les Misèrables was begun while the author enjoyed political favor in Paris, and finished during Hugo's nineteen-year political exile in the Channel Islands. At the core of its vast narrative is Jean Valjean, a peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving children. This rash act will haunt him through all the events that follow, for even though the noble Valjean can escape prison, he cannot escape his past, which relentlessly pursues him in the body of the implacable Inspector Javert. Hugo's fierce advocacy for the poor and oppressed (the book's title might be translated as "The Wretched" or "The Outcasts") runs like an electric current through the intricate plot that leads readers from the countryside to the urban underworld, from the Battle of Waterloo to the Parisian sewers through which Valjean flees in one of the most famous episodes in all of fiction. Teeming with unforgettable characters--including the saintly bishop known as Monseigneur Bienvenu, the young and unfortunate seamstress Fantine, her orphaned daughter Cosette, the street urchin Gavroche, the villainous Thènardier, and the fiery revolutionary Marius--Les Misèrables encompasses historical events, societal injustice, personal suffering and sacrifice, and love in all its hopes and heartaches. As the author leads the reader down what seems to be every alleyway in Paris, he wears on his billowing sleeve the human sympathy that animates the most unforgettable novels. 

Watch for the reading schedule for our first read-along, The Count of Monte Cristo,  which I will have posted on January 1st.  Reading Schedule Here.

Les Miserables - Reading Schedule Here.

If you would like to join us, sign up below...and spread the word. Thanks!
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  1. I think I'm going to join you on Les Mis in July. I'm excited to commit myself to this one finally.

  2. This looks like a fun reading challenge!

  3. Looking forward to reading some classics that have been on my TBR list!

  4. Looking forward to this one! Two books in 12 months. I hope I can manage that one!

  5. I tried to read Les Mis this month but it's hard to do alone! So looking forward to this. I've read The Count before so I'll see you in July! :)


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