Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Reading

I am currently reading this:

No, it is not on my Kindle app on my Droid phone. I have the thick little paperback. It is the same book I read over eighteen years ago, while I was living in Logan, needing something to do while I waited for the birth of the baby girl I would be placing for adoption. The book and musical were all the rage back then. We couldn't get enough of it. I even attended the musical in Salt Lake (with my family, I think) around that same time. Loved the music; loved the themes; loved the romance.

It is funny, my thirty-something year old self has a hard time being patient enough not to skim over some parts of the book. Especially when the author begins talking about history or politics and I am thinking, "I just want to know what happens next. . ." to Fantine or Marius or whoever it is talking about in that part of the story. I often wonder if I really read the whole thing then, or if I just glossed over some parts. I know that is what I did when I read Gone with the Wind forever ago. You can only read so much about ball gowns and draperies, you know.

It is also interesting to me the strong adoption-related themes throughout the book, Les Miserables, I mean. I don't remember them being that noticeable back then. And clearly the author has some strong opinions about adoption, as well as his views on politics, society, human rights, etc. My goodness, it was heart-wrenching to read the scene where Fantine leaves her beloved daughter Cosette in the care of a woman who clearly adored her own children, trusting that she had love to spare. Only to have that woman scorn and abuse Cosette because she was not her own child. Believe me, I do not think that to be a parallel in my own life. Still, I am shocked that my former self was not terrified of this prospect, that the couple I chose for my child might turn out to be not as ideal as I thought. Apparently, the inspiration I was meant to receive from the reading back then was not meant to include those kind of fears.

And then Marius, when he discovers that his estranged father truly loved him, when he had been made to believe he was indifferent to his son, that was such a tragedy! And also a sermon on the way some misguided adoptive parents will sometimes lie to their adopted children, telling them their birth parents never cared about them. This, because they fear the child might love the unknown parent(s) more than them. I am not saying most adoptive parents do this, or even that they do it intentionally, as Marius' grandfather did in the book. It was just a theme that was really stark to me. And also, how when something like that happens, the child (or young adult) will turn on his parents because he feels wronged, like Marius did. In a way, that is also a tragedy.

My goodness! I really don't know if I am making any sense.

I am only halfway through the book at this point. Of course, another adoption theme is the fact that Jean Valjean takes guardianship over Cosette. I think this is the theme I latched onto as a young pregnant woman considering adoption. The father figure is what I was seeking for my daughter, more than all those other things. I needed her to have a daddy. In the book, I related most strongly to Jean Valjean. And of course, in the musical, he is the most major character.

Of course, recently, besides reading the book, I have been listening to the music from the musical, Les Miserables. Garrett recently watched the musical in Salt Lake with his high school French class. And I was so jealous. I suppose I still could have gotten tickets to the show for another time, but that just didn't occur to me. He came home with a poster and a CD of the music, which I immediately loaded onto my computer. But besides that, I have been listening to the Les Miserables broadway musical channel on Pandora, which I like even better because it includes some of the old versions of the songs, the ones I knew back then. Who doesn't love "On My Own"? Well, I personally don't love the new version, but then I don't even like the original version as much as I LOVED it when Chrislynn sang/performed it for the Miss San Juan Pageant in 1993.

And then the songs tie in with a lot of the feelings I have been having about how I feel about where I am in my adoption situation now. That helpless limbo I am stuck in. I am determined not to be whiny about this whole thing. I don't want to keep harassing you like I am "Oh, poor me!" all the time, because I am not. But I do feel that loss keenly, and there are songs that remind me of that. And if it weren't 11:00 at night, I could probably give you a specific song.

Anyway, I am LOVING reading this book. It is not necessarily an easy read, especially when you don't filter out all the seemingly extra stuff. You know, the author did have a point (several, actually) that he was trying to make with all those words. So maybe if I read the whole thing I can figure it out.

By the way, you are thinking I "named" my birth daughter Cosette because of this play/book. And so you know, that is sort of the name that is on her original birth certificate, the one of which I have a copy. Actually, the birth certificate says "Cozette". And the reason I gave her that name was I once had a friend named Cozette, a good friend who I met when I was 14 and spent the summer with her at BYU while my mother went to Graduate School. We stayed in touch for several years after that, but eventually I lost track of her. It was something I always regretted. And in a way, I was honoring her and maybe even recognizing that our relationship (mine and her family's) might follow the same track. Did I really realize that at the time, or was that inadvertent? Wow, I honestly don't know.

After a couple years, I decided I liked the other spelling better, and I started using the S instead of the Z. I worked with a girl named Cozette at the college cafeteria and she was NOTHING like my Cosette, so I felt like I should change it. It kind of threw the family for a loop, I guess. I remember her mother said something about it in one letter, but then they spelled it differently too, with two S's.

Well seriously, now I am just babbling.

Have you read the unabridged version of Les Miserables? What did you think? Have you seen the musical? Recently? Oh, I am so jealous, but I guess it is my own fault for not doing something about it. It is kind of funny to me that the whole musical and everything have come back en vogue.

And of course, I suppose I am trying to reconnect in an abstract way with her family now, because Les Miserables was one of those things we both really loved when we met. And her father being a high school English teacher and me being an English Sterling Scholar, it was a natural literary connection. I have to admit to you also, the little poem at the top written by William Blake is also an homage to her adoptive father, because he is the one who recommended I read some of William Blake's poetry. This was all back in the days when I loved to write and read just about anything I could get my hands on. (Yes, way more than now)

I hope you don't mind. I just wanted to share. . .

1 comment:

Chrislynn said...

I have never read the book, but I have seen the show several times. Most recently I saw the revival in New York with Richie because he had never seen it. It didn't have the same power it had when I had seen it back when it was "all the rage", but that might just have been because the production I saw seemed a little tired. I also saw it in London eleven years ago and ran into one of the actors after the show at a bus stop a couple miles from the theatre. That was kind of random, but pretty cool.

Thanks for the compliment, but I am pretty sure my version wasn't better than any of the professional ones.