A little in love is not only a beautifully written, poetically hopeful book presenting the sheerest acts of love, kindness and forgiveness… it is also and mostly an open door to THE broken heart of 19th century French literature… and as a matter of fact, a free access to mine too.
‘Et puis, tenez, Monsieur Marius, je crois que j’étais un peu amoureuse de vous.’
‘You know, Monsieur Marius, I think I was a little in love with you.’
– Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Have you ever felt that? Have you ever felt so close to a character of fiction it scares you? I have. From the very first time I read Les Misérables, I felt extraordinarily connected to the character of Eponine and now that I’ve finished reading Susan Fletcher’s sequel of this masterpiece, A little in love, recalling Eponine’s story, I am petrified.
How can it be? How can a story and feelings be so similar to mine, so similar to what’s happening in my life? That’s crazy and I guess that’s one of the reasons why I loved this novel so much… and why it’s so hard to start another book now.
I am usually taken to another world when I read but this time, the second I opened the book, I was taken to Paris in 1832, at the time of the barricades. I wasn’t on my bed, on the armchair of my living room or on the train just reading and being somewhat taken to the universe of the novel, I literally time-travelled. And I didn’t only identify myself with Eponine very easily, but I was embodying her – I was she, in Paris, in 1832. Reading A little in love was a beautiful adventure I hadn’t known since my last reading of Victor Hugo’s original work. I was living within Eponine and going through everything with her because I could understand it so well and so easily.
From her perfect childhood to the time when her entire life collapsed and to her hurting young adulthood, I could fathom everything. Barry Cunningham, a publisher from Chicken House, wrote at the beginning of the novel: ‘Les Misérables literally takes your breath away. The passion and the peril in this massive story has inspired plays, TV shows, films and songs through the years. But sometimes it’s good to find the simple heart in the greatest works, which is exactly what Susan Fletcher does here.’ The author captured Eponine’s heart with a hauntingly romantic and poetic beauty.
Obviously, A little in love recalls this ‘progress from evil to good’ Hugo himself talked about, but it also and mostly is about love.
It’s almost the smallest word I know.
If it was an object I might drop it or forget it because it’s so tiny.
But it’s not a small feeling, even though it grows from a moment as small as an apple pip.’
To all of you who know the story of Les Misérables, you know Eponine is in an unrequited love with Marius, who is in love with the beautiful grown-up Cosette. That love Eponine feels is a love that is so big it hurts…
‘Really? You’ve been in love?’ (…) I was so scared to say the words, but I managed them. ‘I love someone so much it hurts’.
(Marius & Eponine)
An endless love that leads you to do anything that will make him happy…
‘And now my love’s shining out of me, filling the streets and fields and sky, and all I can think is, He lives, he lives. And perhaps I live too and always will, for love is the strongest thing of all – and love never dies, never dies.’
But A little in love is not only about Eponine’s love for Marius, it is also about the one binding Cosette & Marius. I really liked the moment in the novel when he first talks about Cosette, because in his words, there’s something for each and every one of us to understand: if you know how to look, you can actually see the inner beauty of a person – lying nowhere but in their soul. And he also mentions that feeling of knowing someone the moment you meet him or her.
‘I don’t know her name,’ he said, his face lighting up. ‘But I saw her for the first time in the summer – the day after our evening walk! The next day! I’d walked to the Jardins du Luxembourg – do you know them? – To read, and I looked up from my book… At first, I didn’t think she was truly beautiful: she didn’t capture my heart as soon as I saw her. But I couldn’t stop watching her, all the same – as if there was something of greater beauty to her than her face alone. Her soul? Her Spirit? Then she looked up and saw me – and I wondered if I was looking at a part of me I hadn’t known I had lost but had found now, because I felt like I knew her! When she looked at me, she became beautiful. Our eyes met and my heart filled up… Oh, it was exactly like you said! I felt so full of love I could barely hold it in!’
Cosette confirms this first idea later in the book when she meets Eponine again and tells her that what has always been and will always be the most important is what is in our hearts.
‘It doesn’t matter how much money might be in our pockets or whether we are thin or well fed: what matters is our hearts, and what is in them.’
A little in love unsurprisingly finishes with the death of Eponine on the barricade near the Café Musain, in the arms of the only one man she’s ever loved… Marius. She dies happy. She’s with him. He’s proved to be the man she’s always thought he was… and in this way, it does end well.
‘I open my eyes. He’s watching me. His smile is soft. He strokes my hair and I feel a peace that I’ve never known – here, in his arms. Very quietly, I say, ‘You know… Monsieur Marius?’ He smiles. ‘Mademoiselle Eponine?’ ‘I think I was a little in love with you.’
His eyes shine and I can see my reflection in them. But I like the girl I see. She looks happy. Why, I wonder, when she is dying? Perhaps it’s because she knows Marius does love her, in his way. He will not forget her.
I smile. I’m not alone – Marius is with me. I’m not afraid any more.’
Susan Fletcher’s novel is full of love but mostly, full of hope. She ends her book by a few lines that constitute a moral – a lesson I’ve also learnt. It’s about how some people leave marks on our soul and warmth in our heart, and how the memories of them live within us forever… and make us who we are today. The one who’s touched my heart like Marius touched Eponine’s has his own story that lives within me, and in this way he’s always near.
‘We all leave something behind us. A bird in flight will lose a snow-white feather, and flowers in the hedgerows will drop their petals. And people? We leave memories. Footprints in the dust and fingerprints on everything we’ve touched, warmth in every hand we’ve held. We become stories that are spoken of, for always. And in this way, we carry on.’