COSETTE by Laura Kalpakian

COSETTE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kalpakian (Graceland, 1992, etc.) attempts the impossible -- and the impossible wins in this relentlessly plotted, heaving bosom of a sequel to Victor Hugo's literary classic and recent stage phenomenon, Les Miserables. Poor little Cosette's tale starts as swiftly as a raging mob and turns just as ugly as the cholera epidemic of 1832 that sweeps across the land. Breathlessly, men and women attempt to flee or find safe haven from the disease and political turmoil of 19th-century France. Included in the mˆl‚e are some old favorites: the saintly Jean Valjean, Cosette's adoptive father; the menacing prostitutes, the ruffians and grubbers. But Kalpakian has given a distinctively modern spin to things: the high-born son-in-law, the upwardly mobile grandchild, the family business left to ruin. The family business is, in fact, the antiestablishment press La Lumi≤re, which isn't much favored by the new Emperor, Napoleon III, who happens to be the father-in-law of Cosette's own son. Marius, Cosette's husband, will be disgraced and left for dead after being hunted down by relentless cop-pursuer Clerons, but will return in the final chapters to tie up remaining loose ends. Kalpakian's version does make some very neat plot references to its predecessor by having a character chased and hunted for year upon year, as well as having yet another character go underground to escape punishment for a trumped-up crime. Meanwhile, a number of melodramatic events lead to a highly combustible climax, one that foreshadows the inevitable cinematic event -- the mini-series. Kalpakian's story darts and weaves as haphazardly as a fervent gang of revolutionaries. But the built-in audiences will enjoy the zeal of the tale even though finding themselves battle-weary if surviving to its end. Poor Cosette, that she didn't have more to do in her own life story. As the World Turns, without the humor.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1995
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: HarperCollins