The story of Eponine Thenardier, a side character from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, is told here, from early childhood to untimely death.
Born to almost cartoonishly money-hungry parents, Eponine is taught to steal from a young age. She feels uncomfortable cheating people, but she loves the way a successful night of thievery elicits her mother’s pride and affection. As Eponine grows up, her internal conflicts grow deeper: please her family or follow her conscience? Do good deeds or cruel ones? Steal or starve? Eponine’s choices and observations are rendered in simple and evocative language—a pebble of sadness knocking in her heart when she longs to be loved, viscerally felt daydreams “that one day I’d be pretty, and I walk with a boy…in a skirt that went shush…shush…shush.” When Eponine’s father kills a man in a robbery gone wrong, the family flees to Paris. There, Eponine meets Marius, the young man whom readers know from the prologue, if not from the source text, that she will die saving. Though the bittersweetness of Eponine’s doomed, unrequited love shines through the later parts of the book, the deeper story about goodness and kindness is just as carefully and compellingly told.
A worthy companion book, with storytelling strong enough to interest even readers unfamiliar with the original novel or its many adaptations. (Historical fiction. 12-18)