Released: October 2014
As the sound of the French Revolution rings out across the Parisian streets, gunpowder, smoke and defiant flags fill the air. Next to a barricade a girl lies alone on the street. As she dies in the darkness, staring up at the stars and clutching the most important thing in her small world, she looks back on all the wrongs she’s committed, the love that was forever unrequited, and the forgiveness she fought so hard for. The girl’s name is Eponine, and hers is the “broken heart of Les Miserables”.
A prequel of sorts, A Little In Love takes us through Eponine’s story, starting at childhood and ending at that fateful moment when death comes knocking. Even before she could walk, Eponine was taught to trick and steal, acting a part for money, silver, or whatever might be sold to pay for her despicable family. Her parents, the Thénardiers, are hateful swindlers who show no loyalty, honesty or tenderness towards anyone; even their children are starved of love, unless they’ve stolen something particular valuable.
When the family take a little girl called Cosette into their care, and force her into slavery, Eponine befriends the girl but is soon forced to hate her; kindness is not a quality the Thénardiers deem valuable. As she grows up under a rotten roof of dishonesty and crime, Pony – as her siblings call her – is denied the love and friendship of those who might have enriched her life, and instead finds herself on the street with only her loathsome family for company.
A wealthy benefactor takes young Cosette away to a better life, but Eponine never forgets her cruelty towards the girl with hair like sunshine. When their paths cross years later, Eponine sees it as an opportunity for redemption. She puts her own feelings aside to bring Cosette and her love, Marius, together, as war threatens to tear them apart.
I’ve always thought of Jean Valjean and Fantine as being the most tragic characters in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, but this is not their story. If you have a heart, it’ll break for Eponine. She starts and stays central to the book and it’s through her eyes that we see the world in all its harshness and beauty. Eponine is weak and easily led, she’s done more wrong than right, but she’s not a hateful character, merely a by-product of her upbringing. Her heart, as the song says, is ‘full of love’; she just doesn’t get the opportunity to use it until it’s too late.
It’s never a question of whether Eponine is going to die. Anyone who has read Les Mis or watched the film will already know her fate, and that’s not the point of the book. It’s a novel about redemption, kindness and fighting for what you believe in. A Little In Love is the perfect book if you liked the film version starring Samantha Barks as the tragic heroine. For added atmosphere, pop the soundtrack on in the background and allow tracks like Master of the House and On My Own to bring the story to life.
Eponine as a character might have thought that her life had no impact on the world but the way this story lingers in the reader’s mind tells a different tale.