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Publisher: Chicken House
Source: Publisher provided for review
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Inspired by Victor Hugo's classic, Les Miserables, A Little in Love beautifully conveys the heartbreaking story of street girl Eponine.Les Miserables is, without a doubt, in my top two favorite musicals. And Eponine is a character who, despite my love of the musical, I never really connect with. "On My Own" isn't my favorite, a song I listen to often, or even cry at. (That title goes to "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", which turns me into a blubbering mess every time.) So, as a diehard fan, of course I was dying to read A Little in Love, but I wasn't sure it could make me love Eponine. Boy, was I wrong. While I'm unsure at how supported much of her narrative is by the original book, A Little in Love does everything right by Eponine.
A girl lies alone in the darkness, clutching a letter to her heart.
Eponine remembers being a child: her swing and the peach tree, and the baby brother she loved. But mostly she remembers being miserable. Taught to lie and cheat, and to hate the one girl, Cosette, who might have been her friend.
Now, at sixteen, the two girls meet again, and Eponine has one more chance. But what is the price of friendship--the love of a boy?
We follow Eponine's entire life, told as a flashback, and see how she thinks, how she grows, and her deep desire for love, something her family deprives her of in their constant fight to stay alive in the most nefarious of ways. She's torn countless times between pleasing her parents in hopes of making them care for her and following her heart, which proves itself over and over again to be deeply caring and loyal. Everything changes for Eponine when she meets Marius Pontmercy.
If you're familiar with the musical, you know how Eponine's story goes. Susan Fletcher doesn't change Eponine's story, only gives her a voice and shows you into her head. We know why she takes each action and it removes any real villainy, without taking away her responsibility for her actions.
The writing is simply gorgeous, with a strong retrospective tone that really works to convey Eponine's story. It benefits from having her look back on what she's done and why she did it, and her character evolution is stronger for it.
While A Little in Love doesn't deliver surprises for those who know the story (and it tells you the end in the first pages, so even the uninitiated know where they're headed), the fresh look at Les Mis is just lovely. It adds a level of nuance to the story that not only makes it more beautiful, but also more tragic.
Susan Fletcher was born in Birmingham and now lives in Stratford-upon-Avon. Her first novel for adults, Eve Green, won the 2005 Whitbread First Novel award.
She has since written three other adult novels – Oystercatchers, Witch Light and The Silver Dark Sea. A Little in Love is her first book for young adults.