One of my favorite scenes in the book Les Misérables involves Eponine and Marius. Eponine has found the address of the beautiful girl, Cosette, whom Marius loves. Eponine reminds Marius that he promised her something in return for the address. Searching his pockets, he tries to give her all that he has in the world, five francs. Eponine lets the coin fall through her fingers and says, “I don’t want your money.” Although she is dressed in rags and hungry and without any money of her own, she does not want that. She longs for something else.
In A Little In Love, Susan Fletcher chooses to focus on this idea of Eponine’s character, the girl who lives in darkness but wishes for light, who wants affection from her distant mother, who longs for kindness when all she has ever been taught from her parents is cruelty. Eponine’s parents, the Thenardiers, run an inn and take in a child, Cosette, promising her mother to care for her. Instead, they use the money she sends for her daughter on themselves and treat Cosette like a servant. Soon, a mysterious man named Jean Valjean takes Cosette away, and Eponine and her family are forced to go on the run because of disastrous actions taken by her father.
Eventually, they end up in Paris, the city Eponine has dreamed about. She thinks that it will be filled with romance, beautiful women being courted by good gentlemen, but it is full of filth and meager dwellings. That doesn’t stop her from seeking out the lovely aspects of the city and taking solitary walks by the Seine, imagining herself with a man who loves her. She also wonders what happened to Cosette, whom she secretly sympathized with, and imagines her in Paris, finely dressed and happy. You see, Eponine is a dreamer above all, and it was this aspect of her personality that I found the most enchanting.
When the family moves into a tenement, she meets a neighbor named Marius for whom she develops an instant attraction. Usually, instant attraction bothers me in young adult novels, but I think that it fit here with Eponine’s dreamy personality. The first chapter of the book gives away where the plot is going, toward tragedy, but it manages to be optimistic in the time in between. Eponine’s optimism and belief in the good of the world were refreshing, sometimes naive, but always welcome.
While I did enjoy this book, Eponine’s character is at times frustratingly perfect. She is mean and steals only because she feels that it is what she has to do, because she is being submissive and wants her mother’s approval. Any flaws her character might have in the musical or book have been smoothed out. Despite this, I found A Little In Love to be a quick read and beautifully written. The author has a talent for an elegant turn of phrase. I would recommend this book to any Les Misérables fans, book or musical, who see a bit of themselves in that dreamer Eponine.