It is a great pleasure to welcome Elizabeth Caulfield Felt to my Blog today. Elizabeth is the author of
Syncopation: a Memoir of Adèle Hugo.
We are all familiar with the name of Victor Hugo, mainly due to the adaptation of his story Les Misérables into a hugely successful musical stage play and film.
But beyond that, what do we know of Hugo's life and work? Or about his attitude towards his daughters, which led to resentment and rebellion.
Lies, lovers, a diary in code, and a turbulent life. In her novel, Elizabeth draws us into the complex world of Adèle, Hugo's beautiful and clever second daughter. It makes a fascinating story - as Elizabeth explains....
I thank Beth Elliot for making an exception for me on her blog. For you see, Adèle Hugo was born on July 28, 1830, and, as such, is no Regency heroine. In fact, it might be hard to call her a heroine at all. In Syncopation: a Memoir of Adèle Hugo, she is a narrator both antagonistic and aloof.
The youngest child of Victor Hugo, Adèle was surrounded by intellectual conversation and political idealism from a young age. Although pliant and docile as a little girl, she grew up to be an angry young woman. A writer and pianist, Adèle learned that as a female, her achievements held no value. Her father felt that her purpose in life was to be a wife and mother—things she vowed she would never become. Beautiful and clever, she had lovers and marriage proposals, but held herself apart.
Adèle was an engaging object of research. As the daughter of one of
's most revered men, she appears in bits and pieces in her father's history. She is known but unknown, nearly always reduced to the footnotes. I devoured La Misérable, Leslie Smith Dow's wonderful biography of Adèle. Even more fun, I was able to get my hands on a copy of one of Adèle's diaries, published in 1968 and edited by Frances Vernor Guille. This was a fascinating find, as Adèle had kept a journal most of her life. Her diaries were written in a code of her own invention, and Guille explains how he was able to decode much, although not all, of what she had written. These diary entries gave me access to Adèle's voice and personality, and I was fascinated by her. France
Why Adèle chose to keep a diary in code is a mystery we modern researchers will never unravel, but with the flexibility of fiction, I can explain it. Why did she write in code? Why did she take some lovers and reject others? Why did she run away? Why did her life end the way it did?
Syncopation: a Memoir of Adèle Hugo reveals the secrets of Victor Hugo's least understood and most intriguing child.
Adèle sounds like a most absorbing subject. Now, please tell us a bit about yourself and your reasons for writing this story.
I first fell in love with the work of Victor Hugo when I read his poem, “Demain dès l'Aube,” a poem that still stirs my heart. Hugo became one of my favorite writers, and I even attempted to read 'Les Misérables' in French (very long, I didn't finish it in French but did read it in English). As a university student, I studied French and English and lived for a year in Strasbourg, France. This was many, many years ago.
More recently, I was talking with some friends about poems we had memorized, and I was able to amaze myself by knowing most of “Demain dès l'Aube” though I hadn't thought of it in about twenty years. Remembering the poem reminded me of Victor Hugo and his family. I had just finished my first novel, Charlotte's Inheritance, and was wondering what to write next. Once I began researching Adèle, I knew I'd found the perfect topic for my second novel.
When I'm not writing, I'm teaching, English, part-time at my local university--or I'm taking care of my two sons and husband. When not doing these things, I picture myself swimming laps, although to be honest, it's more likely that I'll be sitting quietly at home with a good book.
Thank you so much for an interesting and intriguing post, Elizabeth. I wish you much success with all your novels.
For more about Elizabeth, visit her blog at http://elizabethcaulfieldfelt.wordpress.com/
Her novel Syncopation is available from Cornerstone Press (http;//www.uwsp.edu/cornerstone)