Amph Follow me down the Brick road (Les Misérables -Eponine)

Discussion in 'Community' started by Obi Anne, Jul 12, 2013.

  1. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I'm on a reading streak, so here comes several books at once, so at the moment it's not hard to continue reading.

    Book 3 - The fulfillment of the promise to the departed
    First there is a long description of Montfermeil, then we meet Cosette (finally) in all her misery at the Thenardiers. The Thenardiers gets a lot of page time as well, especially Mme Thenardier, and lets say she isn't exactly described as Helena Bonham Carter. Then Cosette is sent out in the wood to get water, she meets Jean Valjean who helps her, and then haggles with the Thenardier to free Cosette from them and bring her with him. In the end he pays 1500 to the Thenardiers, but they are greedy and the next day Thenardier follows Valjean and Cosette and sets out to get even more money from Valjean. That is when Valjean shows a letter from Fantine about leaving her daughter in the care of the man with the letter.

    This was actually one of my favorite books so far. It was easy to read and it was interesting to see how well the musical has adapted this book into the song "Master of the House". Thenardier is mentioned as Master of the House and basically doing anything that he does in the song. I was really curious about how the whole haggle would end though. In the musical Thenardier takes the money and that's it, but I've also seen adaptions where Valjean in the end shows Fantine's letter and leaves without paying anything at all.

    Book 4 - The Old Gorbeau House
    Valjean and Cosette settles in a rundown garret in Paris and are happy. They keep to themselves but the landlady discovers that Valjean has large sums of money hidden in his coat.

    There isn't much happening in this book. This is a book about the personal evolution of Valjean, Cosette's development is mentioned as well but it's so shallow it doesn't really say much. Basically Valjean discovers what love is when he finds Cosette. Hugo is clear on the fact that when Valjean escaped he was a hardened man, and it wasn't sure that he would go on and being the man he was when he called himself Madeleine. It was the Bishop that put Valjean on the path to redemption, but it's his love for Cosette that keeps him on the road.

    I think these two books are the fluffiest so far, it's really cute how Valjean cares and is moved by the little Cosette. Cosette is quite uninteresting as a character though, I think Hugo simply doesn't know how to describe a child well. It will be interesting to see what happens with her as she gets older, I generally think that she is quite a flat character but her literary form might be different to the adaptions.
  2. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 5 - A dark chase needs a silent hound

    So it turns out that Javert heard the rumours from the landlady at the Gorbeau house, and he recognizes Valjean. This whole book is actually a chase through the streets of Paris in the night. In the end Valjean in desperation climbs a wall with Cosette and is astonished when it turns out that he has come to a convent, and that Fauchelevent, the man he saved from under a cart in Montreuil-sur-Mer is the gardener there. The book ends with the chase from Javert's perspective, Javert that has always been suspicious about the Valjean being dead especially after he heard the rumours of Cosette being kidnapped from Montfermeil.

    This book was quite exciting actually, describing the chase. In the end though I felt that it was a bit too much of a coincidence that Valjean and Cosette ended up at the convent where Fauchelevent is working. I actually much prefer the adaptations where it's obvious that Valjean seeks out the convent because he knows he can get help there. In the film with Liam Neeson he even has a map of Paris with the convent marked out. I also liked that you got Javert's point of view, and why he's in Paris and also why he still thinks that Valjean is alive. It turns out that Javert also did have a hand in the arrest of Valjean before he was sent to the galleys the second time. That was a nice thing to sneek in so many pages later.
  3. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 6 - Petit Picpus and Book 7 - A parenthesis

    Yes, I'm putting these two books together. Basically the first one is a very thorough description of the convent at Petit Picpus, including several stories that Hugo himself writes has nothing to do with the plot. The main important thing is that you get to know that there is a boarding school for young girls at the convent. Book 7, well if Hugo himself calls the book a parenthesis, then it really is one. It's a whole book where Hugo describes how old fashioned convents are and that it's quite selfish from people to hide away for their own salvation rather than trying to change the world for the better. Interesting is that he's quite clear on that he has nothing against religions, and he's just as much against convents of other religions than Christianity.

    Book 8 - Cemeteries take what is given them
    Finally we are back with Valjean and Cosette, now taken in by the gardener Fauchelevent. At the same time an old nun dies at the convent. Valjean wants to stay in the convent, but the problem is that he can't just show up inside, he has to be brought in. The nuns on their side wants to bury their dead sister in the convent, despite a law that she has to be buried in a proper cemetery. In the end Fauchelevent helps bury the dead nun under the altar of the church, then sneaks Valjean out in the "official" coffin of the dead nun, manages to not have Valjean buried alive and in the end presents Valjean and Cosette as his brother and grand niece. Cosette gets to go in the school at the convent, and Valjean gets to be gardener. He never ventures outside the walls of the convent and is satisfied with his life.

    Once again after two boring book we get quite an exciting one. If it wasn't for the fact that I knew that Valjean would survive it would have been quite nailbiting to read about him almost being buried alive.

    This is the end of Part 2 - Cosette

    This part has been a real roller coaster when it comes to reading it. There are the really boring books about Waterloo and the convent, but you also have the quite exciting ones about Valjean's escapes. Cosette herself is quite a weak character so far, I guess Hugo wasn't really that used to writing about a little girl.Valjean is a more interesting character here though than in the adaptions, simply because Hugo has more time to describe him. Hugo returns to the fact that Valjean isn't the pure good person that the bishop was and that he needs input from others to stay on the right path. This gives a darker edge to him, that I feel many adaptions have lost since it's easier to just show him as an angel.

    Sum up of Part 2 - Cosette
    Main characters: Valjean, Cosette, The Thenardiérs, Fauchelevent
    Deaths: Many thousands at the battle of Waterloo and a nun, but no main characters. Valjean was supposed dead once and almost died another time though.
  4. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Part 3 - Marius
    Book 1 - Paris Atomised

    Hugo really loves Paris. Paris itself contains the whole world in fact. Here we get a long introduction about all the back alleys of Paris, centered around a gamin. A gamin is one of these children that are roaming the streets, always up to something, but as long as they are young they have a good heart. We get introduced to a certain gamin, who in the last chapter is presented as Gavroche. He's not an orphan, but he's parents don't care for him. By coincidence his parents are living together with his sister at the Gorbeau House, where Valjean and Cosette also lived for a couple of months. Their neighbour at the Gorbeau House is a young, poor man called Marius.

    Gavroche is a wonderful character, and here he got a really long introduction. We have in fact met Gavroche earlier in the novel, and the introduction is filled clues on his true background. I'm leaving that for later though, in case it gets revealed in the story itself.

    Book 2 - The Grand Bourgeois

    If the previous book was all about the innocent and wonderful Paris, this book is about everything that's wrong with the contra revolutionaries after the fall of Napoleon. They are stuck in a lost century. The example here is an old man called Luke Esprit Gillenormand. Everything around him and his companions is described as old, decayed and even silly. Gillenormand himself goes dressed in the fashion of the Incroyables of the 1790's.

    So basically the whole book is a description, or rather a caricature, of a leftover from the 18th century.
  5. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Btw, is there anyone who doesn't know what Gavroche's background is? Many adaptions aren't clear on this, the musical as well. When reading and knowing about it I could find a lot of clues, especially in book 1 of course, but even earlier. For those of you have read the book, did you catch the clues?
  6. emilsson Chosen One

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    I finished the whole book today :D.

    Anyway, I can't remember if I figured out Gavroche's background when reading the first parts where he is properly introduced. It'll be something to keep an eye out for when I reread the brick during my next holiday.

    Also, I thought Valjean's relationship to Cosette is very interesting and it makes Valjean's spiritual journey more convincing since his change develops gradually and there is still a darker quality to him.
  7. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    Omg. How did I not see this thread sooner? Les Miserables is one of my favorite books, and one of my favorite musicals, too. :p One of my New Year's resolutions was to re-read the whole thing, but that hasn't worked out too well. [face_blush] For some reason the chapters where Valjean rescues little Cosette have always been my favorites. :)

    As far as adding stuff to this thread, I've only seen the 1998 film, the 2000 mini-series, and the recent movie musical. Out of these three, I think the 1998 is the worst. For a while there, people assumed it was an adaptation of the musical-nope. Good thing too- I simply hated it. There was just too much wrong with it, although I liked Liam Neeson's Valjean and parts of Geoffrey Rush's Javert. Fun fact: John Malkovich, who played Javert in the 2000 mini-series, was originally approached to play Javert for this version. Anyhow, IMO, if you haven't seen the 1998 version, keep it that way. It is a travesty.

    The 2000 mini-series is a pretty good introduction to the story as a whole. Obi-Anne, what's the French version like? I know it's longer than the American (by two hours, I think), and I've always wanted to see it.

    I also have a DVD that has both the 1935 and 1952 film versions (released around last Christmas to blatantly cash in on the movie musical-the DVD cover is a rip-off of the famous poster art :p). If you want me to, I'll let you know what they're like when I watch them.

    Edit: I've also seen the stage version three times: the original touring production once, and the 25th anniversary national tour twice. Also seen the 10th anniversary concert and the 20th anniversary concert, and I have way too many different recordings of the show. I am a huge Les Miz geek.

    Obi-Anne: poor Cosette really does get shafted, no matter what story it is. She's like a living MaGuffin, if you think about it. :p The most I've ever seen her character fleshed out was the 2000 mini-series, but that might also have been because in the American version, she served as the story's narrator.

    And I love Gavroche's dialogue. I think that kid honestly has the best time out of everyone in the whole book (and yes that sounds really odd).
    Last edited by Thrawn1786, Aug 6, 2013
  8. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Gosh darn it, you are getting through it at a good clip! Tonight, I will begin posting my thoughts section by section as I promised I would!
  9. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Okay, as promised, I'm finally going to post my thoughts. I'll go through book by book, like you.

    Fantine
    An Upright Man

    I find the Bishop a compelling character. It's Hugo immediately making one of his major points here: true faith is accompanied by compassion, good works and humility. Obviously, as a person of faith myself, I find all this very compelling.

    Choice quote: The Bishop, having no money to hire a carriage, has made the journey to a small village on a donkey. The people of the village snicker as he rides into the village, amused at seeing a Bishop reduced to such ignominious transport. The Bishop makes a point: "I see what astonishes you; you think that it shows a good deal of pride for a poor priest to use the same conveyance which was used by Jesus Christ. I have done it from necessity, I assure you, and not from vanity." Bam! Three points! I love that moment.

    Another great line: The Bishop "preached less than he talked."

    Looking back over this book, I'm finding a ton of great moments. I'd forgotten a lot of these. Here's a wonderful exchange:

    The Bishop is asking for some money to help feed the destitute from a wealthy Marquis: "The bishop . . . touched his arm and said, 'Monsieur le Marquis, you must give me something.' The marquis turned and answered drily, 'Monseigneur, I have my own poor.' 'Give them to me,' said the bishop."

    God, here's another one. The Bishop editorializes and then Hugo does too, and I love it.

    "'If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.' As we see, he had a strange and peculiar way of judging things. I suspect that he acquired it from the Gospel."

    Man, I love that. Actually kind of sarcastic.

    More theology I can get behind: "The most beautiful of altars is the soul of an unhappy man who is comforted and thanks God."

    Interesting stories. The Bishop goes out to try to minister to a band of vicious robbers; they not only spare his life, but return a lot of the stuff they stole. A senator issues in a favorite trick of Hugo's that we'll get used to as the book goes on, that is to say an incredibly long speech, made up of a single paragraph. This one goes for about two pages; it's about the benefits of materialism. The Bishop shoots the whole speech down in maybe a quarter of a page.

    More theology I can get behind: "Let us confine ourselves to prayer to God when we think that danger hangs over us. Let us beseech him, not for ourselves, but that our brother may not fall into crime on our account."

    The longest chapter of this section is the chapter where the Bishop visits a "conventionist," a survivor of a prior revolutionary movement. He's been shunned by everyone, so the Bishop, of course, feels a responsibility to visit him. This chapter doesn't work for me as well as the other stuff in this book; it's a bit hard to follow, I find. But suffice it to say that even the Bishop learns more compassion and empathy through this encounter; yes, he learns more. I find it interesting that Hugo did throw this story in here as it kind of points up that the Bishop, who Hugo has been venerating beyond all measure, is still a human being and still imperfect.

    Okay, I could literally quote the entire last page and a half of chapter XIII, What He Believed. I'll restrict myself to one paragraph: "What was more needed by this old man who divided the leisure hours of his life, where he had so little leisure between gardening in the day time, and contemplation at night? Was not this narrow inclosure, with the sky for a background, enough to enable him to adore God in his most beautiful as well as in his most sublime works? Indeed, is not that all, and what more can be desired? A little garden to walk, and immensity to reflect upon. At his feet something to cultivate and gather; above his head something to study and meditate upon; a few flowers on the earth, and all the stars in the sky."

    How beautiful. I love that.

    Two more wonderful bits of theology: "For his part, he took the straight road, which is short - The Gospel." "Love one another; he declared that to be complete; he desired nothing more and it was his whole doctrine."

    On the whole, this first book is really quite wonderful. I love the portrait of the humble, simple, compassionate bishop. As Jean Valjean will become an incredibly challenging character for me to read about, the bishop foreshadows this. As a man of faith, I find my commitment to my faith challenged by the bishop's story. Am I prepared to genuinely live as Christ lived, with utter compassion and love and humility? One of the main points of Les Miserables is Hugo's desire to see religion stripped of all the fancies and all the trappings and returned to the simple faith in and emulation of Jesus Christ as the "great martyr." It's a point he starts making right out of the gate and even in this first brief section of the story, I find myself moved and compelled by it.

    I'll try to post about the next section tomorrow.

  10. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    @Thrawn1786 , wow you've seen more adaptations than I have, I'd love to see the 1935 and 1952 films one day. There is also an Italian TV-series that I've heard is one of the closest to the book. When it comes to the French mini-series I've more or less given up on actually finding it, I've even looked for it on some French sites. For that reason it's been more than 10 years since I saw it, but from what I remember it was fleshed out a lot more, and especially the students get more screen time. The American version seems to have slimmed down the story to be more like a love story. During the rebellion scenes there are a couple of cuts that I think makes it clear that there used to be scenes there.

    @Rogue1-and-a-half I'm almost finished with the first volume of my edition, which ends after Part 3 - Marius, but I'm going to give you some time to catch up. I'm on vacation and with nothing specific planned I have a lot of time to just read, and I am a fast reader. I really like your understanding of the Bishop, you put it a lot better than me. I agree with you that Hugo is trying to show what "real" Christianity is about, and that you don't need all the ceremonies and protocols to be a good Christian. In the first book I also think it's very telling that Hugo paints the atheist with morals in a better light than many of the self-confessed Christians.
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  11. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 3 - The Grandfather and the Grandson
    So the old fashioned Gillenormand has a grandson. The grandson is brought up with Gillenormand's ultraconservative values, and thinks that his father doesn't care about him. The mother is dead. It turns out that the father was a Bonapartist soldier, was even given a title from the Emperor that isn't recognized by the current regime. It turns out that it's actually Gillenormand that has forbidden the father to have any contact with the boy, or else the boy would be disinherited. The boy finds out about this, just when the father has dead. Then it's time for a proper teenage rebellion. The boy rejects all the ultraconservatists, starts idolizing his father and Napoleon. He's turned into a Bonapartist. In the end there's a confrontation between the grandfather and the boy, and the boy leaves the house. Gillenormand allows the boy's aunt to send him a monthly allowance, but the boy refuses it. The boy's name is: Marius. The father's name was Pontmercy. In a last message to the son Pontmercy asks him to find the man, who saved him on the battlefield of Waterloo and do anything to help this man. That man's name is Thenardiér, and it's of course the same Thenardiér that we have met already.

    Now I'm not a big fan of Marius, but I think this was a very good book. It really shows how his world and values are turned inside out, and it's described in a very plausible way. The downside to the book is yet another of these coincidences that makes it feel as if there a maximum of 10 families in the whole of France, since they keep bumping into each other all the time.

    We are of course going to meet Marius a lot more in the novel, but from this first introduction I'm surprised that I find him interesting, since I normally doesn't like him.
  12. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    It's this part of the book that makes me lament how Marius gets characterized in most film versions and the stage version (although the original Paris production did feature the grandfather, and he appears in the 2000 and 2012 films). Yeah, he's a young man who gets caught up with helping his friends, but there's so much more to him than that, as evidenced by this section.

    Also, this section makes the previous lengthy description of Waterloo worth it. :p
  13. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Well, I can't really agree with you on Waterloo, but ok it was almost worth it. When it comes to Waterloo, I've found the Italian tv-series, and they devote almost half an episode to a theatre performance about the battle of Waterloo. In fact I think that when I've finished the book it would be interesting to go through as many adaptations as possible. The 2000 mini-series, the French version, can also be found on youtube, with subtitles.
  14. emilsson Chosen One

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    I too find Marius a lot more interesting in the novel than in the few adaptations I have seen, especially since he keeps coming back to his father's wish to help Thenardiér. I also think it's interesting that it effectively means that both Marius and Cosette have lost their families.
  15. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 4 – the Friends of the ABC
    Marius befriends another young student, Courfeyrac, and is introduced to a group of young, radical students. The leader is Enjolras, “a charming young man, capable of being terrible”, then there is Combeferre, the guide and philosophy of the revolution. Courfeyrac is the center of the group, between Enjolras’ logic and Combeferre’s philosophy. The other members are Joly, a medical student and hypochondriac, Jean Prouvare, the group’s romantic, Feuilly, who’s actually not a student but a fanmaker and L’aisgle or Bossuet, who’s followed by bad luck and actually saved Marius from being kicked out of university. Instead L’aisgle has been kicked out himself. The last member of the group is Grantaire, a cynic and drunk who doesn’t believe in the ideals of the group but believes in Enjolras. The group meets at the Café Musain. Unfortunately Marius declares that he is a Bonapartist and soon enough he feels alienated to the republican students and decides not to go the Musain again.

    I must say this was one of the books I was really looking forward. I’m definitely a fangirl of the Amis, the name in French is Les Amis de l’ABC. In most adaptions I’m actually spending a lot of time being annoyed that they are rarely named and trying to figure out which of background character corresponds to which Ami. My personal favorite is Combeferre, the passionate bookworm who hopes for a peaceful revolution, but is also prepared to fight for what’s right. Unfortunately this chapter has also led to the biggest conflict in the Les Misérables fandom, and that is the issue of Enjolras’ sexuality. It all comes from partially quoting his introduction which says “he did not seem to know that there was on the earth a being called a woman”. The text goes on declaring that he put France before any love affairs. I personally see him as someone who’s decided to avoid romantic relationships. The problem for me is all the people who claim that any other interpretation than Enjolras being 100% gay means that you are actually a queer erasing homophobe. Since this has been discussed ad nauseam in the fandom I just want to end with the tl:dr of my favorite quote in this debate:
    The full text can be seen here.

    Here is the 2012 film version of most of Les Amis de l’ABC
    [IMG]
    Graintaire, Jehan, Courfeyrac, Enjolras, Combeferre, Joly

    So anyone else out there that’s fond of the barricade boys, and do you have any personal favorite? For those of you who have read the novel, how did you interpret Hugo's statement about Enjolras' not being interested in women?
  16. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Well, later, when he's at the barricade and about to die, there's a chapter called something like We Discover the Name of Enjolras' Love or something. And one of the guys overhears him whisper a woman's name and that's all. Is my memory correct on that?
  17. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    The discovery of Enjolras' love is actually that he loves France itself, so not a woman per se, I don't know about him whispering a name. I will have to keep my eyes open for that.
  18. emilsson Chosen One

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    It seems rather anachronistic to interpret Hugo's statement as Enjolras lack of interest in women as homosexuality, especially if it's implied he does not pursue romantic relationships due to same-sex attraction. The first textbooks to discuss same-sex relationships in terms of fixed orientations were not published until a few decades after Les Miserables (the most famous is perhaps Havelock Ellis textbook published in 1897).

    My interpretation is that Enjolras has rejected the ideal of the bourgeoisie and is entirely devoted to a greater cause, aka the revolution for the greater good of France. There is a section (which I can't find right now) where Hugo characterises the French bourgeoisie as driven by a desire to avoid social revolution and the upheaval that would follow. Enjolras seems to me the total opposite, utterly devoted to the ideas of moral duty in service of the revolution and the nation.
    Last edited by emilsson, Aug 13, 2013
  19. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Okay, I'm working on my next post on Book Two of Fantine. I have a lot to say so this post probably won't be until tomorrow.
  20. SoloKnight Force Ghost

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    By favorite barricade boy is Grantaire. I was disappointed that the 2012 film cut out his verse of "Drink with Me." They gave him his great death scene, but it isn't as emotional a moment as I would have liked as I don't think the fact that he doesn't actually care about the ideals of the ABC's and is only there out of his love and devotion to Enjolras was made clear.
  21. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Yeah, the most painful omission for me was the severely shortened Drink With Me. I've always loved that song and it barely has time to even register in the movie before it's over. I think you kind of need that moment of quiet resignation, the beat before the climax, you know.
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  22. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Totally agree there, I love the full "Drink with me" and Grantaire's lines are just so perfect.
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  23. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Speaking of Grantaire and Enjolras, I love in the 25th Anniversary Musical when they are preparing for the Minister's (or whoever it was) death and Enjolras is telling them something looks away from Grantaire and looks back at him and says "Grantaire put that bottle down" and Grantaire says something else.
  24. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    "Give me brandy on my breath, and I'll breathe them all to death" .
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  25. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Thank you. Just couldn't remember what it is.....