“Chasing a Ghost” is an unauthorized sequel to Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” however, ultimately, no prior knowledge of “Les Miserables” is required for full enjoyment of “Chasing a Ghost.” Where “Chasing a Ghost” succeeds that some other published fanfiction does not, is that it can hold its own as a standalone historical fiction novel as well.
And speaking of historical fiction, “Chasing a Ghost” has been impeccably researched. As someone with a passion for medical historical, all the historical medical tidbits are just excellent. My particular favorite is the early 19th century blood transfusion. It’s nothing graphic, but it’s fascinating and a real thing that existed at the time.
Now to plot. “Chasing a Ghost” picks up eight years after “Les Miserables” leaves off. We have some survivors of the barricades that don’t survive in the original text, namely, Enjolras, Grantaire, Combeferre and Courfeyrac, but if you haven’t read “Les Miserables” this means nothing to you.
Enjolras, the primary protagonist, has survived the June Rebellion of 1832, and is now living in a small town outside of Paris with his husband, Grantaire and two children, before an old friend comes calling and it leads Enjolras back to Paris and politics and perhaps another revolution. You did read that right, I said his husband in the same sentence as 1832. One of the biggest changes from the source material sees Enjolras as a trans man in a confirmed same sex relationship.
This was ultimately one of the things that first drew me to the fanfiction on Archive of Our Own before it was published as a stand alone novel. Enjolras was a trans man who had a family and gave birth to his own children. That’s not a demographic of trans man you see frequently in the media and as a trans man who would like to have his own family one day, I couldn’t not read this.
The author himself is also a trans man who has had a child with his husband, and the care and accuracy with which he portrays Enjolras as trans is a breath of fresh air in a sea of trans fiction written by cis people. The knowledge that Enjolras is trans is ever present in how he navigates his life, as it has been for trans people throughout history up to the present day, but it’s not the big hardship of the story. The more pressing hardships include, marital strife, dangerous political situations and another impending rebellion, among others.
The more thing I want to discuss with “Chasing a Ghost” is the use of foreshadowing and Chekhov’s gun. As someone who came into the novel have already read the fanfiction and watching the author discuss the changes to the story they were making on their blog, I immediately knew the foreshadowing and I have to say knowing it was in no way lessened my enjoyment of the story. I don’t want to spoil by saying too much, but I will say in this case Chekov’s gun is in fact a gun.
Finally I want to mention a few content warnings:
1. difficult childbirth (where the blood transfusion happens)
2. child death
3. physician assisted suicide