Books I Read: Les Miserables

Title: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 1862
My Content Rating: PG cuz people die

Jean Valjean is an escaped convict, recaptured in a small French village for stealing from a bishop. But when the bishop vouches for him, even gives him more than he stole, Valjean devotes his life to helping others. His sins catch up with him, however, when a relentless police inspector named Javert comes looking for him.

No, I am not going to summarize everything. This is a big, freaking book!

Besides, Jean Valjean's story is the one I really love. But it took me four months to read this book, because of the loooong descriptions of Waterloo, the history of convents and Parisian sewers, the social development of French street urchins, etc, etc (etc).

Not that these descriptions were bad or even boring. It's being forced to study 50 pages of history -- even interesting history -- before being allowed to get back to the plot. If you love France or history or 45-page diversions about criminal argot, then you definitely should read this.

You should probably read it anyway, but enter with patience. If I had to read this in high school (as a lot of my friends did), I would have hated it forever. I'm glad I read it now, though. It was worth it.


vic caswell said...

i love love love the musical, but i've never ventured into the book. i heard that hugo modeled valjean and javert after the same guy, just made one philosophical difference (grace vs works) between the characters and showed how that one philosophical difference changes everything... i hope that makes sense... my coffee doesn't seem to be kicking in. :P

Matthew MacNish said...

Would that you could get away with such description today. My job would be so much easier. Just kidding. Hugo made it work, even if our short attention spans reel at the thought these days.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a good thing I was only able to afford the free, abridged version for my Kindle. :) Probably has a lot less of those 50 page descriptions.

Tolkien liked to do that too, though. I remember, in particular, the description of the Hornburg in The Two Towers was quite a few pages long.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I absolutely love the story but I must confess I did skim over sections. Hugo was definitely long winded in parts. And an entire chapter on language!

TL Conway said...

I commend your dedication to a book for 4 months! Can't say I've ever read it, but I'm a HUGE fan of the Broadway production.

I think the Javert/Jean Valjean dynamic is amazing, too. Their motivations are so clear.

Angela Brown said...

I think I recall the author Marie Lu (I think that's right) mentioning it was the play of Les Miserables that inspired her novel Legend.

From the sound of it, reading it because you didn't have to allowed you the open ability to patiently appreciate the historical enlightenment that accompanied the actual story :-)

Nancy Thompson said...

Non merci. Je vais passer!

Myrna Foster said...

Books are always better when they aren't assigned. I read this one about 20 years ago and absolutely loved it.