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Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.


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Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

30 review for Sefiller Seti - 5 Kitap

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hippo dari Hongkong

    One of the "biggest" book I've ever read, and I remembered Mick Foley's "warning" about a big book. "A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her - with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks." Haha... Well, I took my chances reading this big book. I made my commitment, I spent One of the "biggest" book I've ever read, and I remembered Mick Foley's "warning" about a big book. "A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her - with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks." Haha... Well, I took my chances reading this big book. I made my commitment, I spent my time everyday with this book ( about a month ) and what do I get? Happiness and the joy of reading! This book really nailed me, I have my happy ending! Woo Hooo! Thank you very much for the "warning" Mister Foley This book is amazing, lengthy in descriptions, compelling storyline and has influenced so many people. Breaks my heart into pieces but somehow put it back together. You want to be a better person after reading this book. "He said to himself that he really had not suffered enough to deserve such radiant happiness, and he thanked God, in the depths of his soul, for having permitted that he, a miserable man, should be so loved by this innocent being." -Jean Valjean about Cossette-

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    Les Misérables can be translated from the French into "The Miserable Ones", "The Wretched", "The Poor Ones", "The Wretched Poor" or "The Victims". So, as you will have concluded, this is not a happy book. In fact, it is the very opposite of fluffy happiness. It is a story about the lowest and darkest parts of French society in the first half of the nineteenth century. Hugo takes the reader on a 1200+ page journey around France and into the lives of criminals, prostitutes, those wasting away under Les Misérables can be translated from the French into "The Miserable Ones", "The Wretched", "The Poor Ones", "The Wretched Poor" or "The Victims". So, as you will have concluded, this is not a happy book. In fact, it is the very opposite of fluffy happiness. It is a story about the lowest and darkest parts of French society in the first half of the nineteenth century. Hugo takes the reader on a 1200+ page journey around France and into the lives of criminals, prostitutes, those wasting away under the strain of poverty... and he provides food for thought on commonly-held ideas about the nature of law, justice, love, religion and politics. Not only this, but I can say that not one page of this giant bored me. At the end of the day you're another day older And that's all you can say for the life of the poor I feel the need to mention the musical of Les Misérables (and I'm going to incorporate some lyrics into this review because why not?). It's one of my favourite musicals. The book is, as is often the case, a much deeper and well-developed version of the same story, but I still recognised many of my favourite scenes from the stage production. I had actually expected the book to be more gentle and subdued than the musical because of the time it was written and to avoid controversy - especially as Hugo's opinion of the French judicial system during this time was made very clear - but this was not the case. Les Misérables is a nasty, gritty, haunting novel that doesn't fail to stay with you for a long time after putting it down. I had a dream my life would be So different from this hell I'm living So different now from what it seemed Now life has killed the dream I dreamed. It seems wrong to try and simplify the amazing plot of Les Miserables but I have to somehow fit all that greatness into this little review space. So, the main plot line of this story is about the ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who has been released from prison after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread and then trying to escape. He comes away from all those years doing hard labour with anger running in his veins-- what kind of society sends a man to that disgusting fate for trying to quell his hunger? His thoughts turn to revenge and rebellion; he no longer even wants to try playing by the rules of a country which has done this to him. Until he is shown an act of kindness beyond his imagination by someone who breaks the cycle of anger and vengeance. Lovely ladies ready for the call Standing up or lying down or any way at all Bargain prices up against the wall Taking the little money and the vast amount of kindness he has been given, Jean Valjean slowly becomes an honest (and wealthy) man who helps those in need. But his new found way of life and the respect he has earned becomes threatened one day when the police officer, Javert, starts to recognise him. But that is just one story being told here. Several stories run parallel to one another throughout this book and thye begin to entwine more and more as the novel progresses. Another is the story of Fantine and her illegitimate daughter - Cosette. Forced into prostitution in order to feed her child, Fantine is a woman who looks old for her age and no longer has the sparkle of joy in her eye that she enjoyed back when she was allowed to be naive. Cosette, meanwhile, is mistreated by the foster family who agree to take care of her while Fantine "works" in the nearby town. Other stories include that of Marius and Eponine, but there are many more. The city goes to bed And I can live inside my head The above lyrics are from one of the musical's best known songs - On My Own - and are sung by one of the most fascinating characters of the novel, Eponine. Eponine's tale is an old one, one of unrequited love but it is far from cheesy. Marius describes her as an "unhappy soul" and nothing can be much more accurate. She is a sad, complex, and unfortunate character, which I suppose they all are in Les Misérables, but Eponine has a special place in my heart. But she is also far from weak. She has been toughened by life, made ugly by poverty, and she is ferociously independent. Yeah, I like her. Here they talked of revolution Here it was they lit the flame Here they sang about tomorrow And tomorrow never came. This book also chronicles the events leading up to and including the Paris uprising of 1832 and the novel includes themes of revolution. It is a deeply thoughtful story that challenged attitudes held at the time in many ways. To use one example: a court of law was ready to sentence an innocent man to life imprisonment because he was slow and uneducated and therefore couldn't speak eloquently in his defence. Perhaps this book is nothing more than an entertaining but dark story that Hugo wrote to grip and shock people, but to me this is a highly political novel that makes many statements about law and justice in France during the time period. I find it hard to dismiss Hugo's observations of the treatment of those who are poor and unintelligent as anything other than criticisms of society. But that is just me. I think I can say that you will be affected by this. Whether you will thank me for it or not, well, that depends on how easily you tolerate a depressing read. But I've saved my favourite and the most uplifting song for last: Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart Echoes the beating of the drums There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes! [youtube link] Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Let's say that I could choose a single book with the guarantee that every man, woman, and child would read it. I would not choose my top three favorites, nor would I choose the one whose remnants are permanently inked upon me. I would choose this one. You argue, the length! The time period! The cultural barriers! It's just another long expounding by some old dead white guy whose type has suffocated literature for centuries! Women will be frustrated with poor representation, people who aren't Let's say that I could choose a single book with the guarantee that every man, woman, and child would read it. I would not choose my top three favorites, nor would I choose the one whose remnants are permanently inked upon me. I would choose this one. You argue, the length! The time period! The cultural barriers! It's just another long expounding by some old dead white guy whose type has suffocated literature for centuries! Women will be frustrated with poor representation, people who aren't white will be angered by no representation, and everyone will bored to tears! Alright, I see that. Now, let me explain. Human rights have not been perfected. They are as much a work in progress now as they were 150 years ago when this book was first published. If you wish to find the book that gives every variation on the theme of humanity its due, it does not exist, and in all likelihood never will. With that in mind, it is this book that I choose, as while Victor Hugo may have been limited by the era he grew up in, he did a damn good job in dreaming beyond it. He wrote what he knew, but he also wrote what he hoped, and together they form a piece of writing that can mean something to everyone, whatever their life consists of. The book is called 'The Miserables'. I have a feeling that it is the blatant despair that this title provokes that has dissuaded publishers from rendering it into English, instead keeping it in that slightly prettier to the ear French form. It can even be shortened to that chic and oh so clever 'Les Mis', as is the norm whenever the play is discussed. In that light, when you say that truncated phrase it brings to mind not the triumphant book in its majestic entirety, but the abridged version, or perhaps the even more abridged play. You think of the story, but you do not think of the author's ideas, ones that he devotes full chapters to and are just as important to this tome as the characters he has sent running through it. And this is a tragedy. Is tragedy too harsh a word? I don't think so. The book itself is one where tragedy heavily outweighs every other emotional aspect, and reducing it to a pittance of itself is flat out disgraceful. You have countless flavors of human sorrow worked out here: imprisonment, ostracization, slavery, decay of health, decay of morals, decay of life through the brutality of war as well as the slow grind of society’s wheels. There are also the more subtle restrictions on the human spirit, propagated by a firmness of belief that slowly stagnates into constricting bigotry, where humans substitute bias for their reality and confine themselves to a small and mean existence. These confines are more difficult to escape from than the strongest chains, which may bend and break under pressure, whereas prejudices will turn in on themselves and feed on the opposition. It is these barriers that build the barricades, it is these walls that let slip the dogs of war, it is these restrictions that make someone relish petty glories gained in the downfall of their fellow human beings. Where a difference of opinion exists, there will be conflict, and Victor Hugo was intimately familiar with the facets of this violent mechanism. He did not want this for the world. More specifically, he did not want this for his France, his Paris, his creative beacon that teems with contagious culture and ridiculous fashions to this very day, one that can be silly but is often so very, very brave. Like Gavroche the gamin, it thumbs its nose at the world and thinks it slow and stupid, but all the same it loves its fellow human beings, and lives for the times when it can lead them, striding forward towards that thing called Progress. Victor Hugo loved the concept of Progress, and he wished that everyone would love it as well. In his words: Go on, philosophers—teach, enlighten, kindle, think aloud, speak up, run joyfully toward broad daylight, fraternize in the public squares, announce the glad tidings, lavish your alphabets, proclaim human rights, sing your Marseillaises, sow enthusiasms, tear off green branches from the oak trees. Make thought a whirlwind. He sent his characters off with this dream of Progress, of finding a life for themselves, of living in a world that bettered itself by the passing day, where the future was not dreary but vibrant and brimming with unlimited potential. Many of them do not succeed. Many fall by the wayside, desiccated by sickness, shot down in wars, slain by grief and the resignation that life is not so much better than death. Some survive in miserable conditions, as restricted by their morality as by a chain around their neck. Some survive only by having stripped their morality as easily as a snake sheds its skin, and in the conditions, who can blame them? The weight of society squeezes the supports, and one is so much lighter and flexible without cumbersome thoughts of being good and kind. In all this sadness and life cut short by miserable conditions long before its time, there is still hope. Victor Hugo illustrated this in his diverging sections as thoroughly as he did in his main story, as hard as that may be to believe. It is true, though. For example, his section on the Battle of Waterloo seems no more than an endless list of casualties, pages of warfare and tactics, and death, so much death. But at the very end, he points out it is not this battle that we remember in so much detail, nor any that came before it. We remember literature. In Hugo’s words: Nowadays when Waterloo is merely a click of sabers, above Blücher Germany has Goethe, and above Wellington England has Byron. And what of the other sections? There are many, but two that are particularly powerful in their own subtle ways are the sections on argot and the sewers. Argot is the language of criminals disguising their speech from the ignorant and the all too interested. It is an ever-changing labyrinth of slang, idioms, innuendos, wordplay that whips itself into more contorted evolutions in its effort to escape the law. If this kind of creativity runs rampant on the street, how would it fare if given a warm place to sleep, three meals a day, and a chance to improve its station in life? And the sewers. When first described, they are dirty, desperate, despicable things that do nothing but spread filth and disease and provide a home for the equally depraved. This however was Hugo’s vision of how it had been in the past. In his time, they were clean and meticulous in their function, as well designed as the streets above and ten times as useful. If humans can so improve the lot of that out of sight contraption that carries their shit, imagine what they could do with the parts of life that are meant for open viewing and enjoyment. One last mention. Victor Hugo’s prose has been accused of excessive flouncing about, rambling sentences that quickly devolve into meaningless lists without form or function beyond the enjoyment of their own existence. I say, isn’t that last part enough? Reading his sentences brings to mind a dance, an endless waltz, to a symphony that builds and builds to a final crescendo, for Hugo is very good at taking his countless paragraphs and using them to reach a final glorious message. He could have said it plainly, but it would not have been nearly as powerful without all the exposition; just as his point about the memory of Byron outliving the memory of Waterloo would not have been nearly as striking had he not gone through the motions of describing every minute detail of that terrible battle. To bring the reader to his level of understanding and to make them feel as much as he does about these things, the prose is essential. And frankly, I have yet to come across another author that is as joyous to read as he is, for even while he is going on and on about useless trivia from a time long past, his enthusiasm is contagious. He loved what he wrote about, and he wanted you to love it too, progressing sentences growing more and more triumphant much like the Progress he wished for mankind. An ideal where all, I repeat, all are allowed to flourish and grow, developing their own ideas while more importantly learning to accept those of others, where a stretch of one's limb doesn't require the injury or confinement of another's. So, read the full version, if you can. You’re welcome to the other, shorter versions, but read the full one at least once in your lifetime. Read the introduction even, for in this particular edition there is a wonderful amount of detail about Victor Hugo’s life that brings the book into beautiful focus. The introduction also calls the abridged version insufficient, and says: It is almost impossible to predict the individual detail, the flashing image or human quirk precisely observed, that will burn its way into a reader’s mind for good. I cannot agree more. And lastly, for the tl;dr'ers, a summary for what I have said above, which rests within the very first pages of the book: So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine; so long as the three problems of the century—the degradation of man by the exploitation of his labor, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the atrophy of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a still broader point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, there should be a need for books such as this. –Hauteville House, 1862

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    I'm in the minority unfortunately. I thought the book was okay. I was hoping it would blow my mind and be a favorite like The Count Of Monte Cristo, as I was afraid of that book too, but alas, it was not =( I might as well put the ole spoilers tag up on here! Oh and even though Jean's name will be changed in the book, I'm sticking with Jean so I won't get all messed up! FANTINE 1)An Upright Man 2) The Fall 3) In The Year 1817 4) To Trust Is Sometimes To Surrender 5) The Descent 6) Javert 7) The I'm in the minority unfortunately. I thought the book was okay. I was hoping it would blow my mind and be a favorite like The Count Of Monte Cristo, as I was afraid of that book too, but alas, it was not =( I might as well put the ole spoilers tag up on here! Oh and even though Jean's name will be changed in the book, I'm sticking with Jean so I won't get all messed up! FANTINE 1)An Upright Man 2) The Fall 3) In The Year 1817 4) To Trust Is Sometimes To Surrender 5) The Descent 6) Javert 7) The Champmathieu Affair 8) Counter-Stroke I worry at times when reading classic books because I feel I won't understand a lot of them. And some I haven't. Come to think of it, I have read books that aren't classic and never understood them and still loved them. I'm strange, I know. I felt the same way when I went into The Count of Monte Cristo. I was so worried I wouldn't get it enough to like it and uh, it's one of my favorite books to date! Les Mis has given me some trouble during the first of the book. I have felt like I'm not going to like it too much and then there would be parts that I just loved. So we shall see when I finish it awhile from now. I really liked M. Myriel, he was a very nice man. I mean just because he's a man of the cloth doesn't mean he will be nice but he was and I loved him. It was sad when he died. Jean Valjean was a prisoner of 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to try to feed his sister and her seven children. They don't care if people or kids starve to death and going to jail for 19 years. Wow! Jean only heard of news one time of his sister and the youngest child working and going to school. No one knows what became of the rest of the children. After the 19 years Jean was let out on parole. He couldn't find a place to take him in for the night and feed him. He had money but they didn't want a criminal in their inns. But he came upon M. Myriel who was a Bishop at the church. (if I have it all correctly) He let Jean have a bed for the first time in years, gave him food and was very kind to him. In turn, Jean stole away in the night with the silverware. But being the kind man M. Myriel was he didn't press charges when the coppers dragged Jean back. He did tell something to Jean that made him change his ways. The bishop approached him and said, in a low voice. "Do not forget, ever, that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man. Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of any such promise, stood dumbfounded. The bishop had stressed these words as he spoke them. He continued, solemnly, "Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying from you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!" Jean was a changed man after this and it was good. Next is the story of Fantine. This broke my heart! Fantine and some of her so called friends had suitors and they all thought they were going to be together and get married, all of the wonderful things. But it was not so. The men left the woman with nothing. Fantine was left with child and her so called friends all went separate ways. Fantine had to leave little Cosette at a home until she got enough money to get her. The home was a fake and they were rude and horrible people. Fantine sent them money to keep Cosette. Year after year she sent money. She worked for Jean who had a different name and owned a business. Sadly for Fantine she was fired because of some jerk workers and Jean never knew about it. Fantine was forced to sale her hair, some of her teeth and become a whore so Cosette would be okay. One day Fantine was taken to jail for scratching a jerk man. Jean found her there and took her to the hospital. He saved her from being put in prison, but unfortunately she had a disease and would not live. He made a promise to find Cosette. It was so very sad that she had to live the life she did and never see her daughter ever again. She was thrown away........ COSETTE 1) Waterloo 2) The Ship Orion 3) Fulfillment Of The Promise Made To The Departed 4) The Old Gorbeau House 5) A Dark Chase Requires A Silent Hound 6) Petit-Picpus 7) Cemeteries Take What Is Given Them Soooooooooooooooo, I wasn't feeling this one as much until it got to Jean & Cosette. Jean found Cosette carrying a heavy water bucket and asked her many questions. He found out she was the girl she promised Fantine he would take care of, her daughter. Jean watched how the couple were treating Cosette because he was staying at their Inn. He as livid and so was I at the way Cosette was treated. Jean told them he was taking her away with him, paid them money (overcharged) for his stay there. Oh, and I loved when he went out and bought her a most expensive doll for her alone because only the owners two daughters got toys to play with, it was so bitter sweet. They stayed on the run for a time. Jean was always on the run on and off as he's always wanted. He can never shake that freaking, Javert. Jean and Cosette ending up staying with a man Jean had saved awhile back. Jean worked in the little garden. Jean, who had lost all thoughts of loving anything when he was in prison. He was a hard man with no love, no anything. But then he felt a spark that grew and grew for Cosette, his daughter, for that's what she became. So sweet. His whole heart melted in gratitude and he loved more and more. Several years went by like this. Cosette was growing up. Unfortunately, I'm not liking this book as much as I would have hoped. I love the parts with Jean and Cosette and hope that there will be more and I will at least love it just enough. *The rest of the sections and books in the book I was reading.* Marius 1) Paris Atomized 2) The Grand Bourgeois 3) The Grandfather And The Grandson 4) The Friends Of The ABC 5) The Excellence Of Misfortune 6) The Conjunction of Two Stars 7) Patron-Minette 8) The Noxious Poor Saint-Denis And Idyll Of The Rue Plumet 1) A Few Pages Of History 2) Eponine 3) The House On The Rue Plumet 4) Aid From Below Or From Above 5) An End Unlike The Beginning 6) Little Gavroche 7) Argot 8) Enchantments And Desolations 9) Where Are They Going? 10) June 5, 1832 11) The Atom Fraternizes With The Hurricane 12) Corinth 13) Marius Enters The Shadow 14) The Grandeur Of Despair 15) The Rue De L'Homme-Arme Jean Valjean 1) War Between Four Walls 2) The Intestine Of Leviathan 3) Much, But Soul 4) Javert Off The Track 5) Grandson And Grandfather 6) The White Night 7) The Last Drop In The Chalice 8) The Twilight Waning 9) Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn Afterword Selected Bibliography The story continues on with Cosette growing up, finding Marius and love. A revolution. Javert still on Jean's trail. The marriage of Cosette and Marius. And the deaths of Javert and Jean. The book did bring some tears to my eyes. It was really sweet with Cosette and Marius. They were made for each other. Even though Jean wasn't too happy about it, he did save Marius in the end so he would live for Cosette. Javert finally gave up. Jean had saved him from death and Javert threatened once again to kill him, but alas it was his own life he took. He was just tired..... Jean was on his deathbed when Cosette and Marius found him. He was so happy to see his daughter and Marius. Jean had an angel watching over him and he went peacefully. Jean, you were a most wonderful man! The night was starless and very dark. Without any doubt, in the gloom, some mighty angel was standing, with outstretched wings, waiting for the soul. MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    I chose to read the hefty Victor Hugo classic for my thirtieth birthday, &, let me tell you, the experience was One Biiiig Bitch. I mean, why EVEN go to the 200 + year old text when the Broadway musical exists! THAT work of art exudes all beauty and majesty in one continuous song that unites the characters through time; ultimately giving us a true theme, or feeling of genuine victory over adversity. The plot, one gorgeous telenovela of a story, replete with jailbreaks, insurrections, I chose to read the hefty Victor Hugo classic for my thirtieth birthday, &, let me tell you, the experience was One Biiiig Bitch. I mean, why EVEN go to the 200 + year old text when the Broadway musical exists! THAT work of art exudes all beauty and majesty in one continuous song that unites the characters through time; ultimately giving us a true theme, or feeling of genuine victory over adversity. The plot, one gorgeous telenovela of a story, replete with jailbreaks, insurrections, betrayals, war, calamities multiplied & order restored is, in short, too much Muchness for one reader to possibly occupy himself with. This is the longest novel I have ever read (probably Don Quixote, which took me an entire month to read, is the closest second). & as such, it is difficult--a staggering activity indeed--to maintain order in its review, much less in the colossus text itself that's just very disordered, odd, beautiful-but-not-always; it is a mixture (an irritating one at that, & less than a boost toward modernism) of myriad tones & paces, a gargantuan monster from the abysmal depths of time: a list of lists, basically; a lexicon in Everything French Revolution. What is the purpose of so many compilation of details to make a heap of facts that, quite frankly, fail to make either a juicy romance or gory history. It's infuriating because it takes up so much of your time. And, bottom line, the characters, even Jean Valjean the lament-filled hero who feels guilt palpably like the feel of the guillotine, is a beacon that illuminates but also dis-illusions. (...and Cosette is a ninny, and Fantine gets duped awful by a group of boys and girls, and Javert is a true mystery that ends up having less to do with our story than other less famous villains like M. Thenardier...) It is basic Law to read this, so I did. It has not aged well, dudes, fur reels. Like some expensive wine that got rancid. A French one. &, just because I am very generous, these here are the top four best parts (AKA the most heartwarming) in all of Les Mis., if you wanted to know, followed by the four worst: 1) How Valjean gets Cosette from the clutches of the Thenardiers (the dude simply won't let go!) 2) Gavroche's taking-in of the two Thenardier "brats" 3) Marius' self-inflicted poverty 4) the Bishop's story The worst are these girthy diatribes that provoke (gasp!) some paragraph skippage: 1) on the Sewers 2) on the slang 3) on the Streets of Paris 4) on the barriacades, which reminds the reader that so many French pre-Revolutionary factoids withholds reader's pleasure, somewhat barricading the avid reader's truest delight.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    What makes a favourite book? In this case, I will have to say: one single character that broke my heart and shaped my idealism and stirred my anger: Gavroche Thénardier. "Si l'on demandait à la grande et énorme ville : Qu'est-ce que c'est que cela ? elle répondrait : C'est mon petit." One of those street children that see and hear more during their childhood than most people ever experience, who carry pain and neglect with them on their daily adventures to survive in a hostile, careless What makes a favourite book? In this case, I will have to say: one single character that broke my heart and shaped my idealism and stirred my anger: Gavroche Thénardier. "Si l'on demandait à la grande et énorme ville : Qu'est-ce que c'est que cela ? elle répondrait : C'est mon petit." One of those street children that see and hear more during their childhood than most people ever experience, who carry pain and neglect with them on their daily adventures to survive in a hostile, careless environment, and still manage to find reasons to love and to live, he made me want to work with children when I was myself still only a teenager. I also wept with his sister Éponine, and with Cosette's mother Fantine, and I followed in Gavroche's tracks through the drama of Parisian 19th century history. His fight became my cause. The main characters, Jean Valjean and his adoptive daughter Cosette, left me rather cold by contrast, as they seemed too perfectly good, too beautiful, too physically strong and mentally one-dimensional to be shaped from real life, and I am not sure Les Misérables would have ranged among my most beloved books, had the novel been slimmed down to their specific plot. The story line of Javert, whose fanatic sense of justice reminds me of later Communist anti-human radicalism, was what made Jean Valjean interesting as a character, rather than his own personality. Would he be caught or not? I will also have to confess that I would have loved to see the poor, abused Éponine find happiness with Marius, as I truly couldn't find anything exciting in the doll Cosette that Jean Valjean had raised. Éponine had the potential to become a bright young woman, had she not grown up with comically bad parents in severe poverty: "On sentait bien qu’avec d’autres conditions d’éducation et de destinée, l’allure gaie et libre de cette jeune fille eût pu être quelque chose de doux et de charmant." The neglected children of Paris - that is what Les Misérables means to me. Ever since I first read the novel during my adolescence, it has accompanied me on my adventures. Gavroche comes to my mind whenever I read about neglected children in the big cities of the world, and now that my own children read the story, and play the soundtrack of the Musical on the piano and sing along with all the pathos they remember from seeing it performed at Broadway in New York, I feel the old shiver down my spine, and I know that one of the sources of my energy as a mother and teacher is to be found in the early feeling of indignation and tenderness towards a child that deserved a better life than he got. He deserved a future. I still believe in that simple idealist dream: each child deserves a future. "Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people Who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart Echoes the beating of the drums There is a life about to start When tomorrow comes!"

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This will be another review-as-I-go! First, a thank you to Rachel for recommending the Fahnestock and MacAfee translation, which is wonderful so far! Next, a question: Why have I been so drawn lately to these 1,500 page 19th century behemoths? War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and now this. Am I just a glutton for punishment? Or just showing off? I hope not. When I think about it, I think it has to do with the moral scope and depth of the work and the way these books This will be another review-as-I-go! First, a thank you to Rachel for recommending the Fahnestock and MacAfee translation, which is wonderful so far! Next, a question: Why have I been so drawn lately to these 1,500 page 19th century behemoths? War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and now this. Am I just a glutton for punishment? Or just showing off? I hope not. When I think about it, I think it has to do with the moral scope and depth of the work and the way these books really wear their morality on their sleeves. They're complex, yes, but they're not hiding their morality behind some veneer of "show, don't tell." They're not afraid to plumb the moral depths of the societies they depict, and I think, when I look around at the society I inhabit, that I hunger for more of this. So here I have it. Hugo certainly takes his time setting up the main action, with a long introductory section on the Bishop (Myriel) before we get to the main character, Jean Valjean. But for some reason it works, so that by the time Valjean arrives on the scene, we have a sense of the place he comes to and the reactions he'll face. Even then, Myriel stands apart from the others in his generosity and kindness, such that the other characters don't even comprehend his attitude. Which of course says as much about contemporary attitudes toward ex-convicts as it does about Myriel himself. Then the scene shifts, and we're treated to a lighthearted section of youthful fun, but there's a dark undercurrent here too--the illegitimate child born to Fantine, the child named Cosette, who's given up to another family while Fantine finds work and who soon transforms from a happy toddler to a bedraggled house servant. Oh, the heartbreak and misery we experience when she's described sweeping the sidewalk in the cold, dressed only in rags. The scene then shifts to follow Fantine, and we see her gradual decline as she tried ever more desperately to raise money to send the family housing her daughter. Eventually she sells her two front teeth and becomes a "woman of the streets," which is where she has a run-in with the police officer Javert--a character reminiscent of Angelo from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, a stern agent of the law whose facade of righteousness conceals much. Luckily for Fantine, the mayor intercedes on her behalf. Then the two parts of the story so far--that of Valjean and that of Fantine--come together, when it's revealed that the mayor is himself Valjean, years later. Oh, the plot thickens, because Javert was an officer who knew and tried to find Valjean years ago, and suddenly declares to the mayor that Valjean was found in the distant town of Arras and will be tried. What does Valjean do? Continue to conceal his identity so that he may do more good, knowing that someone else will suffer in his place? Or declare himself and lose everything? It's quite a magnificent dramatic moment. And the drama really picks up pace when Valjean rides to Arras to the trial. Will he get there on time? And then there he is, in the courtroom: will he reveal himself? And when he does: will he be arrested right away? How can he escape? It's pure melodrama, in a way, yet fused to the deep moral quandary in the character that makes it irresistible. One of the techniques I see Hugo employing is to switch storylines suddenly, leaving the reader with no idea how they relate, until at the very end of the storyline, he reveals it: Aha! When Valjean is on his way to Cosette, Hugo makes a huge detour into the history of Waterloo and Napoleon's downfall, and you wonder for pages and pages what this has to do with the story, and then at the very end, we see that one of the haggard men stealing from corpses is the father of the family keeping Cosette, and that another officer, who thinks the haggard man has saved him, declares himself in his debt. You can feel Hugo in those lines lowering the boom for more drama to come. Hugo is really setting things up now. We get Valjean and Cosette finally ensconced in Paris, and then the scene shifts to examine a new character, Marius, the son of Pontmercy (who thought the father of the family keeping Cosette saved him). Again, you can see the giant cogs in motion, setting up the eventual collision between all these forces. Just an awesome array of characters and plot points, and I can't wait to see how it's going to come together! Not surprisingly, Marius and Cosette grow up and grow fond of each other through random meetings in Paris. If I had one critique of this book, it's that so much depends on these random meetings of the characters. They keep bumping into each other, as if there were only a few people in the city. But this is a minor critique, and the randomness might even be intentional, making the point that much of life is similarly guided by chance encounters. Now the political scene intervenes: the uprising. One of the saddest characters in the book is Epinone, the daughter of the horrible innkeeper, who acts more than once to keep Marius out of danger. She's clearly in love with him, but she's been so deformed by poverty and the demands of her harsh parents that she feels unable to express that. Anyway, the uprising is where she performs her ultimate act of bravery and self-sacrifice, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I can't really do the ending any justice through summary. Let me just say that Hugo brings this entire monumental project together masterfully. If Modernism is defined by ironic detachment, this is the ultimate pre-modern work. It's earnest, political, passionate, encyclopedic, and moralistic in the very best sense. Hugo clearly has a point he's trying to make about human goodness, and I deeply appreciate the project. To say it's moved me is a terrific understatement. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and its characters since finishing reading a couple of days ago. This is an epic and almost mythical work, and it stands as one of the best novels I've read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    873. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 873. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. عنوانها: ژان والژان؛ بینوایان؛ نویسنده: ویکتور هوگو؛ انتشاراتیها: (مطبعه ایران، جاویدان، بدرقه جاویدان، امیرکبیر ، توسن، نگته، گنینه، فنون، قصه جهان نما، سمیر، آسو، افق، هفت سنگ، پیروز، سکه، اسب سفید، سروش، مشر قره، دبیر، گاج، پارسه، آبان مهر، سپیده، معراجی، توسن، فنون، بنیاد) ادبیات فرانسه؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: در ماه مارس سال 1966 میلادی؛ آخرین بار: در ماه ژوئن سال 2006 میلادی عنوان: بینوایان؛ نویسنده: ویکتور هوگو؛ مترجم: حسینقلی مستعان؛ تهران، مطبعه ایران پاورقی، 1310، سپس به صورت کتاب در ده جلد و سپس در پنج جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، جاویدان، 1331، در دو جلد، چاپ دیگر: تهران، امیرکبیر، 1349؛ در دو جلد 1647 ص؛ چاپ دیگر 1363؛ چاپ چهاردهم 1370؛ شانزدهم 1382؛ شابک دوره: 9640004189؛ هفدهم 1384؛ هجدهم 1387؛ شابک دوره دوجلدی: 9789640004180؛ نوزدهم 1388؛ بیستم 1390؛ بیست و سوم 1391؛ بیست و چهارم 1392؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، بدرقه جاویدان، 1386، در دو جلد، موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسوی - سده 19 م مترجمین دیگر متن کامل: نسرین تولایی و ناهید ملکوتی، تهران، نگاه، 1393، در دو جلد، شابک دوره: 9789643519568؛ عنایت الله شکیباپور در دو جلد، چاپ دیگر: تهران، گنینه، 1362، در دو جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، فنون، 1368، در دو جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، قصه جهان نما 1380، در دو جلد و 962 ص؛ کیومرث پارسای، تهران، سمیر، 1389؛ در پنج جلد، شابک دوره: 9789642200474؛ محمد مجلسی، تهران، نشر دنیای نو، 1380، در چهار جلد (جلد 1 - فانتین، جلد 2 - فانتین، جلد 3 - ماریوس، جلد 4 - ژان والژان)؛ چاپ سوم 1390؛ مرضیه صادقی زاده، تهران، آسو، 1395، در دو جلد؛ شابک دوره: 9786007228982؛ مینا حسینی، تهران، فراروی، 1393، در دو جلد، شابک دوره: 9786005947434؛ محسن سلیمانی، تهران، افق، 1388، در دو جلد؛ چاپ دوم 1389؛ چاپ ششم 1392؛ وحیده شکری، گرگان، هفت سنگ، 1395، در دو جلد؛ مترجمین دیگر متن خلاصه شده: گیورگیس آقاسی، تهران، پیروز، 1342، در 335 ص، چاپ دیگر: تهران، سکه، 1362، در 335 ص؛ فریدون کار، اسب سفید، 1345، در 480 ص؛ محمدباقر پیروزی، در 340 ص، سروش، 1368؛ بهروز غریب پور، نشر قره، 1385، در 208 ص؛ شابک: 9643415155؛ مهدی علوی، تهران، دبیر، در 112 ص؛ چاپ سوم 1395؛ شایسته ابراهیمی، تهران، گاج، 1395، در 136 ص؛ صدف محسنی، تهران، پارسه، 1395، در 399 ص؛ مصطفی جمشیدی، امیرکبیر از ترجمه مستعان، در 129 ص؛ سبحان یاسی پور، آبان مهر، 1395، در 140 ص؛ اسماعیل عباسی، تهران، سپیده، در 47 ص؛ الهه تیمورتاش، تهران، سپیده، 1368، در 248 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1370؛ شهاب، تهران، معراجی، در 184 ص؛ امیر اسماعیلی، تهران، توسن، 1362؛ در 237 ص؛ عنایت الله شکیبا پور، تهران، فنون، 1368، در 384 ص؛ ابراهیم رها، 1382، در 64 ص؛ ابراهیم زنجانی با عنوان ژان والژان؛ ذبیح الله منصوری، تهران، بنیاد، 1362؛ در 177 ص؛ چاپ سوم 1370؛ نمیدانم. یادم نمانده این کتاب را چندبار خوانده ام. در کودکی نسخه های کوتاه شده، و خلاصه ی داستان را...، و آخرین بار چند سال پیش بود، باز هم ترجمه حسینعلی مستعان را خواندم. اگر بگویم مدهوش شدم، راه به سوی گزافه نبرده ام. ویکتور هوگو بزرگترین شاعر فرانسه در قرن نوزدهم میلادی و شاید بیش از همین جمله باشد که بنوشتم. ایشان با بزرگواری، با انقلابی بزرگ زندگی کردند، و عمری طول کشید تا بینوایان را نوشتند. یادم مانده جمله ای که نمیخواهم بنویسم. بیشترش شاید از یادم رفته باشد. نیز تا فراموش نکرده ام نوشته باشم که همین داستان بینوایان نیز همچون بیشتر شاهکارهای جهان چند لایه دارد. امروز دیدم یکی از لایه هایش را جناب مهدی به بزرگواری بگشوده است. نقل از نوشتار مهدی: ژان والژان، و «ژاور»، دو شخصیت رمان، هر دو خداباور هستند؛ اما خدایی که هر یک میپرستد، غیر از خدای دیگری ست. «ژان والژان» مردی ست که بیست سال از عمرش را در زندان با اعمال شاقه بگذرانده، مردی ست که قانون او را مجازات کرده، و پس از آن که دوره ی مجازاتش تمام شده، جامعه او را طرد نموده. در این حال است، که اسقف «میریل» او را مییابد، و درک میکند که والژان، نیاز به امید دارد. نیاز به بازگشت دارد. پس به او امید میدهد و برش میگرداند. از آن پس، «ژان والژان» مظهر خدای مسیحی میشود. مردی که در باقیمانده ی عمرش، کاری جز عشق ورزیدن، حتی به کسانی که از آنها بیزار است، نمیکند. در برابر او، «ژاور» مردی ست که به گفته ی خود، در تمام عمر، حتی یک قانون را هم نشکسته است. مردی ست که تمام هم و غمش اجرای قانون است. تا جایی که آنگاه که خود مرتکب جرمی میشود، با سرافکندگی خود را معرفی میکند، تا به سزای کارهایش برسد. این دو شخصیت، یکی نماد خدای مسیحی، و آن دیگری نماد خدای یهودی ست، بارها باهم درگیر میشوند. یکی از درگیریها، بر سر «فانتین» است. زنی روسپی که شاید شباهتی به «مریم مجدلیه» داشته باشد. «ژاور» بی آن که به گریه زاری «فانتین» گوش دهد، و یا به دختر کوچک او «کوزت»، اهمیتی بدهد، او را محکوم به شش ماه زندان میکند؛ اما «والژان»، با اینکه «فانتین» به او اهانت میکند، و به رویش، تف میاندازد، دستور آزادی او را صادر میکند. یکی، هیچ نرمشی در برابر قانون شکنی نشان نمیدهد، و آن دیگری، آغوشش را برای گناهکار میگشاید. یکی دیگر از تنشها، در پایان داستان است. جایی که «والژان»، آغوش خود را برای خود «ژاور» میگشاید. با اینکه توانایی کشتن «ژاور» را دارد، او را زنده رها میکند. ژاور نمیتواند این رفتار را تاب آورد، و درک کند، گیج میشود. او که تا آندم همه چیز را با دیدی انعطاف ناپذیر میدید، دچار تزلزل میشود. میبیند که مردی قانون شکن، توانسته مرد بزرگی شود. میبیند که هم بازداشت کردن آن مرد اشتباه است و هم بازداشت نکردنش بشکستن قانون است. نهایتاً، نمیتواند دوگانگی را تاب آورد و بپذیرد، خود را در رودخانه ی «سن» میاندازد، و خودکشی میکند و اینگونه، از دیدگاه ویکتور هوگو، خدای یهودیت میمیرد و خدای مسیحیت زنده و باقی میماند. ا. شربیانی

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    873. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 873. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. بینوایان - ویکتور هوگو (جاویدان ، امیرکبیر ، توسن) ادبیات فرانسه؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه مارس سال 1966 میلادی، بار دیگر در ماه مارس سال 2006 میلادی عنوان: بینوایان؛ نویسنده: ویکتور هوگو؛ مترجم: حسینقلی مستعان؛ تهران، مطبعه ایران پاورقی، 1310، سپس به صورت کتاب در ده جلد و سپس در پنج جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، جاویدان، 1331، در دو جلد، چاپ دیگر: تهران، امیرکبیر، 1349؛ در دو جلد 1647 ص؛ چاپ دیگر 1363؛ چاپ چهاردهم 1370؛ شانزدهم 1382؛ شابک دوره: 9640004189؛ هفدهم 1384؛ هجدهم 1387؛ شابک دوره دوجلدی: 9789640004180؛ نوزدهم 1388؛ بیستم 1390؛ بیست و سوم 1391؛ بیست و چهارم 1392؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، بدرقه جاویدان، 1386، در دو جلد، موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسوی - سده 19 م مترجمین دیگر متن کامل: نسرین تولایی و ناهید ملکوتی، تهران، نگاه، 1393، در دو جلد، شابک دوره: 9789643519568؛ عنایت الله شکیباپور در دو جلد، چاپ دیگر: تهران، گنینه، 1362، در دو جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، فنون، 1368، در دو جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، قصه جهان نما 1380، در دو جلد و 962 ص؛ کیومرث پارسای، تهران، سمیر، 1389؛ در پنج جلد، شابک دوره: 9789642200474؛ محمد مجلسی، تهران، نشر دنیای نو، 1380، در چهار جلد (جلد 1 - فانتین، جلد 2 - فانتین، جلد 3 - ماریوس، جلد 4 - ژان والژان)؛ چاپ سوم 1390؛ مرضیه صادقی زاده، تهران، آسو، 1395، در دو جلد؛ شابک دوره: 9786007228982؛ مینا حسینی، تهران، فراروی، 1393، در دو جلد، شابک دوره: 9786005947434؛ محسن سلیمانی، تهران، افق، 1388، در دو جلد؛ چاپ دوم 1389؛ چاپ ششم 1392؛ وحیده شکری، گرگان، هفت سنگ، 1395، در دو جلد؛ مترجمین دیگر متن خلاصه شده: گیورگیس آقاسی، تهران، پیروز، 1342، در 335 ص، چاپ دیگر: تهران، سکه، 1362، در 335 ص؛ فریدون کار، اسب سفید، 1345، در 480 ص؛ محمدباقر پیروزی، در 340 ص، سروش، 1368؛ بهروز غریب پور، نشر قره، 1385، در 208 ص؛ شابک: 9643415155؛ مهدی علوی، تهران، دبیر، در 112 ص؛ چاپ سوم 1395؛ شایسته ابراهیمی، تهران، گاج، 1395، در 136 ص؛ صدف محسنی، تهران، پارسه، 1395، در 399 ص؛ مصطفی جمشیدی، امیرکبیر از ترجمه مستعان، در 129 ص؛ سبحان یاسی پور، آبان مهر، 1395، در 140 ص؛ اسماعیل عباسی، تهران، سپیده، در 47 ص؛ الهه تیمورتاش، تهران، سپیده، 1368، در 248 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1370؛ شهاب، تهران، معراجی، در 184 ص؛ امیر اسماعیلی، تهران، توسن، 1362؛ در 237 ص؛ عنایت الله شکیبا پور، تهران، فنون، 1368، در 384 ص؛ ابراهیم رها، 1382، در 64 ص؛ ابراهیم زنجانی با عنوان ژان والژان؛ ذبیح الله منصوری، تهران، بنیاد، 1362؛ در 177 ص؛ چاپ سوم 1370؛ نمیدانم. یادم نمانده این کتاب را چندبار خوانده ام. در کودکی نسخه های کوتاه شده و خلاصه ی داستان را...، آخرین بار چند سال پیش بود، باز هم ترجمه حسینعلی مستعان را خواندم. اگر بگویم مدهوش شدم، راه به سوی گزافه نبرده ام. ویکتور هوگو بزرگترین شاعر فرانسه در سده نوزدهم میلادی و شاید بیشتر از همین جمله باشند که بنوشتم. ایشان با بزرگواری، با انقلابی بزرگ زندگی کردند و عمری طول کشید تا آن را نوشتند. نقل از متن: امپراطور گفت: کیست این مردک که مرا نگاه میکند. میری یل گفت: اعلیحصرتا، شما یک مردک را نگاه میکنید و من یک مرد بزرگ را، هر یک از ما میتواند، استفاده کند. پایان نقل از کتاب بینوایان، قسمت اول فانتین، کتاب اول یک عادل - 1 - مسیو میری یل ا. شربیانی

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    I saw the movie version of this before reading it and I was utterly shook by the powerful nature of the story. When I read it I hoped for the same experience, instead I had one more powerful. In life there are few truly great men: there are few men that are truly and incorruptibly good. Jean Valjean is such a man; he is a paragon of goodliness: he is a superb character. At the beginning of the novel he sacrifices everything: he steals a loaf of bread knowing full well of the consequences. He I saw the movie version of this before reading it and I was utterly shook by the powerful nature of the story. When I read it I hoped for the same experience, instead I had one more powerful. In life there are few truly great men: there are few men that are truly and incorruptibly good. Jean Valjean is such a man; he is a paragon of goodliness: he is a superb character. At the beginning of the novel he sacrifices everything: he steals a loaf of bread knowing full well of the consequences. He risks his freedom in order to save his starving family; he risks his mortality and his morality: he risks everything. He is a truly selfless man, a great man. And what are the consequences for trying to save a starving boy? What is the justice of the land? Imprisonment. Servitude. Pure Corruption. In this the author captures social injustice in its most brutal form; he shows the foolishness of unbending laws, of a system that refuses to open its eyes, and how the common man will always suffer under the yolk of the powerful. But, somehow, Valjean just about retains his decency and his humanity. Somehow in the face of sadistic ruling, he manages to remain Valjean; he even manages to better himself and improve the world around him. Yes, he makes a mistake that leads to the death of an innocent; yes, he was responsible for the snuffing of the life he ignored. However, he redeems himself in a truly extraordinary way, and eventually pays an even greater sacrifice. The world needs more men like Valjean. Then if that wasn’t enough, Valjean even offers his nemesis forgiveness. He sees Javert for the product of society that he is; he looks at him and only sees pity rather than hatred, which would have been a much easier emotion to experience. Valjean does what few men would have the strength to do, and in the process shows his true inner-strength. Javert was fully responsible for his actions. He is a pitiable character. To his cold, singular, narrow-minded, law based logic, Valjean was a simple criminal. Nothing more, nothing less. Javert cannot look beyond the surface. He dedicated his life to preventing this villain form getting away. In this, he is as much a victim as Valjean. When he eventually realises the true errors of his ways, he is broken. He is no more. Javert is not the real villain: it is society. And this is only one aspect of this superb novel. Javert and Valjean are not the only victims of this novel. Pushed aside, forgotten about, is the miserable Fantine. She represents the tragic state of women’s place in such a society. No one cares about her. She is just another woman in the street, another countless victim of misrule: someone to be trampled over. But, Valjean shows that life isn’t completely dark. From such corruption, a heart can remain true to itself and continue beating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X

    It is a couple of years since I read and reviewed this book. I asked a question in a spoiler, "How come Valjean never recognised Thénardier no matter how many times he met him?" And just now I had an ah-ha moment and realised it was because Victor Hugo himself might well have had prosopagnosia. How did I get to this? I reviewed Oliver Sacks' On the Move and made a point about his prosopagnosia, face blindness, I have it too. It just struck me that although it is very odd for the hero never to It is a couple of years since I read and reviewed this book. I asked a question in a spoiler, "How come Valjean never recognised Thénardier no matter how many times he met him?" And just now I had an ah-ha moment and realised it was because Victor Hugo himself might well have had prosopagnosia. How did I get to this? I reviewed Oliver Sacks' On the Move and made a point about his prosopagnosia, face blindness, I have it too. It just struck me that although it is very odd for the hero never to recognise his enemy, if the author had prosopagnosia he wouldn't think it at all strange that Valjean might have people he never recognised (as well as those he always did and those he sometimes did) because that's how it is with face blindness. Of course, I will never know for sure, but it makes more sense to me to think of it this way. ______ I loved this book. I was expecting something somewhere between Trollope's extraordinary writing and Zola's wonderful stories - and I got it! Great literature indeed, and what a character Jean Valjean is. His story is almost biblical, one of redemption. One who travels the path from evil to good with scarcely a stumble but many an obstruction along the way. Hugo uses the book, much as Tolstoy liked to do, to expound his personal philosophy and also the condition of the peasants, les miserables. (view spoiler)[Good, excellent, as the book was, I am left with one question, how come Valjean never recognised Thénardier no matter how many times he met him? (hide spoiler)] If you like classics and sagas, its a good holiday book. Start before you go, read it on the plane, a little by the pool and when lying on the beach, and then when you get home, there will still be more to read about these people who are your friends and family now.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    "We can only suppose that its new life as a musical - and what an appropriate fate for that most operatic novelist - will help to bring Les Misérables to the attention of a new generation of readers, reminding them perhaps that the abuses Hugo catalogues are still alive elsewhere, awaiting their own chroniclers in the brave new world of the twenty first century." - Peter Washington, Introduction There are few novels which one can consider true masterpieces and among the greatest pieces of writing "We can only suppose that its new life as a musical - and what an appropriate fate for that most operatic novelist - will help to bring Les Misérables to the attention of a new generation of readers, reminding them perhaps that the abuses Hugo catalogues are still alive elsewhere, awaiting their own chroniclers in the brave new world of the twenty first century." - Peter Washington, Introduction There are few novels which one can consider true masterpieces and among the greatest pieces of writing ever written. The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Complete Sherlock Holmes and Complete Stories and Poems number among these as examples. However there are some momentous epics in terms of themes such as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and this great work: Les Misérables, which despite their length are well worth the investment. Les Misérables, as a novel, is far grander than its worthy adaptations (of which the 1998 film with Liam Neeson and the stageplay are the finer works). It is not the simple tale of Jean Valjean escaping from Inspector Javert. It is so much more. It is: a love story, the love story of France as well as a romance; a tragedy, a catalogue of the miserable citizens of historic France; a historical chronicle, a mapping out of the cultural landscape of one image of time; above all it is a literary masterpiece. Victor Hugo may have his failings in this novel. At times he falls into pompous verbosity, rambling on about subjects which appear to lack relevance to the story. However, what he has achieved in this novel is nothing short of remarkable. This is literature at its finest, a book recording the suffering and beauty of humanity and reflecting upon it in language which is both complex and simple despite translation. Speaking of translation, this version by Charles E. Wilbour appears quite excellent (if old fashioned). And therefore anyone interested in reading this work is encouraged to get a true unabridged version. Reading the abridged versions will only ruin the charm of the story and perhaps your understanding of the story itself. This review has been moved to my site, click this link to read the rest!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jojo

    This is the longest book I've ever read, and is, without a shadow of a doubt, the BEST book I've ever been privileged enough to read. I mean, WOW. Hugo had me smiling, laughing and most of the time crying, all in one chapter. This is in no way, a happy tale. Not in the slightest. The man certainly knows how to captivate the reader, and captivate, he did. The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two This is the longest book I've ever read, and is, without a shadow of a doubt, the BEST book I've ever been privileged enough to read. I mean, WOW. Hugo had me smiling, laughing and most of the time crying, all in one chapter. This is in no way, a happy tale. Not in the slightest. The man certainly knows how to captivate the reader, and captivate, he did. The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.” The character of Jean Valjean, is somewhat of an inspiration. He shows us all, that we are only human, regardless of our past, and whatever we did. People do indeed change. I am a huge fan of the West end show of Les Miserables. It is most definitely my favourite show. Although, the show tells the story well, there is a hell of a lot missed out. The book goes into tremendous detail, and for me, made the already grim tale, even more grim! This is not a bad thing, as in my opinion, I think the realisation of everything that is happening, hits you harder. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” Yes, this is a super long book, but it really is worth the time it takes to read it. Bloody amazing! LOVE LOVE LOVE!! And by the way, Monsieur Marius, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you.” There are not enough stars in existence, in order for me to give this book it's true rating!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “They fought hand to hand, foot to foot, with pistols, with sabers, with fists, from a distance, from up close, from above, below, everywhere at once, from the roofs of houses, from the windows of the tavern, from the basement windows of the cellars that some of them had slipped down into. It was one against sixty. The façade of Corinthe, half-demolished, was hideous to behold. The window, speckled with shot, had lost both glass and frame, and was just a shapeless hole, crazily stopped up with “They fought hand to hand, foot to foot, with pistols, with sabers, with fists, from a distance, from up close, from above, below, everywhere at once, from the roofs of houses, from the windows of the tavern, from the basement windows of the cellars that some of them had slipped down into. It was one against sixty. The façade of Corinthe, half-demolished, was hideous to behold. The window, speckled with shot, had lost both glass and frame, and was just a shapeless hole, crazily stopped up with cobbles…[One man], run through with three thrusts of a bayonet to the chest just as he was lifting up a wounded soldier, only had time to look up at the sky before he breathed his last…” - Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (translated by Julie Rose) I wanted a reading challenge. This was a reading challenge. At 1,376 pages, the Julie Rose-translated, unabridged version of Les Misérables is one of the longest single volumes I have ever read. More than sheer length, though, is that length’s composition. This is not an A-to-B type of story. This is A-to-Z, with stops along the way to ponderously scrutinize each and every other letter, describing its shape, its genealogy, and its place in the fabric of the universe. By the end, I was exhausted, hammered into submission by Victor Hugo’s unwillingness to use one word when an entire chapter will do. The conclusion, I recall, was absolutely beautiful; and yet, by the time I reached that endpoint, all my patience had long since disappeared (or perhaps it simply assumed a false identity and retreated to Montreuil-sur-Mer in northern France). Despite its prodigious size, summarizing Hugo’s famous novel is rather easy, given the fame of its derivative works. At the center of Les Misérables is Jean Valjean, imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing bread (and subsequently attempting to escape several times). Finally released, he soon realizes that society is not ready to accept him, despite paying for his crimes. He is hounded by the upright and sanctimonious bloodhound Inspector Javert. As he is chased, Jean Valjean comes into contact with Cosette, an orphan who he raises as his own. Eventually, Jean Valjean, Cosette, Inspector Javert, and a supporting cast of many dozens of others, find themselves on the cobbled streets of Paris during the June Rebellion of 1832. This story is told in inimitable fashion by an author of extraordinary talents. Say what you will about Hugo – and I shall! – the man had unique abilities. First, he has an extraordinary way with characters. Most of the individuals in Les Misérables are a mile wide and an inch deep; that is, they tend to be either white-hats or black-hats (though in some cases, the black-hats undergo near-religious conversions). Nevertheless, he imbues even the most tangential characters with some memorable detail, with some humanizing aspect. One of my favorites was Monseigneur Bienvenu, the Bishop of Digne, a man who has only one small role to play in this tale, and yet is given a full-dress biography before disappearing offstage. Second, Hugo is a master of describing a particular place at a particular time. It is not long ago that the world held its breath, transfixed, as Notre-Dame de Paris threatened to crumble before our very eyes. That event sent people rushing to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for the reason that Hugo’s rapt descriptions had helped save the cathedral in the first place. While Notre-Dame is only fleetingly referenced here, Hugo still delivers a lengthy love letter to Paris, soliloquizing on the granular level, creating a written-word, street-by-street map. If you ever find yourself in a time machine heading to 1830s France, take this as a guide. Finally, Hugo knows how to create a set piece. Much of Les Misérables is given over to essays and exposition (Hugo will barely allow a character to take a step without delivering a history of the shoe). Sprinkled amidst these word-bogs, however, are some crackling scenes that Hugo carefully builds and skillfully executes. There is a slick chase, a fraught standoff, and a visceral street battle, all of which demonstrate why Les Misérables is so often adapted. Okay. So that was the good stuff. I wanted to get that out of the way so we could talk about the real issue. This book is too damn long. Les Misérables suffers from a near-fatal case of literary edema. It is swollen out of all proportion to its subject. I know what you’re going to say: Abridgment. To which I reply: Gross. I don’t do abridgments. Abridging a book is like kissing an eager and willing cousin. It might be easy, but it ain’t right. When I read a novel, I want it to be on the original terms, as mediated by author and editor. As far as I know, this is the version that Hugo wanted; thus, this is the version on which I will judge him. (I cannot judge the translation, other than to say I liked it. There were a few clunky moments and some dialogue that seemed a bit anachronistic as it tried to convey a modern flavor. Overall, I often forgot this was a translation, which is a good thing). The style employed by Hugo is digressionary to the extreme. Remember when you were young, and it took your mom and dad forever to get to the point? Well, just thank your lucky stars that you weren’t raised by the French romantic poet, dramatist, and novelist Victor Hugo! Because I can guarantee that it would take him a week to explain why you shouldn’t be sneaking out of your room. The digressions in Les Misérables take many forms. Some are simply a function of overexplaining. For instance, as noted above, we did not need to know everything about the Bishop of Digne in order for him to perform his one crucial act. Similarly, the incidental meeting of two characters at the battle of Waterloo did not require an epic recapitulation of the famous clash. To the contrary, that intersection could have been effectuated in a sentence or – if we’re getting paid by the word – a paragraph. This overexplaining can be a bit taxing, but it is also ably handled and adds a sort of mythical overlay to the narrative. The other digressions, however, serve only to distract, to burden, to annoy. The essays are the worst. In contemporary times, perhaps, they might have served a purpose. Not any longer. There is, to take one example, a critique on monasticism. I will allow that when Hugo wrote this, convents might have been a great danger to the world. Now, it fails to make the list of “One Trillion Things I’m Worried About.” At page 805, the reader is treated to Hugo going meta on us, as he delivers 20 pages about the use of slang in a novel. Again, this has no present-day relevance in a world in which realistic dialogue (utilizing slang, specific speech patterns, or terms of art) are the norm. Hugo’s digressions are inexcusably disruptive and antithetical to all notions of pacing and flow. He is like the speedbump on the Indy 500 track, the blind dogleg on the interstate. Every time Les Misérables gets some momentum going, Hugo yanks on the leash. It almost seems an intentional act, as though he is troubled by the thought of his novel being too entertaining. I can accept, as I noted above, the idea that an author might find it necessary to explain the history of a sewer system, before a character attempts to escape through it. What I cannot accept, though, is how this history is presaged by a disquisition on poop that manages to be simultaneously unneeded, gross, and a little racist. (Yes, there is really an essay on poop. (view spoiler)[I shit you not. (hide spoiler)] ) Classic novels tend to be challenging to read. It takes a certain amount of discipline and patience and maturity to appreciate them. There was a time, I will admit, that I opened certain books by the likes of Melville, Dickens, and Tolstoy, with a sneer already on my face, ready to puncture time-honored masterpieces with snark and sarcasm (though I stand by every unkind word I uttered about Moby Dick). I opened Les Misérables cognizant of its challenges, but truly (I believe) openminded as to its quality. It therefore came as a surprise when about halfway through (or a mere 688 pages), I started to dread this. It became my anti-white-whale, a thing that obsessed me but that I wanted to avoid. A good book can lift your spirits and brighten your day; a bad one does the opposite. Of course, I am old enough now to recognize the arrogance inherent in calling a timeless work like Les Misérables “bad.” (Though arrogance is something that Hugo had in spades. After all, he wrote an essay on poop water and convinced you it was genius). This recognition led to a bit of meditation, as I tried to separate what I liked from what I didn’t, what worked from what failed. I tried to divine an answer as to why this excessive and overlong monument to protracted verbosity has endured. Ultimately, I think it has to do with the fact that there is a lean, effective tale of bracing moral clarity within these pages. When we think of Les Misérables, even if we haven’t read it, we conjure images of broken systems, of justice that will break a man’s back, of city streets abounding with poor children; and we applaud the message of charity, kindness, and goodwill that Hugo preaches. Of course, when we think of Les Misérables, we also tend to forget that this simple and timeless message is nearly obscured by antimonarchical screeds and learned tracts on sewage.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    I'm obsessed with everything Les Miserables. The novel, the musical, the movies, especially the latest adaptation of the musical. I actually saw the musical before I ever read the novel. It's musical score is second to none and yes I have been known to shed tears during the performance. The novel is epic, a timeless classic and described by some as "the greatest story ever told". I don't know about that but it is one of the most detailed and intricately constructed novels I have ever read. The I'm obsessed with everything Les Miserables. The novel, the musical, the movies, especially the latest adaptation of the musical. I actually saw the musical before I ever read the novel. It's musical score is second to none and yes I have been known to shed tears during the performance. The novel is epic, a timeless classic and described by some as "the greatest story ever told". I don't know about that but it is one of the most detailed and intricately constructed novels I have ever read. The length can be daunting to some readers but go slow, read a little each day. After a time you won't put it down. As a book lover you want to have this one on your resume of books read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I dreamed a dream of reading this book - and I accomplished it! Surprisingly easy to read - even though it did take quite some time. Hugo does go off on quite a few tangents, but the whole experience was fantastic!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    In my vacation, over the last two weeks, I visited the birthplace of Victor Hugo in Besançon, his home in Paris where his children were born, and his grave in Pantheon. I also read his “Les Miserables” again, that is 21 years after I read it for the first time in my High School in France, and I was surprised to see how differently I reacted to this book. Then I realized the book has not changed over these 21 years, but it’s me who has changed! At the school, I was obliged to read this book as a In my vacation, over the last two weeks, I visited the birthplace of Victor Hugo in Besançon, his home in Paris where his children were born, and his grave in Pantheon. I also read his “Les Miserables” again, that is 21 years after I read it for the first time in my High School in France, and I was surprised to see how differently I reacted to this book. Then I realized the book has not changed over these 21 years, but it’s me who has changed! At the school, I was obliged to read this book as a part of our curriculum, and it came across as something heavy. But, now that I have been blazed a few times in my life, I could relate to this book a lot better, and, at times, even felt healed by it. The aspect that struck me the most is how Victor Hugo has constructed his characters: they’re neither entirely good, nor entirely bad; they’re humane, yet extraordinary. The police inspector Javert values his duty of keeping law and order above human beings, until he is humbled by Jean Valjean, when he saves the life of Javert, his worst enemy, during the barricade. Then Javert enters his irreconcilable internal conflict between ethics and law, that is between his moral duty to preserve a good man like Jean Valjean and his legal duty of turning him in as a fugitive, and Javert ends his life to save Jean Valjean. This comes across as a surprise, because Victor Hugo had set up all along Javert as a man of unbending principles, yet not incredible, because we’ve also seen Javert to be a man of good heart and conscience. Victor Hugo didn’t set up Jean Valjean as a paragon of virtue either. We can see his humane side, even after his conversion into a good man, when he enters his severe inner conflict vis-a-vis the man about to be condemned in his place, for having stolen the forty sous from Petit Gervais. You can see his temptations to evade law and save his own life; you can also see traces from his life of ex-convict when he gets angry with people, and the use of his force when his personal ethics conflict with the law. And, even for a powerful man like him, you can see his fears, his anxieties, and his insecurities about Cosette. Even for the rogue Thenardier, Victor Hugo has made him humane, by letting him save the father of Marius in the battle of waterloo!! Hugo also gave Thenardier a realistic end, in the sense that, in spite of all his dirty tricks, he ‘succeeds’ in life, from Thenardier’s perspective of course. Gavroche, the son of Thenardier, earns his bread by stealing, but he also steals your heart when he saves the two kids, and gives up his life at the barricade. His sister, Eponine, is another thief and manipulator, but she sacrifices her life at the barricade too, trying to save Marius, her secret love. Marius, the closest in resemblance to Victor Hugo (whose middle name is ‘Marie’ by the way), is a political idealist, yet insensitive to many in life, including Jean Valjean; you’re in love with him, and angry at him at the same time. It’s this powerful use of contrast, in the characters and in the events of the novel, that I find absolutely fascinating in Victor Hugo’s work, particularly in Les Miserables. And, I think this is what makes his works so lifelike, because, just like in life, you can’t really put a definite label on any of his characters or story events; that’s why you can never predict anything, and you remain hooked in suspense till the end. Of course, there are his big philosophical discourses about life and love, but, if you focus on the core drama of this novel, it’s just absolutely gripping. The way he details the inner landscape of the characters, and the values of the society he touches upon, are as universal today, as they were during his time. It’s because those details are so unique and specific that they no longer remain individual; they become us, the universal. This evening I’m going to see the grave of Juliette Drouet, who was the muse of Victor Hugo, for fifty years!! As a woman, I wonder what was there in her spirit that could inspire a writer like Victor Hugo, for so long. (Review updated on 29/07 for my second read)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters

    I noticed a few friends currently reading this masterpiece. I read the unabridged version over 20 years ago. ( with a class ) I enjoyed reading Goodreads member, Chrissie's process with this book and the many comments. Highly recommend reading her process, followed up by what others have to say. I was blessed reading this -with a class - and with my daughter who was only in the 8th grade at the time. Her brilliant literature teacher got each parent and student involved ( my husband was too). I noticed a few friends currently reading this masterpiece. I read the unabridged version over 20 years ago. ( with a class ) I enjoyed reading Goodreads member, Chrissie's process with this book and the many comments. Highly recommend reading her process, followed up by what others have to say. I was blessed reading this -with a class - and with my daughter who was only in the 8th grade at the time. Her brilliant literature teacher got each parent and student involved ( my husband was too). After all the investment of time and discussion - plus having seen the play ( which we went to see again 2 more times while it played in SF), I concluded this has got to be one of the greatest books of all time. I don't think it's important to have to try and remember all the minor characters names. ( which seemed to be a concern for readers)... but I think it's terrific they now have this novel in audio. What a wonderful gift ...( plus if a reader followed along with the novel)... The audio sounds like it could be a wonderful way to engross oneself. Just my 2 cents! OH YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! AGREE! 5 stars! Plus, its still my favorite play today

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    There are many books that bring up morality and the meaning of "right" and "wrong", but none capture it as well as Les Misérables. This timeless classic needs to be remembered for as long as there are people on this earth. SIDE NOTE: What's your favourite film adaptation of this book? I personally prefer the 1998 version but both versions are very well-made. :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    1466 pages!! And I've isolated the best single sentence in the whole book. It describes how you die in warfare: If anything is horrible, if there is a reality that surpasses our worst dreams, it is this: to live, to see the sun, to be in full possession of manly vigor, to have health and joy, to laugh heartily, to rush toward a glory that lures you on, to feel lungs that breathe, a heart that beats, a mind that thinks, to speak, to hope, to love; to have mother, wife, children, to have sunlight, 1466 pages!! And I've isolated the best single sentence in the whole book. It describes how you die in warfare: If anything is horrible, if there is a reality that surpasses our worst dreams, it is this: to live, to see the sun, to be in full possession of manly vigor, to have health and joy, to laugh heartily, to rush toward a glory that lures you on, to feel lungs that breathe, a heart that beats, a mind that thinks, to speak, to hope, to love; to have mother, wife, children, to have sunlight, and suddenly, in less time than it takes to cry out, to plunge into an abyss, to fall, to roll, to crush, to be crushed, to see the heads of grain, the flowers, the leaves, the branches, unable to catch hold of anything, to feel your sword useless, men under you, horses over you, to struggle in vain, your bones broken by some kick in the darkness, to feel a heel gouging your eye out of their sockets, raging at the horseshoe between your teeth, to stifle, to howl, to twist, to be under all this, and to say, "Just then I was a living man!"(p. 355) Wow. How do you review a 1466-paged complete and unabridged uber-classic? The book has the rectilinear dimensions of a fire-baked brick. It's a doorstop. Les Miserables is a successful, sweeping epic. It follows several interrelated characters throughout their lives, and philosophizes on religion, language, warfare, science, etc. I'm sure it's much more poignant, more beautiful in its original language, but this was a satisfactory translation. Nevertheless, I can't award more than 4 stars, and here's why. The unabridged version is just too much book; it's too slow-moving; it's too expansive; it's too overwrought; it's too circumlocutious. Near the end of the book (oh...say by page 1150), I quickly started losing the motivation to finish it, despite that I was still interested in each character. When I was finished, I felt the release of 1 month/40 hours of reading being lifted pleasantly off my shoulders, like removing a fire-baked brick from my scapula and clavicles--definitely not a 5-star characteristic. This is not to say it's poorly-written. On the contrary, I think Hugo, more than any other writer besides Shakespeare, has the most memorable, thought provoking one-liners. He'll write an entire paragraph on a single thought, then sum it up in one profound, euphonic sentence. - Nothing is so dismal as the brightness of deserted streets. - A man without a woman is a pistol without a hammer. - The ground in summer is as quick to dry as a child's cheek. - Nothing is so beautiful as greenery washed by the rain and wiped by the sunbeam; it is warm freshness. - He who does not weep, does not see. - Unhappy is he who surrenders himself to the changing heart of woman! Stop! I could list 100 of these aphorisms simply by rifling through the book and randomly pulling one from each page. They're there, on every page, and they're all profound, take a look. Hugo also blithely diverges for 20-50 pages on war, language, religion, revolution, love, science, the Paris sewer system. In this unabridged version, Hugo's diversions act as an antecedent, merely establishing what at first seems like an unnecessary diatribe, but actually provides the background (or milieu) for a subsequent storyline involving the main characters. For example, Hugo waxes for almost 60 pages about the Battle of Waterloo, with absolutely no reference to the main story, except at the end--the last paragraph of the diatribe--where he provides the critical link back to the story. I'm not an editor, but these diatribes, these philosophical meanderings, makes it absurdly easy to edit Les Miserables into a successful abridged work. Cut out these diversions, and you have quite a driving story of only 600 pages. The 'Complete and Unabridged' version has its place; it exposes the reader to the wonderful expanses of Victor Hugo's polymathic mind. However, as a final recommendation, I can only tell you to read the abridged version!! I feel horrible saying that, but as Hugo would quip, wherever you go, there you are. New words: euphony, antonomasia, sutler, chilblain, anchylosis, afflatus, demiurge, argot, ochlocracy

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kirstine

    I don't believe I've ever been this ambivalent about a book. I don't remember having ever read anything that I loved and hate the way I do this. Okay, it got four stars, so maybe there are more loveable than loathsome parts, but still, thinking about it tugs my heart in both directions. When it's good it's excellent, and completely deserves 5 stars - more even. The descriptions of the moral complexities a man is faced with are spectacular and Jean Valjean's internal struggles are always a wonder I don't believe I've ever been this ambivalent about a book. I don't remember having ever read anything that I loved and hate the way I do this. Okay, it got four stars, so maybe there are more loveable than loathsome parts, but still, thinking about it tugs my heart in both directions. When it's good it's excellent, and completely deserves 5 stars - more even. The descriptions of the moral complexities a man is faced with are spectacular and Jean Valjean's internal struggles are always a wonder to witness. Hugo really nails large parts of the human condition in much of the book; the compassion, the cruelty, the greed, the forgiveness, the love. He presents us with some memorable characters, who each possess qualities and flaws that we're all familiar with. Enjolras and Grantaire are great examples of this, of two men who, in their contrast, fulfill each other somehow, and both together and apart help describe a part of human life. It's brilliant, I loved it. I want to go into detail with all the major characters, and some of the minor, but I'll refrain. I'll have nothing new to say anyway. But the characters are the best part about this book, no doubt. Unfortunately, when this book turns bad, it turns goddamned awful. Before that, however, let me address the length and version of the book I read. I read a fourth of this unabridged before I gave up and got an abridged version. I both regret and don't regret this decision (there it is again, the fucking ambivalence). The unabridged version simply had too much ridiculous filler chapters in it. Yes, the battle of Waterloo is interesting, no I don't want 6 effing chapters of it. That's not what the book is about. However, the abridged version meant you lost some of the details and character descriptions and I regret not getting that. There was one hilarious moment in this particular edition, after Marius sent Cosette his love letter, it shows us one and a half page of his lovesick rambling, and then goes something like "The letter goes on like this for another 4 pages". 4 PAGES! YOU HAVE NEVER EVEN SPOKEN TO HER YOU CREEP! (in actuality the letter is described as being 15 pages, but maybe he just has terrible hand writing?) Which cleverly brings me back to what is so awful about this book. The love story. Holy. Shit. No. Get it away from me. I know how you all love to say Edward and Bella have an abusive relationship and Edward is a shady stalker, but guys? He has fucking nothing on Marius. A year he follows Cosette around. A YEAR. He sends her a 15 page long love letter, without having spoken a word to her. How did he get her address? He asked someone to track her down. But, you know, okay. Fine. People like what they like and times were different back then. I could have forgiven it somewhat if that was it, but it isn't. Before her marriage and before her ridiculous infatuation with Marius, Cosette actually seemed to have real character, she could stand on her own, but then Marius enters and she slowly evaporates. She lets her entire soul and being be overtaken by Marius. It's worst after their marriage. She turns into a pretty, shallow shadow of her husband. It is absolutely despicable. I wanted to throw the fucking book through a window, I was so mad. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not a healthy relationship and it irked the hell out of me. Unforgivable, Hugo, I don't care how much you thought you couldn't write women, that's no excuse for not even trying. And for this reason I also feel a wonderful kinship with Enjolras as he sings to Marius in the musical: "Who cares about your lonely soul?". Because indeed, who cares? Not me. Marius is a pawn in this book and probably one of the least interesting characters. In contrast, I love the story of Jean Valjean - it's breathtaking and immensely moving - and I love the story of the barricades and the revolution. I just also absolutely despise the story of Marius and Cosette. The great thing is that my anger toward that one part hasn't tainted my love of the other part. It simply makes it difficult for me to love the book as a whole. This got very long, I apologize. I urge you all to read it. It has some amazing philosophy in it - another part I regret about reading it abridged; a lot of Hugo's own musings were gone. I'd love to have someone collect and organize of his thoughts on various things as they are presented throughout this book and make into a separate book. That'd be very interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I put off tackling this novel for more years than I can remember. This was mostly because I wanted to read it in French and the length of the book daunted me somewhat. That, and the fact that every time I was in the local foreign language bookstore they didn’t seem to have all of the volumes. The fact that I was relying on a local bookstore rather than the Internet to obtain a book in French indicates how many years it’s been since I gave reading the novel any serious thought. The last two I put off tackling this novel for more years than I can remember. This was mostly because I wanted to read it in French and the length of the book daunted me somewhat. That, and the fact that every time I was in the local foreign language bookstore they didn’t seem to have all of the volumes. The fact that I was relying on a local bookstore rather than the Internet to obtain a book in French indicates how many years it’s been since I gave reading the novel any serious thought. The last two months have been a Les Misérables immersion experience as I listened to the audiobook downloaded for free from this site. The narrator, who goes by the name of “Pomme”, is superb. Although she doesn’t use different accents or create obviously different voices for the characters, she renders emotions quite beautifully and is a pleasure to listen to. I can now understand why so many people consider Les Misérables to be the great French novel and, for that matter, one of the greatest novels of all time. The plot is well known to anyone who has seen the musical. However, the novel is so much more than the story of Jean Valjean’s redemption, than his pursuit by the determined Inspector Javert, than the love story of Marius and Cosette, than the world of the villainous Thénardiers. Rather, it is the recreation of the world of Victor Hugo’s youth, with vivid and detailed descriptions of Paris in the 1820s and 1830s, with digressions on topics as varied as the Battle of Waterloo, the manufacture of jet jewellery, French politics, the difference between a riot and a revolution and the Parisian sewerage system. For some readers, Hugo’s essays on these and other topics get in the way of the story. For me, they are the story. Or at least they make the story so much more than the elements of the plot which form the basis for the stage adaptation. This is a vast, sprawling, hugely digressive, powerful, sentimental monster of a novel. It is by no means flawless. Hugo suffers from the failing of so many male writers of the 19th century, that is, an unhealthy preoccupation with the virginity and purity of nice young women. This means that he makes the adult Cosette not only dull in her perfection, but stupid as well. She is infinitely less interesting than the brave Eponine, the frightening Madame Thénardier or the tragic Fantine. However, Cosette’s blandness is easy enough to deal with in a novel otherwise populated with such wonderful characters. Of them, Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert are of course the standouts. Hugo creates intensely detailed psychological portraits of these two fascinating men, who have such different philosophies of life. I sorely regret not reading the novel sooner, because the number of times I will be able to re-read it is so much more limited than it would have been otherwise. Listening to the novel over the past few weeks has been a fabulous literary experience. I appreciate that not all readers will appreciate its length, its language or its digressive nature, but for total immersion in a different world there can be nothing more satisfying. For anyone interested in the geographical locations described in the novel and planning a trip to France, a blogger has written a great account of travelling through France while reading the novel. He has also created a fabulous interactive map which shows the locations of various events in the novel. The blog can be found here and the map can be found here.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laz

    “Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. 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.” A literary masterpiece. This is truly one of the best books I've ever read and I'm glad I took my time with it. So many characters, so many stories woven into one; a powerful & soulful book. Victor Hugo is “Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. 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.” A literary masterpiece. This is truly one of the best books I've ever read and I'm glad I took my time with it. So many characters, so many stories woven into one; a powerful & soulful book. Victor Hugo is wordy, not in a bad way but in the way you want to read and read and read because this author had a talent for taking the smallest of things and creating something beautiful & amazing out of it without ever creating that feeling of unneeded information. There were historical details, many historical details and although I'm not a big fan of history, I enjoyed reading how Victor Hugo perceived several historical milestones, such as the battle of Waterloo and more importantly the French Revolution. He gave his own personal note to these events, more so to the French Revolution where he put characters and events and gave us every single feeling of how it was to living through something like that, something so important to the nation of France. The story follows many characters. Protagonist of it, is Jean Valjean, a convict who were for 19 years in the galleys for stealing a piece of bread because he was too hungry. We can see Jean changing throughout the book, changing to become the man he always was supposed to be but life got in the way and prevented him from becoming the good, kind and loving man he was to become. We can see the struggles of living in post-Revolution France and how dire the situation for everyone who wasn't rich was. Jean Valjean, we cannot exactly say he was a man who regretted for stealing that bread although he definitely was sorry for losing all those years from his life. But if he hadn't stolen that bread, then maybe nothing of all the things that followed would have happened and maybe he never would have grown to known love & care like he did. I do not wish to write about all of the characters, Jean Valjean is enough I think. I think he is the core of the book, the one character we all awaited greatness from. He is a frank man, who makes honest mistakes and will give you all of his love if you're worthy of it. We can see what happens when you're too far from the truth and finally that truth catches up to you. The lies, the fear of being denied the very thing that we were born to give and receive, love. Mr. Hugo did an excellent work of captivating moments, of explaining situations in a way no else can. I just simply wish I spoke French just so that I could have read this book in its prototype & not a translation of it. I believe that the feelings would have been more magnified and more tense. If you decide to read this, do it because you want to not just because someone told you to. Be conscious of your decision and when you do read it make sure you take your time with it, savor every moment and cherish every second of this book. Don't be hasty, don't read it in the heat of the moment, keep at it slowly and let it speak to you and let yourself get lost in this tale of pain, hate, obsession, redemption, pride & lastly, the lesson of love this book will teach you..

  24. 5 out of 5

    emma

    4.5 stars. This book is a masterpiece. I don’t even know how to review something so beautiful and complex, so I’m just gonna list a few of the MANY amazing quotes from this work of art. Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. 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. I have been loving you a 4.5 stars. This book is a masterpiece. I don’t even know how to review something so beautiful and complex, so I’m just gonna list a few of the MANY amazing quotes from this work of art. Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. 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. I have been loving you a little more every minute since this morning. What Is love? I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul. Diamonds are to be found only in the darkness of the earth, and truth in the darkness of the mind. There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul. (minus .5 stars just because Cosette is annoying af)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris_P

    Love and Revolution. Two words so closely related to each other that the one shouldn't exist even as a notion without the other. Love (not just the caring, Jesus-kind of love, but eros), this primitive angel, old as mankind and subject to all human flaws, is the fuel that ignites the all-embracing, all-changing Revolution, the flame of which is merely destructive without any will to create when devoid of Love. I could write pages upon pages about Les Miserables but I don't think there's any Love and Revolution. Two words so closely related to each other that the one shouldn't exist even as a notion without the other. Love (not just the caring, Jesus-kind of love, but eros), this primitive angel, old as mankind and subject to all human flaws, is the fuel that ignites the all-embracing, all-changing Revolution, the flame of which is merely destructive without any will to create when devoid of Love. I could write pages upon pages about Les Miserables but I don't think there's any point in that. 1200 pages (unabridged greek edition) and I enjoyed every single one of them. It took me 15 days to read this gigantic master of masterpieces and I feel like I could read it again right away. Now, I think I could die smiling. P.S.: I've never craved for a happy ending so much in my whole life. P.S.2: Love and Revolution, folks!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Most people are familiar with the story of Les Mis because of the theatrical version which is itself a masterpiece, but most people don't bother to read the book. I read the unabridged novel and consider it among the most influential books of my life. (If you decide to read the unabridged version be warned; it holds hundreds of boring pages dedicated to subjects not directly related to the plot--such as the history of the Paris sewer system, the rules of convents, and battlefield strategy.) Les Most people are familiar with the story of Les Mis because of the theatrical version which is itself a masterpiece, but most people don't bother to read the book. I read the unabridged novel and consider it among the most influential books of my life. (If you decide to read the unabridged version be warned; it holds hundreds of boring pages dedicated to subjects not directly related to the plot--such as the history of the Paris sewer system, the rules of convents, and battlefield strategy.) Les Miserables is incredible. As I read it, it evolved into much more than just an exciting story, it became something spiritual. No other book, probably not even the Bible has taught me as much about the atonement of Jesus Christ as Les Miserables. Hugo carefully patterned the priest and Jean Val Jean as Christ-figures to show his readers why God's 'miserable' children need a Savior to meet the demands of justice and what man is capable of if he accepts the atonement. Les Miserables is one of those books to which I can say I have a very personal relationship. I will always remember turning the last page as I sat on a curb under a streetlamp in front of my office building waiting for my wife to pick me up after work. I closed the book, sighed, and said out loud, "wow!" I didn't even want to talk to my wife on the ride home. I just wanted to sit back and think about Jean Val Jean and what he stood for. Like a painting, each book means something different to each beholder; this book was a gem for me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Viv JM

    It feels like sacrilege to say as much, but I think I may have enjoyed reading an abridged version of this book more! If I were rating the story of Jean Valjean, Cosette, Javert and Marius, I would definitely give this a 5 star rating. It’s a fabulous story of redemption, full of wonderfully drawn characters, a gentle humour and some amazingly emotionally wrenching scenes. But, for me, the frequent, lengthy and occasionally eye wateringly boring transgressions detracted from my enjoyment of the It feels like sacrilege to say as much, but I think I may have enjoyed reading an abridged version of this book more! If I were rating the story of Jean Valjean, Cosette, Javert and Marius, I would definitely give this a 5 star rating. It’s a fabulous story of redemption, full of wonderfully drawn characters, a gentle humour and some amazingly emotionally wrenching scenes. But, for me, the frequent, lengthy and occasionally eye wateringly boring transgressions detracted from my enjoyment of the story itself, hence the 4 stars. I read the Julie Rose translation of Les Miserables and whilst it did flow well, I found that occasionally the use of very modern (American) English jarred, and dragged me away from the setting and time of the book. It is certainly a very readable translation though.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    This is one of the most beautiful and best books ever written about human suffering; a true masterpiece. It is no exaggeration on my part to say so, and those who have read and liked it would agree with me. I have seen the musical and a miniseries, but the book surpasses them all. In my opinion, nothing can be compared with the book. Reading this was such a rewarding experience. While many areas including politics, progress, religion, morals are discussed in this lengthy work, the story as we This is one of the most beautiful and best books ever written about human suffering; a true masterpiece. It is no exaggeration on my part to say so, and those who have read and liked it would agree with me. I have seen the musical and a miniseries, but the book surpasses them all. In my opinion, nothing can be compared with the book. Reading this was such a rewarding experience. While many areas including politics, progress, religion, morals are discussed in this lengthy work, the story as we all know is the story of Jean Val Jean, a victim of human injustice. Val Jean is an unorthodox hero – a social outcast. Through his story, Hugo brings to life the immense suffering the underprivileged class goes through. This is the central theme of the story. The physical suffering, the mental agonies, the moral dilemmas the people of this class go through is heartbreaking. Poverty, lack of education, ignorance, and negligence of the rulers have heavily contributed to the dreary lives and living conditions of this deprived class. Hugo penetrates deep into their lives and captures sincerely and sympathetically their misery. His compassion for them flows through his heart-touching writing. The background to the story runs from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the Paris insurgency of June 1833. Hugo presents an account of these turning points of French history to the readers while entwining his story well with them. The chosen background in which the story is set gives Hugo the freedom to freely express his political and social perspective. Jean Val Jean, Fantine, and Cosette are the main characters Hugo creates to portray human suffering. Hugo covers all classes with them. There are other minor characters too, but these three characters stand out in the story for the unaccountable miseries they go through. Jean Val Jean, as was said above, is the hero. He is constantly persecuted by society and by the law. The early encounter with the bishop Bienvenu, helps him to replace his hatred with love; love for the god and mankind. He starts a new life and becomes successful, and remembering the kindness and guidance of the Bishop is generous and benevolent. Society reaps all the benefits and law respects him, only till his identity is revealed. When his identity is exposed, both law and society become his pursuers, feigning a blind eye to his virtues. This cruelty is shocking and heartbreaking. The despair he goes through of being a social outcast all his life no matter how reformed and close to god he has become is very strongly portrayed. Hugo accuses the society of its cruelty, condemns their actions, and shows that in spite of the stones cast at Val Jean, his faith in God and his righteousness is never impaired. He suffers yet forgives and loves. Hugo brings out a Christ-like hero in him. One shouldn’t, however, think that Les Misérables is only about misery and suffering. There is also love and happiness. There is fatherly love between Val Jean and Cosette, and love and perfect bliss between Cosette and Marius. These happy relations pour sunshine to the story amidst the heavy, dark clouds. Hugo’s writing is beautifully descriptive, poetic, passionate, dramatic and emotionally arousing. I cannot recall a book that broke my heart as much as this book did. There were many moments that I cried over. And there were certain parts which were too painful to read. These include two heart-stricken moments concerning Val Jean in revealing his true identity at Champmathieu case and to Marius, and when the insurgency is described where many innocent and youthful lives were lost fighting for an ideal. I have read certain criticisms on its too detailed historical accounts. Perhaps they are too detailed, but for my part, I found them informative and helpful to fully understand the backdrop in which the story is written. The story, apart from historical details, was emotionally exhausting, but at the same time rewarding. I absolutely loved the read, although it mercilessly broke my heart. Thank you, Hugo, for leaving with us this remarkable and unique treasure.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

    Oh. Hugo. Damn you are wordy! I mean, Charles Dickens can go on, but read Victor Hugo and you will come to appreciate Chuck's brevity. Such being the case, and a convent having happened to be on our road, it has been our duty to enter it. Why? Because the convent, which is common to the Orient as well as to the Occident, to antiquity as well as to modern times, to paganism, to Buddhism, to Mahometanism, as well as to Christianity, is one of the optical apparatuses applied by man to the Infinite. Oh. Hugo. Damn you are wordy! I mean, Charles Dickens can go on, but read Victor Hugo and you will come to appreciate Chuck's brevity. Such being the case, and a convent having happened to be on our road, it has been our duty to enter it. Why? Because the convent, which is common to the Orient as well as to the Occident, to antiquity as well as to modern times, to paganism, to Buddhism, to Mahometanism, as well as to Christianity, is one of the optical apparatuses applied by man to the Infinite. This is not the place for enlarging disproportionately on certain ideas; nevertheless, while absolutely maintaining our reserves, our restrictions, and even our indignations, we must say that every time we encounter man in the Infinite, either well or ill understood, we feel ourselves overpowered with respect. There is, in the synagogue, in the mosque, in the pagoda, in the wigwam, a hideous side which we execrate, and a sublime side, which we adore. What a contemplation for the mind, and what endless food for thought, is the reverberation of God upon the human wall! So that part above where Hugo says "This is not the place for enlarging disproportionately on certain ideas"? He will go on to enlarge disproportionately on certain ideas for several chapters, because a convent happens to be on our road. I mean, seriously, a disquisition on monasticism, and a history of the Parisian sewers, in the middle of chase scenes. So, I finally finished this monster. I listened to it on CD. 60 hours, and I think I checked it out about eight times from the library because I just could not keep listening to it day after day. Hence it took me over six months to finish it. I think I need to throw myself a party or something for getting through it. I know, you are recoiling in horror. Only 3 stars? For one of the greatest works in the history of literature? Look, I rate things on two factors: how "objectively" good I think they are, and how much I enjoyed them. Now, I can sink into a big, long, wordy book. And I was actually hoping to like this one more, because I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which a lot of people also think is wordy and dry. And which also meanders away from the plot for entire chapters for Hugo to show off his research and ramble. But Les Mis... just did not connect with me for all that it is an epic tale of human pettiness, nobility, compassion, foolishness, spite, bravado, love, tragedy, and every other human emotion, virtuous and base, on display. Possibly because at times I felt like the characters were too much puppets who were there to act out Victor Hugo's themes, not enough actual flesh and blood people. And somehow, the wry, ironic humor I found in Notre Dame de Paris was missing in Les Miserables. I will not bother to summarize the plot. Surely you've seen at least one of the umpteen film adaptations, if not the musical. The plot, after all, contrary to what so many people who haven't actually read the book think, is not about the French Revolution (either of them). No, it's about a minor student uprising that was crushed futilely. Marius and his friends were the Occupy protesters of 1830s France, and did about as much good. Oh, but it's about so much more. It's about the power of the state, and the meaning of family, and whether men can change or are fixed in their natures. You cannot help but be moved by Jean Valjean's arc, and by Inspector Javert, a man so remorselessly, unbendingly straight that he literally cannot conceive of there being more than one correct action in any situation — this inability being ultimately the cause of his death. Forced to choose between justice and the law, which have been one and the same to him his entire life, his mind breaks. The deaths of Éponine and Gavroche (who provided the only spot of humor in the book) were also genuinely tragic, the denouement of genuinely tragic lives, even more so than tragically disposable Fantine in the first part of the book. So yes, there were parts that moved me. And yet. And yet. Jean Valjean was a plot puppet. Javert more so — he illustrated a moral principle more than a human soul. And dear god did I get tired of Hugo waxing on about beautiful, innocent, pure, perfect, virginal, indefatigable, sunny, delightful, naive, precious blessed little lamb Cosette. I mean, the kid spent the first few years of her life as a house-elf for the Thénardiers. It's gonna take more than a nunnery to undo all that. Hugo was a genius with a social conscience. Of his own book he said: So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless. And from the misery of the Cour de miracles slum to the brave futility of the anti-monarchist uprising to the brutal grinding wheels of justice that turned a man into a lifelong felon for stealing a loaf of bread, Hugo hammers his themes eloquently and grandly. But. Gads did it grind on. And so... I'm sorry. 3 stars. Definitely a book everyone should read before they die. But for me, once was enough.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Sometimes you realise that there is a gulf of taste between yourself and other people. With me that realisation comes from Les Miserables. There are masses of reviews on Goodreads from people who give every appearance of honestly loving this book, personally I find it ridiculous. Obviously this an issue of perspective, as a non-church goer I find it natural that a bishop, a senior Christian, would model Christian qualities (view spoiler)[ specifically positive ideal qualities, as opposed to Sometimes you realise that there is a gulf of taste between yourself and other people. With me that realisation comes from Les Miserables. There are masses of reviews on Goodreads from people who give every appearance of honestly loving this book, personally I find it ridiculous. Obviously this an issue of perspective, as a non-church goer I find it natural that a bishop, a senior Christian, would model Christian qualities (view spoiler)[ specifically positive ideal qualities, as opposed to those typical of many Christians throughout the ages (hide spoiler)] , people with more direct experience of the Church perhaps are inclined to find his behaviour remarkable. Surely this is a novel crying out to be made into an epic long running children's cartoon in the spirit of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds (view spoiler)[ and if you haven't seen it, why not ? (hide spoiler)] . It is enjoyable, completely totally over the top and melodramatic right up until the final section which features a character that Hugo based on himself. A character such of puffed up self-importance lacking reasonable human sympathy as to spoil an otherwise fairly harmless, if silly, piece of entertainment. It seems to me that the book's argument runs counter to itself, the waters rushing in opposite directions. On the one hand Valjean is a hero of redemption who moves from selfishness to living for others, equally we understand that his initial 'crime' was the impersonal working out of a typically inhuman socio-economic system, then the Victor Hugo character pushes him down and kicks him in the gut as he on account of said 'crime' is inherently too polluting a presence to have in Hugo's bride's life - there is no redemption for the original sin. Can Javert recognising Jean Valjean by his unique ability to lift a cart be signalling anything other than a tongue being firmly in cheek? The alternative, that it is meant to be taken seriously is a little disturbing... And indeed the only worthy ending apparently for Cosette is to marry narrative Victor Hugo, not to return the favour to her adoptive father Valjean and provide for him in his old age, nor even to be inspired by his example and open a factory with child care facilities and a worker's canteen, no instead in the narrative she should lie back on the marital bed and be grateful. I feel that women don't really exist in Hugo's prose, or rather they do but it is like in Maths the men are the numbers, while the women are those odd signs that describe the relationships between them. Then again the Valjean-Cosette-Marius triangle is pre-mathematical (even pre-pythagorian), something out of folklore, one of the stories of the type in which when the husband gets his bride her father dies. This for me is the clearest link between this novel and Toilers of the Sea, elements of the epic and the fairy tale dressed up in nineteenth century clothes.

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