originally written in French by Victor Hugo, consists of the woven together tales of several destitute and downtrodden characters living in France between 1815 and 1832. I read a translated edition from my library.
WHY I PICKED IT UP
I have never seen ‘Les Mis’ the musical, but did chance to catch the 10th anniversary concert on Youtube when it was available and found myself enthralled. I picked up the book sometime afterward and I review it now since the movie has popularized the story.
WHERE/WHY I STOPPED
I finished Les Miserables. It was one of those novels which separated me from my video games and Netflix. I found the main character, Jean Valjean’s transformation through moral dilemmas to be compelling and Javert’s single minded pursuit of his version of justice proved an apt foil. It is a very cerebral read, with much of the action occurring in the form of emotional conflicts between characters.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER, IF ANYTHING
This book, like many of its period, begins rather drily; a Project Gutenberg version I found contained in excess of fifty pages detailing the biography of one of the minor characters (and I don’t recall skipping that much in the edition I read) before the plot begins.
In my research about the book I learned Hugo’s original writings contained many essays which provided little, if any, advancement to the plot. The edition I originally read was without these essays and was in English, so unless you can read French and feel like a lecture, I suggest you find an edition which is abridged. That said, once Jean Valjean makes his entrance, the action moves along nicely.
Getting to see how the plot points translate into the songs I so enjoyed definitely kept me reading, but there was more to enjoy as the characters are more fully built up. Definitely pay attention to which edition you pick up, though—the essays are too much to sit or skip through and if you happen to grab an unabridged edition: DON’T READ.
*Did you know Les Mis is also a videogame? It’s true!