Les Miserables


Les Miserables – Victor Hugo.

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of broken wrists?
It is a music of a reader who will not be page turning again.
Does the beating of your heart echo the beating of the drums?
It’s a life about to start now this book has come to an end!

I read Les Mis. It took me forever. Seriously, this book is HUGE. I think it is quite easily the longest book I’ve ever read, I made the mistake of borrowing it from the library as well, I kept having to phone them up and extend my lease, this usually consisted of me warbling “One day more! Another day another page to read, on this never ending road to finishing, one day more…” Which of course no one but me found amusing in any way. Then I had to swap the paper back for an ebook version, because well, I don’t want the library to hate me.

So, if you’ve been living under a musical theatre rock, what exactly is this all about, goodreads, care to elaborate? Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto 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 which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope – an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

Basically, Valjean steals some bread and all manner of hell breaks loose. He goes to prison, when he finally gets free he breaches his parole, steals some stuff off a vicar, decides to turn over a new leaf and ends up being a mayor of a village just as political tensions start to appear. Javert, a police man, ends up being posted in this village and Valjean is all like NOOOO! HE WILL RECOGNISE ME! And has a bit of a existential crisis, while someone in his employ ends up falling into prostitution, Valjean ends up promising to care for her daughter, ‘fessing up to his crimes and then going on the run with a small child who then grows up in his care and falls for a young man who’s part of the French revolution which Valjean (because he hasn’t yet learnt his lesson about the law) ends up being a part of as well and then there is loads of blood shed, because this is called The Miserable for a reason.

This was epic. Like seriously, there is a revolution going on as well as an eternal struggle of good and evil and it’s so long I’m pretty sure that you could use it to shelter you in a blizzard. It’s also deeply tragic, there is literally no one in it that is having a good time, there is crime and poverty and immorality and corruption and all sorts of other negativity blighting every page. Unlike the musical, even the Thendier’s couldn’t provide the comic relief. Being a big fan of the musical, I did very much love that all the characters (and a load I had never heard of before) got much more detailed descriptions and characterisations, it’s made my love of Eponine even greater if anything, there is so much more to her character than is seen on stage (or screen). The same goes for Cosette. The poor girl gets barely any coverage at all in the musical and yet she has lots of things going on in the book (including more than one name which is endlessly confusing.) The prose is beautiful, and deeply compelling, Valjean is without doubt one of the most complex and greatly written characters I have ever come across, he is portrayed in a much poorer light here than in any of the stage adaptations, it’s really Fantine that you end up sympathising with. There were moments that irritated me, like the in depth descriptions of things that turned out to be a little trivial and then big things being covered in a manner of sentences. I found that there was far too much detail given on things that were irrelevant and unimportant and it messed up the flow of the story, especially where Valjean is concerned because just when his story starts getting interesting, we get a whole load of backstory and I’m just like, seriously dude, stop explaining your life history and get on with your decision making.

That said, I did enjoy it and I feel like I’ve achieved something by being able to say that I’ve read it (on my own), but I would say that the abridged version is probably the way forward.

There was an epic quote that really stuck with me afterwards: “He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.”

If I had to give it something out of ten, it would probably be two four six oh oooooone!
(yes, yes, I did it again.)


8 thoughts on “Les Miserables”

  1. Allow me to applaud you; that’s a big feat, reading the whole thing! I think the copy I was looking at was 2000 words… I put it right back on the shelf after seeing that.

  2. Haha so you finally finished it! It took me a similar length of time when I read it but it was definitely worth ploughing through. I thought your review was great, very funny! I totally agree with all your points about the extra story btu my favourite is the story about Gavroche and how he looks after his two little brothers without knowing who they are. And who wouldn’t want to live in an elephant?!

  3. Oh my god Leah, I feel like I need to congratulate you on finishing Les Mis! That book is not a light read by any means and very few people actually complete it! I keep meaning to read it but I doubt I’ll ever actually get round to it…

    1. Thank you! It has taken me since January! I’m glad I did it though, I’d have been annoyed with myself if I’d never managed it! I don’t think I’ll bother reading it again though!

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