Monday, January 14, 2013

Les Misérables (Book) Review -- IT IS AMAZING!

This is Hugo's epic, his masterpiece, and his tribute to his beloved country, France. That being said, it is about France. Non-French people will get less out of this book simply because it consolidates Hugo's politics, historical theories, other theories, social criticism, etc... about France. Foreigners can't get as much out of this book for the very reason most Americans won't get much out of a commentary on German politics.

I have to admit, I found some passages tedious. I sped-read through some of it, and I do think that an abridged version, consisting of only the story, would be pretty darn powerful. But, I feel abridged versions are cheating. Sigh.

Another criticism is that Hugo explains away some of the more improbable plot events by saying the equivalent of: 'Who never acted this way? It is human nature.' 'Sometimes, things just happen like this.' It shouldn't be too infuriating as long as you realize that this book is written in more of a Romantic style (in terms of plot).

I do not own this picture.

But the story is FANTASTIC. FANTASTIC. I can't say this enough.

You don't forget the plot, even though there is more than 1,000 pages of it; you don't forget the characters, even though there are about a dozen. You remember it all because it is all so powerful, epic, and memorable. And you love it all. Fantine, that wonderful and tortured woman; Jean Valjean, that amazing hero; Eponine, Javert, Enjorlas, everyone.

I don't want to give the plot away because this book is an adventure, and because spoilers suck. Trust me. I was spoiled on three deaths in this book. If I wasn't, I KNOW the book would be all the more powerful.

I'm telling you how this book makes you feel, which, in my opinion, is more important.

This book makes you feel angry, depressed, sad, frustrated, and, above all, in the end, so, so fulfilled, and so hopeful. Is is a VERY emotional book. The end of this book is sad, not only because of the conclusion, but because you spent over 1,000 pages with it, and now, it is over. Reading this book is truly a journey, a long journey.

It is almost like every other book falls flat in comparison to this one. A Tale of Two Cities (which I found a LOT of parallels in Les Mis, making me wonder if Hugo read that book before he published Les Mis) falls flat, even though I LOVE LOVE LOVE that book. Les Mis is an epic; a novel, like Tale, falls flat automatically.

I highly, highly recommend this book. Just get past the long boring parts (you'll be able to predict it, when you see, "A Few Pages of History" or something like that. It is not a "few").

I say go with this translation because I took a look at the Wilbour one; it is filled with 'thous' and 'thees'. Don't pick that one. This one is more modern, and yet feels like a classic should.

This book is going in my 'Favorite Books' section. I still haven't stopped thinking about it.

Don't be scared at the size! Just buy it if you like emotional books and if you like literature (it's not that expensive, knowing it is about 1,500 pages long; or, if you are okay with the Wilbour translation, it is free as an ebook (I think)). You can thank me later :)

The thing that depresses me is that this book was harshly put down when it was first published. I really, really don't like books becoming 'classics' after the author's death (I wonder if Hugo was dead before this book was considered what it is today). I will make The Casual Vacancy more acknowledged than it is right now once I have the power to do so. Grr. If it becomes famous after Rowling... *shudder* DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT!


NOW I GET TO SEE THE MOVIE! THANK GOSH! That was my motivation to finishing :)


  1. Haven't seen the movie but the original stage production in London was amazing.

  2. I totally agree, that the best stories make you feel. Doesn't matter how well written it is, if you don't feel, it doesn't mean anything. great review!

  3. I always get so excited to see what you're going to post about, SC. And I've read some of this! It really is a masterpiece... I should dive in and read the whole thing. And gosh, I've loved the musical since I was a little girl. And I STILL haven't seen the movie yet. Gah. Can't wait. :D

  4. ya see, if you didn't say (book), i would have thought movie. haven't seen or read either, but you've peaked my interest! good seeing ya!!

  5. I remember reading the graphic book version in French class in university. Does that count? LOL

  6. I'm not sure I could get myself to read the book, because I tend not to like 'wordy' books. But I will for sure see the movie :)

  7. I don't know if I ever knew it was a book. I think I always thought it was a musical. I'll have to read it and watch the movie. It's getting mixed reviews, but that one scene of Anne Hathaway singing makes me feel her pain!

  8. It is an urban myth that the book only gained critical approval after Hugo's death. The book was highly anticipated with many newspapers reporting on the book at least two years before its publication. Hugo was paid a huge sum of money by his publishers. When the book was released all the British and American newspapers were full of praise. It was already labeled "a masterpiece" by the time of the one volume edition in 1863. The first signs of a critical backlash were not until after Hugo's death when some readers wrote to the New York Times in the late 1890's to say they found the novel "overrated". However soon the book returned to critical favour and many movies were made and also of course the musical.


    1. Whhhat. Sorry but I think we have some opposing facts! The initial response was actually negative by maaaany critics but yes, you are right, it was a huge huge advertising campaign. The book is sort of like The Casual Vacancy in its hype and initial reception. Critics said it was melodramatic and Flaubert said it contained neither truth nor greatness. It wasn't until after a while when the book became hugely critically acclaimed.