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.
I got about a third of the way through this book. I just couldn’t finish it.
I truly enjoy Victor Hugo’s writing… when he’s writing about characters doing their thing. Hugo has a habit of starting about ten steps too early. For example, early on in the movie, Jean Valjean is staying with a bishop and decides to steal the silver flatware and run off in the night. The bishop awakes and, rather than stop Valjean, he gives Valjean the silver candlesticks, as they would go better for getting Valjean some money. It’s an interesting scene in the movie. In the book, Hugo spends chapters and chapters explaining and exploring the bishop’s backstory, to reveal why he would give the candlesticks to Valjean. It really is fascinating and added to the scene, but it was a bit lengthy… and then to do that with every character is a bit much…
I had to give up and put it down.
I will return to it one day.