Les mis review
"i condemn slavery, i banish poverty, i teach ignorance, i treat disease, i lighten the night, and i hate hatred. that is what i am, and that is why i have written les miserables." -victor hugo set against the rich backdrop of 19th century france, victor hugo's epic novel sprawls for an impressive 1,463 pages. the twisting and intricate plotline follows the remarkable life of jean valjean, a reformed convict, and the people surrounding it. the cast of characters includes a saintly bishop, a destitute worker-turned-prostitute, her innocent daughter, a greedy, dishonest innkeeper, the radical students of paris, a cheeky street-urchin, his lovesick sister, and the rigidly zealous inspector javert, valjean`s constant pursuer. ultimately, it tells a story of love, hate, integrity, faith, and redemption. it also reveals the unsung heroism of the ordinary people of hugo's day. hugo's prose is powerful, but occasionally too detailed in its descriptions for the average reader (this also somewhat depends on which translation you choose to read; i recommend the norman macafee version). however, don't let that put you off. there is something so utterly glorious about this book and the achievement of the human spirit that it chronicles. the characters are vividly painted and completely believable; each one seems to represent a different facet of the human experience. hugo also manages to capture the tiny behavioral nuances that make them truly convincing. this is illustrated in the following sample from the book where valjean (under the alias of monsieur madeleine) is apprehended by the policeman javert after revealing his identity and confirming javert's longtime suspicions. "properly speaking, [javert] did not enter. he remained standing in the half open doorway, his hat on his head, and his left hand in his overcoat, which was buttoned to his chin... he remained there for nearly a minute unnoticed. suddenly, fantine raised her eyes, saw him, and made monsieur madeleine turn around. as madeleine's glance met that of javert, javert, without stirring, without moving, without coming closer, became terrifying. there is no human feeling that can ever be as appalling as joy. it was the face of the devil who has just regained his victim..." although i would love to be able to say this is a book for everyone, the truth is, it isn't. readers who find themselves confused by a complex and multifaceted plotline and bored by long narrative passages may find this book tedious and difficult. it also requires a long attention span, since it cannot be read in small doses. if you feel you fit the above description, my recommendation would be to rent and watch a les miserables film, which provides a shortened and abridged version of the story. from there, work your way up to seeing the musical version. once you have a basic grasp of the storyline, the book is much easier to read, comprehend and enjoy. it is certainly one of the best books i have ever read.