Friday, August 19, 2016

Les Miserables

Severe Spoilers Ahead

Les Miserables tells the heartbreaking story of the people of France leading up to the failed first French revolution.  It is written by Victor Hugo and was first published in 1862 in French.  Since then numerous film adaptations as well as the wildly popular musical have proved well-loved.

The story is full of compelling characters, notables including Jean Valjean.  Jean Valjean was a convict.  When he was released from prison he stole some silver from a bishop.  Instead of reprimanding Jean Valjean, the bishop gives him more silver and insists that he had given it to Valjean when authorities question him.  Touched by the bishop's good grace, Jean Valjean repents of his evil ways and goes on to become a profitable business man, employing many.

Meanwhile, a young Frenchwoman named Fantine gets pregnant by her boyfriend who turns out to be a flake.  He leaves her without a word and Fantine is devastated.  When her employer finds out about her sketchy past she is fired and put out on the street.  Fantine sends the child, named Cosette, far away to a foster home which turns out to be a very wretched place where Cosette is forced to do chores and has no friends.  Fantine struggles to come up with the money to pay for Cosette's board and eventually resorts to prostitution.

Jean Valjean feels sympathy for the poor girl and when Fantine dies, he goes and rescues Cosette from the cruel foster home.  Jean Valjean raises Cosette.

The country of France is in a state of great unrest as revolutionaries like the young and rich Marius attempt to light a spark which will bring about rebellion.  Cosette and Marius fall in love, but Marius is torn between staying with Cosette and risking everything for the revolution.  Eventually Jean Valjean has to go help Marius in a battle because he is determined to protect Cosette's love.

Jean Valjean dies in the end, but Marius and Cosette live happily.

There are many other subplots such as those revolving around the Thenardiers and Eponine which are interesting as well.

I really loved this book and even though it is very long (1200 pages) it was such a good read I finished it in one week.  The characters are particularly compelling.

While the book was incredible, I think I prefer the musical simply because the songs are so wonderful.  I think they add a lot to the book as well.  I recommend this book very strongly!

Have you read Les Miserables?  Did you like it or did it make you "miserable"?

Are you going to read Les Miserables?  Do you have a prediction for how long it will take to read?

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