September 19, 2013

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Hey everybody! Cassia here! I finally finished it! Now, I talk about a lot in this review, and with the uprising, I didn't talk about that a whole lot, but it's a HUGE part in the book. Like, climax. I didn't say everything, but I did say a lot, and I kind of regret not giving the uprising more attention, so I figured I'd put that here. Anyway, here it is.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Jean Valjean is a convict. Labeled for life as a “very dangerous man” with a yellow passport. He broke a window and stole a loaf of bread to save his sister and her seven children, and was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison. Desperate to get out, he attempted escape four times, and even made it out, but was brought back and in total spent 19 years in prison. He worked every day of his life, and was never a bad man. But prison hardened him, made him horrible. When he breaks parole and a bishop saves his soul, he vows to dedicate his life to helping the poor. When policeman Javert, who knew him from the chain gangs in Toulon, learns of it, he dedicates his life to putting him behind bars. Now Valjean must live an honest life while dodging the law...

Alright, let me say this now: I literally just finished the book five minutes ago, so I may sound a little crazy. Fair warning, so here it goes.

I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Even though it took me about two months, every minute I was in 19th century France. It is my favorite book now, and among the best I’ve read, and that’s a high title. I loved the characters, and Jean Valjean is now my favorite character of all time. Yes, he pushed the other one down to a close second. Oh, and you’re probably looking at that name and thinking “Jean? Isn’t that a girl’s name?” No, not in English. It’s French. For John. Because it’s French, you have to add kind of a “sh” before the “J”. Then you get “shjean valshjean”, to pronounce it. You still have to have the “J” sound with it, though. Before you read it, look up the pronunciation. I may not have explained it exactly right, but you get the idea.

The story is just great, too. Not exactly heartwarming, but it is in a way. Now, if you know anything about Les Miserables, you know that it’s about the French Revolution. Well, it’s actually after it. Yes, there is an uprising--which Hugo explains that it is more of an insurrection--but Hugo also explains that revolutions don’t just come to a complete and abrupt stop. They have to wind down. Now, the French lost their Revolution, so this applies even more so than to others. Hence the Barricade Rue de la Chanvrerie. Yes, Valjean is being hunted by the ruthless Javert, and some say that Javert is the antagonist, but I really think it’s more of an internal conflict. Many times, Valjean wrestles with his conscience, and also nearly drives himself insane. The first big one, if you know the musical, is “Who Am I?” The music does a very good job of describing the story and what the characters are going through. From Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” to Javert’s “Stars”, it is just great music and really describes the story and the emotions. The uprising is amazing. Just the way it’s written and the passion of the insurgents.

On to the characters! There are many great characters in this, and I personally think Valjean is at the top, so I’ll let you all figure him out for yourselves. He is a very interesting character, and I just love him. How can you not? No, not like ‘love’ like romance, ‘love’ like he’s just an awesome character that you want to storm onto the pages, grab him by the wrist, and take him out of there and to some place where he can heal. Then you have Fantine. (Again, look up the pronunciation!) I like her, but I mostly feel sorry for her. I mean, the love of her life left her with her child, and she’s so poor that she’s driven to prostitution. Javert, now Javert is complicated and uncomplicated at the same time. Get to the end, and you’ll see why. I really like Cosette, too. I can’t really describe her, but I like how she changes. And Marius, as many mistakes as he makes, I like him, too. Oh, I can’t forget Enjolras. (Yes, Max, that’s the guy with the curly blond hair in the movie. The one you like so much.) I really like him too. Let’s just say I either like or love all the characters, or I find them interesting.

Hugo’s writing style is different. And I really really like it. I’ve never come across an author that writes like that. Yes, I know, it could just be the translators, but I don’t think you can really change that, whether it’s in a different language or not. He puts humor into his story, calling Madame Thenardier the Thenardiess and the way he characterizes Thenardier. Now, he does explain things very well. I’ve never come across an author that could make me visualize a battle. I don’t visualize maps. But for this, I did. Some parts I wanted to skip, they were that boring, but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. For example, the Battle of Waterloo. I know all about that now.

Hugo creates a wonderful story about love, loyalty, and redemption in a world where you would least expect it, in the midst of June 6th, 1832.
Five stars!
Goodbye for now,

P. S. I read the edition you see above. Complete and unabridged.

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