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Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

>> Sunday, January 21, 2007

I finished this excellent book today and it was wonderful. It was definitely an investment in time and effort, but the story and the characters will stay with me. I'm counting this one for all three of my current challenges - The Winter Classics Challenge, The Chunkster Challenge and the TBR Challenge.

This book has it all. Of course, at 1463 pages long there’s room for plenty. There are heroes, villains, tragic heroines, orphans, Napoleon, Waterloo, a grandson disowned by his grandfather, a son striving to honor the request of a dying father, an evil innkeeper and his equally evil wife, a policeman who won’t give up on his search for a former thief, priests, nuns, criminals, idealistic young men, political turmoil, etc, etc, and it’s wonderful. There is way too much plot to even give a hint without either giving away something or just having it so far out of context that it doesn’t make any sense. Yes there are parts that are probably worth skimming and some parts are much easier to read than others, but I am so very glad that I finally read this. The large and varied cast of characters is so well written that even the minor ones play an important role in the story as a whole. Thanks to Booklogged, Boofkool, and Mizbooks – your challenges inspired me to read this Classic Chunkster that’s been on my TBR list for ages.

Just a few more favorite passages . . .

On Napoleon and Waterloo:

Napoleon had been impeached before the infinite and his fall was decreed.

He annoyed God.

Waterloo is not a battle; it is the changing face of the Universe.

More on Waterloo:
The shadow of an enormous right hand rests on Waterloo. It was the day of Destiny. A power beyond Man controlled that day. Hence the breakdown of minds in horror; hence all those great souls yielding their swords. Those who had conquered Europe collapsed to the ground, with no more to say or do, feeling a terrible dark presence approach. Hoc erat in fatis. That day the perspective of the human race changed. Waterloo is the hinge of the nineteenth century. This disappearance of the great man was necessary for the coming of the great century. One, to whom there can be no reply, took it in hand. The panic of heroes can be explained. In the battle of Waterloo there was more than a cloud, there was s meteor. God has passed over it.

On Buildings and Architecture:
Part of the building has recently been torn down, but what remains still conveys an idea of what it once was. The structure, taken as a whole, is not more than a hundred years old. A hundred years is youth in a church, but old age to a private house. It would seem that Man's dwelling shares the brevity of his existence, and God's dwelling, His eternity.

On turning points in the life of Jean Valjean:
And then he reflected that two houses of God had received him in succession at the two critical moments in his life, the first, when every doors were closed and human society rejected him; the second, when human society was once more howling on his track, and when prison once more gaped for him; and that, had it not been for the first, he would have fallen back into crime, and had it not been for the second, into punishment.

A young girl grows up:
She had not only grown, she had become idealized. As three days in April are enought for certain trees to put on a covering of flowers, six months had been enough for her to put on a mantle of beauty. Her April had come.

More on the inadequacies of the French prison system:
Robbers do not cease operations because they are in the hands of justice. They are not so easily disconcerted. Being in prison for one crime does not prevent the inception of another. They are artists who, simultaneously have a picture on exhibit in the salon, while painting a new one in their studio.

On nature after a spring or summer shower:
Nothing is so beautiful as greenery washed by the rain and wiped by the sunbeam; it is warm freshness. The gardens and meadows, having water at their roots, and sunshine in their flowers, become vases of incense, and exhale all their perfumes at once. Everything laughs, sings and proffers itself. We feel sweet intoxicatioin. Spring is a provisional paradise, sunshine helps to make man patient.

Taking on a book this size is not for everyone, but if you're thinking about it I highly recommend that you give it a try.


Lynne 1/21/2007 4:52 PM  

Way to go!! Glad that you finished it and really liked it too.

Joy 1/21/2007 5:05 PM  

CONGRATULATIONS! I'm glad that it was worth your while. You definitely are the "Queen Reader" for the month of January! Now you need to see the musical. :)

ML 1/22/2007 7:48 AM  

Way to go! You finished what seems to be an awesome book. You review really makes me want to pick the book up now and start reading!

Les 1/22/2007 11:01 AM  

Good job, SuziQ!! That's quite a chunkster! What an accomplishment and a lovely review, as well.

Literary Feline 1/22/2007 7:54 PM  

Great review! I definitely need to pick Les Miserable up again and finish it (although I'll probably need to start from scratch again after all these years). And congrats on finishing off this chunkster!

SuziQoregon 1/22/2007 8:45 PM  

Lynne: thanks - I really enjoyed it.

Joy: Ooooh do I get a crown? ;-)

ML: I would encourage you to give it a try.

Les: thank you so much!

Literary Feline: Yeah - you'd probably have to start all over or at least review the first part on Sparknotes, but I'd definitely recommend giving it a shot.

Bellezza 1/23/2007 5:41 AM  

I felt such a great accomplishment when I finished this book. It truly is a monster to tuck under your belt, but as you said, so worth it. You might also like the soundtrack to the musical now that you know the story so well. I saw the musical with my son when it came to Chicago in the 90's, but of course it cannot compare to the novel. Also, I just finished A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, which also is set in the French Revolution. Instead of taking on the whole country's issues, it dealt with one family's. You may enjoy it especially since you just finished Les Mis. On the other hand, you may be ready for something like Nora Robert (EW!) just for a break. :)

SuziQoregon 1/23/2007 7:03 AM  

Bellezza - I really want to see or at least listen to the soundtrack of the musical now. I listened to A Tale of Two Cities on tape last summer and really enjoyed it. That one was a bit harder for me to get involved in at first, but I really liked it. Next month I'm going to continue the French theme and read The Three Musketeers :-)

Nyssaneala 1/23/2007 7:19 AM  

Congrats! I'm glad you enjoyed Les Mis. This was the very first show that I ever saw on Broadway, and it still remains my favorite. I read the book a few years after watching the show, and loved them both equally.

nessie 1/23/2007 10:26 PM  

Hats off! Definitly plan to read it. I have the Hunchback of Notre Dame on my TBR challenge so we'll see how that goes. I will touch base.

shannon 1/25/2007 8:03 PM  

Impressive! Thanks for your review, Les Miserables has been on my Want to Read list for some time, but I always forget.

The page number doesn't scare me (big fantasy reader, plus The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favourites), but the writing itself is more of a task.

Booklogged 1/25/2007 8:55 PM  

Wow! What a wonderful accomplishment! What did you do to celebrate? I'm looking forward to reading this sometime within the next 10 years.

Lotus Reads 1/26/2007 4:25 AM  

Wow, this is no ordinary read, what an accomplishment - great going, SuziQ! I don't know if I have the determination or courage to take on a book such as this, but you inspire me to take my reading to the next level -breaking out of my comfort zone and trying genres that are new and strange to me. Congrats again!

SuziQoregon 1/26/2007 5:39 PM  

Nyssaneala: Thanks for stopping by - I've bookmarked your blog to go back and read more thoroughly - I see we've got some books and authors in common.

Nessie: OH - Hunchback was one that I'd considered. Will be looking forward to hearing what you think of that one.

Shannon: Thanks - I definitely recommend this one. The writing of the translation I read is really quite readable, so don't let that deter you.

Booklogged: To celebrate? I started my next Classics Challenge book!! This one took 3 weeks and I've got 4 more to finish before the end of February!! ;-P

Lotus: I probably would have left this on the Someday list, but the combination of the Chunkster, Classics and TBR Challenge just made it seem like NOW was the time.

Trish 7/02/2007 8:37 AM  

Wow, I had no idea this book was so thick! 1500 pages! One day I'll read it (hopefully), but until then I'll stick to my 2 disc broadway musical CDs--which I LOVE. Instead of Books on Tape when I travel, its Broadway Musicals. :)

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