Alright, let me start by saying that I’m not going to insult Victor Hugo’s memory by bad mouthing his masterpiece. I wouldn’t do that to any classic author.
My reviews that involve classic novels are just meant to encourage Book Babies to pick them up and have a go at it. I believe that the new generation of Book Babies needs to broaden their spectrum to vintage masterpieces; change up your usual weekly YA novel, adult fiction, or comic book for something new and exciting!
So I’ll tell you why I enjoyed Les Misérables so much (it’s actually one of my top 5 novels), and if it doesn’t appeal to you than I hope you at least give another classic a try before writing them off completely.
If you’re going to your local book store and pick up Les Misérables, and then put it back down because of the sheer volume of pages, I call shame on you! Yes, it’s about 2 – 3 inches thick depending on the publication, but that shouldn’t stop you! Take the challenge! I promise that you’ll feel ridiculously accomplished when you’re done. You’ll be bragging to all your friends, earning the Ultimate Book Baby title!
For all those who have seen the musical movie or broadway show, FORGET THEM. I love the musical in general (I am a theatre dork), but I always put it out of my mind when I’m reading the book. If anything, the movie with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush is more accurate, but even that is flawed because you can’t put the contents of this giant book into a single movie.
Valjean is not the hero you expect. One of the big things that has always annoyed musical fans is the fact that he gets 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. That’s not true. The book explains that he gets 5 years for theft (yes, it was bread), and then 14 more for numerous escape attempts and for attacking guards. It’s his own fault! He’s not the poor soul who was wronged by the justice system. In fact, I found him to be a bit of a prick (I don’t want to use any harsher words), but that’s how Hugo wants you to see him at the beginning. This makes his progression and redemption have more of an impact.
People always give Javert a hard time, but he was only doing his job. The book explains his history and gives him more of a purpose. He’s not just chasing Valjean around because he’s obsessed with the man. After Valjean leaves prison, he breaks parole by stealing money from a young boy. It is reported to the authorities and then Valjean is on the run again. Javert sees him again six years later, reporting him since another man is about to be tried in Valjean’s place for the theft. See, JAVERT WAS ONLY DOING HIS JOB!
People also find it strange how Javert’s story ends, but his motives and reasoning are explained so clearly in the novel that it’s actually sort of heartbreaking, and it all truly makes sense! Javert is actually my favourite character in this novel. He’s so much more complex than everyone else, and his tragic end makes him seem like the poster – boy of the miserables, which is saying a lot since 90% of the characters are miserable… hence, the title.
Another thing that is better explained is the relationship between Cosette and Marius. They do not fall in love after meeting once between the bars of a fence… they’re relationship actually progresses during a lengthy courtship. It’s far more believable. Éponine is also not a love sick puppy who follows Marius around 24/7. She’s just his friend, and she only acts as such, helping him woo Cosette . It’s not until she dies trying to save him that she realizes she must have done so because she was in love with him. A sad realization upon death…
It’s also interesting to find out that Gavroche is actually the eldest son of the Thénardier, which makes him the brother of Éponine. There is a tragic moment at the end of both of their stories that really made cry, as they lay side by side. But I won’t say anything more on that.
The Thénardier’s are also more than just comical clowns. Sure, they’re still funny, but Hugo also lumps them into the miserables. Their history and current troubles are all brought to light in a somewhat sympathetic way, so you begin to understand why they were cruel to Cosette and why they become criminals later. They are desperate for a good life, but they try all the worst methods to succeed.
There is so much more I could say about this book, but I don’t want to give it all away. Basically, the book is far more detailed, advanced and heartbreaking than the movies or musical, which is saying a lot since they are already so tragic and elaborate
I have never been so emotionally invested in a novel, specifically because EVERY CHARACTER has a way of burying into your mind, heart and soul. I have never seen this many thought out characters in a single novel (usually you only get, at most, 30% of the characters this developed and complex, and the other 70% are just fillers or stock characters that don’t serve much of a purpose towards story development).
So PLEASE give Les Misérables a chance, Book Babies! I promise you’ll enjoy it in some way or other! It’s a true masterpiece.