Monday 27 May 2013

Book Review-Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Title: Les Miserables
 Author:  Victor Hugo
Series:  N/A
Published:  1862 by A. Lacroix.
Length: Anywhere between 800 and 1300 pages.
Warnings: child abuse, a lot of violence
Source: free kindle download
Other info: It has been made into films, musicals over the world, and has gained a rather large fandom.  Victor Hugo also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame and a few other things.
Summary : Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830

In accordance with the no-spoilers-on-things-over-fifty-years-old policy, I have summarised the entire book in the first paragraph.  Also, details and things may have slipped my mind and I refuse to be pedantic over a thousand-page book where I can’t remember half the characters. For a better plot summary, see lemonlye’s condensing of the book.

Review: Jean Valjean has, said by Becca, “been unfairly imprisoned for stealing a load of bread”. John Valjean has, said by me, “had a s*** life. And it gets worse. Follow him as he gets kicked out of places, gets taken into places, takes in a girl as his adopted daughter, watches her grow up and fall in love, watches her boyfriend join in a failing revolution, takes part in a failing revolution, watches her marry, and dies. Also, watch everyone else you love  die along the way.
I think I was a bit late to the party with this one. Oh well. I only started it after the hype had died down a bit, and after a lot of persuading from Sarah.

The opening is ridulously slow. It picks up a bit, but you still wonder when something good’ll happen. At around 10%, Cosette is given to the Thenadiers and it all gets going.  The narrator’s thoughts just wander and wander and I was considering giving up a bit.
At the start of each volume, and at quite a few books, there’s a lot of rambling about everything.  The worst case of this was Book 1 of volume 2. That was just so much on the topic of Waterloo and only the last few paragraphs had any relavence to the rest of the story.

The narration swings between good, action packed, and ugh-why-are-you-telling-me-this. Some of their thoughts are interesting. Most of their thoughts are too longwinded to enjoy. I understand the rambling, when it fits the characters and the situations, and the history lessons are useful, but really. Not in the middle of the barricade scene full of excitement! Also, regarding length of waffling- I read on my kindle with the smallest font, smallest line spaces, as much on the page as possible. In a few memorable occasions, descriptions of things and Grantaire rambling and Jean Valjean making lots of speeches, there has been three screen’s worth of pure text. No paragraph breaks or indents. I don’t know if it was the formatting or something but long pieces of text are just…no. I can’t deal with this I’ll lose my place and my head hurts. And, having just flicked through my QI 1227 facts book, it’s told me that there’s one sentence that is 823 words long. If that’s not rambling, I don’t know what is.

Characters. Where do I begin? THERE’S SO MANY I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO TRY AND REMEMBER THEM ALL BECAUSE I BELIEVE THAT THAT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. Jean Valjean is a really good protagonist, going through a lot and still winning in terms of parenting.  Javert is one of possible ten policemen in the entirety of France, who should not be funny but is. The Thenadiers are really evil and don’t provide any comic relief. Don’t believe the musical. Cosette is a strong little girl going through all that when she was little. When she grew up, she got a little less awesome, fitting into the feminine stereotype of the day. Gavroche, the little kid revolutionary, was my favourite character for courage and adorableness reasons. Eponine, the one who loves Marius and crossdresses to get onto the barricades, comes a close second. I feel so sorry for her, what with her treatment by Marius and everything . The Barricade Boys, I love them all. Enjolras just needs a huge hug. Marius was nice at times, at other times stupidly annoying, at other times, a complete dick.  He’s very moodswingy. And forgetful of the fact that all his friends die. The criminals are amusing. Ok, maybe that does include Thenadier. But he’s not funny in the way that you get told he is. Fantine was too cute, until...yeah. The old guy who I’ve forgotten the name of is epicness.. let’s just go back to the Barricade Boys again. Ok moving on.

Emotions. Broken. There were times where I just had to stop and think “why why why”.  All your favourite characters die. There’s like, five in one paragraph one after another.  Worst part was near the very end, where...ugh. Jean Valjean and Cosette feels. That was hard. And then Mel, beautiful girl that she is reading it in French (due to it being her first language) tells me how much worse it gets because of the swapping between pronouns and it’s all “how can you do that to me Victor Hugo?”

There’s some more things I probably could say. But I actually can’t due to fingers and emotional breaking and stuff. You get the idea from this, right?

Overall:   Strength 4 tea. A beautifully emotional story, but the rambling is just too much to enjoy.                          
PS. Rambling is contagious. Apologies regarding the length.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book many years ago and had similar thoughts as you on the pacing. While I loved the book,there were a lot of history related hundred-page tangents that were used to set up a 20 page scene.


Thanks for taking time to read this!
Comments are much loved.
Nina xxx

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