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Les Misérables (English language) eBook Kindle
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It is an incredible story of temptations, redemptions, evil, love; it describes how miserable
life in that era of France was for the common people.
A story about real life, with fictional characters creating real people, and the social perspective is as true today as it was in the past.
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The scope and depth of the story is UNBELIEVABLE. The characters are so completely flesh and bone that you know them. You know who they are and exactly how they will react in a situation before it ever happens. The scenes are so masterfully laid out that you can envision every detail in your mind. And oh, believe me when I say the storytelling is breathtaking. Les Miserables is about poverty and the human condition, set against the backdrop of decades of French history. But it is so much more. It's a story of the redemption of man, despite everything the world can throw at him. It is a story of fear and sadness, but most of all, hope. The hope that we can do better. The hope that religion will not lead us down a path of self-righteousness, but to true righteousness, which to quote the book of Isaiah is "to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke". There is so much to be learned about forgiveness, love, happiness, and life from this story.
Les Miserables is not just a book. It might be the best book ever written. It is a LIFE CHANGER. Don't be afraid of it. Experience it for yourself.
Where the story of Jean Valjean really shines is in its remarkable portrayal of human emotion and conflict. Through the triumphs and tribulations of Valjean (and the other powerfully-written characters), Hugo examines interpersonal relationships as well as self-absorbed pondering. Stubborn rigidity, misunderstanding, and lack of empathy are the norms for the characters in LES MISERABLES, all leading to unnecessary pain and turmoil. The lack of communication between characters that results in so much heart ache is frustrating, but serves as a powerful lesson for real-world relationships. The examination of the human psyche found in this book encompasses broad ranges of who we are. From the dignity of the clear-headed and honest, to the recklessness of youth and the innocence of children, LES MISERABLES speaks to the reader about our complicated, yet simple, lives.
The most common and valid criticism of LES MISERABLES focuses on the lengthly tangents dispersed throughout the story. Hugo takes full advantage of having the reader’s attention by expounding on all manner of topics, from politics to architectural design. He utilizes these side tracks for spacing between the central plot sections. Hugo was obviously passionate about many diverse issues, but most of these are of very little interest to the modern reader. Being that this is already one of the longest novels ever written (longer than War and Peace by a substantial margin), taking approximately a quarter of the book for inane-seeming diversions has frustrated many readers. This is one case where I can certainly understand skipping over certain less-interesting parts. Luckily, the format of LES MISERABLES makes this easy. The novel has 5 Volumes, each divided into around 10 Parts. Each of the lengthly tangents makes up one of these Parts. If I were to read this again, I think I would be inclined to skip at least some of the less-relevant Parts.
Before writing this review, I watched the <recent movie adaptation> of the Les Miserables musical with Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. The directors, writers, musicians, and actors all did a magnificient job. They were able to effectively capture the emotion and drama of the story in a very limited space. I wouldn’t recommend the movie for those not familiar with the story (as you’d mostly be lost, or at least not appreciate the true emotional gravity of the story), but if you’ve read the book, the musical movie is a real treat.
LES MISERABLES is an epic that everyone should experience at some point. Such a powerful story should not be missed. If you hesitate at the length, try reading the book as five separate volumes. Each volume is easy to handle in this way, and the story is so powerful that you won’t forget important parts during your breaks. Trust me, the large amount of time you’ll dedicate to reading this will be worth it. Very highly recommended!
Of course there's the play and movies, but obviously they couldn't have stuffed this long a book in two or three hours, so you should know:
Hugo relates a lot of history from the end of Napoleon to the 1830s, and a good deal of philosophy as well (reminded me a bit of War and Piece in that regard). Also makes many references to historic to (then) current philosophers and world movers; he also presents scientific analyses at times.
The story relies on a great deal of unlikely coincidences. Not uncommon in 19th century literature (I hated when Hardy did it, but did not mind when Dickens did). It did get to the point where I was starting to make some up myself.
This free translation is at least a little dated (it too is from the 19th century). The 'you' and 'thou' usage might take a little while to understand for a reader with absolutely no French background, especially as thou now seems more formal. There's also a product-of-the-times antisemitic reference, and gay is commonly used in the older sense. There were also some French passages that were only translated in footnotes (which I found a nuisance to go back and forth from). It might be worth ponying up the 99 cents to get a more modern translation.
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