Thursday, January 24, 2008

Less Miserable

I finally finished the unabridged edition of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Wow, it feels like an episode of my life, I was slogging through it for so long. Not to say it's not a great novel. It is rather amazing in its scope, from its retelling of the events of Waterloo to riots long after, and the trials and tribulations of Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette. I enjoyed Jean's tale the most, and that of young Marius the least. Gavroche the gamin was somewhat interesting, and there are long asides on the nature of religious orders and that of argot. I took the book to Paris with me and managed to crack the first 350 pages on flights, but the remaining 1100 pages were a long journey. Hugo writes as if you are sitting across from him at a cafe, and he is mostly an easy read. His characters are often in broad strokes but they are very much alive. This is a classic worth reading, and Valjean is a character I will not soon forget. His redemption is one of the great stories of literature, and if you're a faster reader than me (I began this in October!) you might not consider it the leviathan I did.
The only caveat is that he makes long tangents on several subjects that veer far from the main tale, and you'll get history lessons on Waterloo, the construction of the Paris sewers, and many other subjects. If this interests you, the book will be a wonder. If not, the abridged version may be more to your taste.

It makes me want to see the musical, which doesn't seem to be on Broadway anymore. I think it's playing in Philadephia, which would make for a nice day or weekend trip.

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