Les Miserables

Les Miserables is Victor Hugo’s literary masterpiece about a convict, Jean Valjean, who redeems himself and becomes a truly good man.  I have to confess that I was more than a little put off by the length of this novel and it took me quite a while to get through it but I do not regret the time and effort. This is quite simply the best novel that I have ever read. I fell in love with this book at the first chapter.  I loved all of the characters, even the villains, which is important in enjoying any story. Jean Valjean’s transformation is well told. The Thenardiers are thoroughly vicious. Javert, the policeman pursues Jean Valjean out of a too narrow conception of his duty. Marius is heroic, and so on.

My only complaint, and it is a minor one, was the way in which Victor Hugo went off in tangents with essays about French history or culture. These essays were interesting but they tended to interrupt the action of the story and I think that on the whole the plot would have moved along more briskly without them.

The translator, Isabel Hapgood seems to have done a terrific job translating the book from the French, though since I don’t read French, I cannot tell for certain.  In any event this is a book you must read.