Greetings darwinbookcats! I’m ctoquin, wife of koquin, author of this blog. When I’m not thinking about evolutionary genetics, blogging about national parks, or photographing cats, my nose is in a book. The hubby has been kind enough to invite me to write a book review today, so I’m happy keep you entertained
My first book review is for Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables. I became enamored with this story — now don’t laugh — after I watched the movie and theater musical. Now, if you have seen the movie or musical, you were probably captivated like I was with the story of constant struggle between Jean Valjean and the policeman Javert. But there is so much more to this story! I read the complete and unabridged version, all 1,463 pages. While it took me a while to get through it, I appreciate everything I read.
The story centers on the life of Jean Valjean, a former convict who has served hard time for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. Even though he has served his time, and is technically on parole, he is still an outcast of society. After being released from prison, he happens upon a small village, where the only person who will let him into their home is a priest. Upon leaving the priest’s home, he steals the silver candlesticks. Later captured by police and brought back to the village, the priest tells them that the candlesticks were not stolen but given to Valjean as a gift. This single act of forgiveness changes Valjean for the rest of his life.
There is a lot that happens in this book, not all of which is in the movie. Some highlights include Jean Valjean becoming mayor of a town (under a different name), his caring of a deceased prostitute’s child (Cosette), his life as caretaker of an abbey (under yet another name), his interactions with the detested Thenardier family, and, of course, his struggles with the policeman, Javert, who will not let him escape his past.
Victor Hugo does a great job of constantly interweaving the lives off all the characters together. For example, just when you think that the Thenardiers are out the picture, they pop again. And then again. Hugo also provides great commentary about France during that time period. For example, he describes the Battle of Waterloo and Paris’ sewer systems in detail. Now these parts drug on for me — I wanted to get back to the meat of the story — but it was interesting to get a historical perspective of the time.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. This piece of classic fiction is a definite must read. And my husband should take me to see the musical.