Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Summary:Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean - the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.
Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds.
At nearly 1,500 pages, it is no easy feat to read through Les Misérables. Yet, it is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding reading experiences you’ll have, as this is one of the rare stories that truly has the ability to make you see the world in a different way. Throughout the story, Victor Hugo shows us poverty, misery and betrayal; yet he also sends equally life-changing messages about hope, love, and forgiveness.
Les Misérables is essentially the story of a man named Jean Valjean, a former convict sent to jail for stealing a loaf of bread because he was too poor to buy one for himself. He leaves prison nineteen years later, where he meets a Bishop that shows him the power of kindness and foregiveness.
Les Misérables is not only Valjean’s story however. It is also the story of a young woman named Fantine, who must leave her daughter with complete strangers and become a prostitute until she earns enough money to be able to care for her.
Valjean and Fantine’s stories intertwine and cross in a brilliant way. Each character we meet along the way adds to the power of the story, all of them with equally incredible development.
Hugo’s prose is rich and eloquent, like nothing I’ve ever read before. There are so many thought-provoking and philosophical quotes that struck me within the novel, to the point that you almost want to put down the book and just think. The descriptions of Paris are fabulous, almost giving you the feeling you are walking through the beautiful city yourself. However, despite the beauty of the writing, occasionally I found that Hugo tends to go on and on about the same thing for quite a while (not surprisingly, considering the length of the novel), but, oddly enough, since I was so engrossed in the characters and the story this didn’t bore me as much as it might have.
The giant size of Hugo’s masterpiece is certainly daunting upon first glance, but the feeling of finishing it is well rewarding. The characters, the story, and the message are almost unforgettable, burrowing themselves into your mind, and I can’t recommend it enough.