I Dreamed a Dream…

Zoe N. | January 7, 2015 | Review

I Dreamed a Dream…

Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo

Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Published: March 3, 1987
by Puffin Books

four-half-stars

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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.

Review:

From the musical number Do You Hear the People Sing.

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.

Fantine in the musical number I Dreamed a Dream.

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.

four-half-stars

72 comments

  1. Your review has me convinced. So this is definitely a must read! I’m sure it’s going to be a very different read, since it sounds really intense, and I don’t think I have read any such book so far. But wow, it sure is big. How did you even get through this, Zoe? D:

    1. Yeah! Glad to hear it Naban. 🙂 It’s daunting, but it’s well worth it. 🙂

      And I got through it by parental pressure – LOL! 😉

  2. Great review! I’m not sure I really have the courage to read this one. 😛 I’ve seen the movie, though, and it was better than I was expecting it to be. (Though I didn’t love it; I found that a lot of the musical numbers dragged.) Maybe one day I will give this a chance. 🙂

    1. The musical / movie is a lot like the book Kara. Both are wonderful, but had the potential to drag on just a bit. I really hope you do!

  3. I haven’t read this book,but I saw the movie and I was totally mind blown by it.I couldn’t stop my tears.The story was wonderful and all the actors were fabulous!
    And after reading your review,I am also tempted to read the book.
    Wonderful review,Zoe!Thanks for sharing.

    1. If you liked the movie, the book is definitely a more complex and indepth character study of what is presented there; and I highly recommend it. 🙂

  4. I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE YOU READ THIS 😮 I saw the book in the store and the text was so tiny that it hurt just going through it. It’s amazing how you got through with this 😀

    I love Fantine’s part!! I liked the movie a lot, and my favorite was usually about Fantine and Cosette 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the thick book! Thanks for the review!!!

    1. Either can I – ha!

      And Fantine is my absolute favorite. She makes so many sacrifices, and you just can’t help but feel sorry for her. I Dreamed a Dream is one of the most haunting songs of the entire show IMO.

      Thank you for the comment!

  5. Wow, I can’t believe you read Les Miserables and that quick, too. I feel like it was just about a week ago or so that I saw on Goodreads that you had started reading it. I quite like classics because even though the writing style can be a little bit boring sometimes, they really open your mind and make you think. These authors spent years coming up with their stories so that they built very complex plots. This seems like a wonderful classic. I’ll read it someday…

    1. I quite like classics because even though the writing style can be a little bit boring sometimes, they really open your mind and make you think.

      This is my first full-length classic, and, despite the length, I quite loved it. Like you said, it’s such an eye-opening and thought-provoking book. I do hope you read it someday, it really is worth it.

  6. YOU READ IT. YOU’RE MY HERO. I need to take inspiration from you and use this to motivate my reading of Gone With The Wind because that is going NO WHERE. And my mother is pushing and pushing and pushing and I just want to get it over and done with haha BUT I DIGRESS

    Beautiful and rich prose though? This is on my need to reads. I NEED TO BE ABLE TO SAY I ATE THE MASTERPIECE THAT IS LES MIS. Good on you though! And beautiful review, Zoe! <3

    1. COME ON JESS! YOU CAN DO IT! 😀 And ah…the good old parental pressure. (I was actually pressured into reading this one in the first place, but I digress…) I hope you are able to give this one a try someday – it really is beautiful and lifechanging.

    1. Aww…thank you Maddy! :blush: I really do hope you end up giving this a try someday, it really is life-changing and beautifully written.

  7. What a beautiful review, Zoe! I haven’t read this novel because of its size, but I plan to do so as soon as I can find a good an unabridged copy of it (when I go to the bookstore, all I see are the abridged ones 🙁 I did watch the movie though and it was absolutely heart-rending and life-changing. I bet the book has more impact!

  8. One of regrets I have is that I have never had to read this one for my classes. I mean I can read it on my own but it’s not the same. Anyhow I have seen the movie and I think it’s well done. I’m so glad you have read it and enjoyed it so much. I’m 100% sure that every page was worth it. Great review 🙂

    1. I completely agree Tanja. They probably don’t make it required reading because it’s so long, but I wish they did because it is a book that deserves to be read. 🙂

  9. I generally don’t like to read abridged classics, but I didn’t realize until AFTER I’d read Les Mis that I’d read an abridged version. (At a measly 300+ pages, ha!) Then I went to look up an unabridged version and saw it was 1,000+ pages and said NOPE NOPE NOPE, haha. I think it’d be cool to read it at some point, but it’s just so BIG that I’m not ready to tackle it yet! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it, though; that’s a bit of encouragement for me when I get around to it someday. 😉 And your review is marvelous!

    1. I completely agree with you Taylor. It took a lot of convincing on my parent’s part to get me to read this because it’s so long, but it’s definitely worth it. 🙂 Thank you!

  10. Girl, I praise you for even trying to attempt such a crazy long book. Nowadays my attention span is so short, I’d be lucky to read a 300pg book, unless it’s really fantastic. I keep telling myself I wanna read more classics though. Here’s hoping I get to some of them some day.

    1. Haha, thank you Vi! 😀 Normally I wouldn’t have the courage to read something this large, but my parents pushed me about it. 😉 I really do hope you’re able to give this a try sometime. 🙂

  11. Woah, this IS one huge novel. I saw the film and enjoyed it…but I really like musicals too. The story is fascinating, yes, but I don’t know if it could keep my focus for that long. haha i definitely commend you!

    -Lauren

  12. You read it! I’ve been reading it for almost over a year and I can’t believe I’m not even halfway through. I don’t have enough conviction, but your review makes me want to finish it! I agree with you; Hugo’s writing is something remarkable. Awesome review, Zoe!

    1. Between the daunting size and the fact that there are other books waiting to be read, it’s definitely not easy to read; the concentration and dedication required is massive. I am glad to hear you’re at least attempting it though and are liking the writing! 😀

  13. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU READ IT ALL. I am really impressed. I’m intimidated by the length of the book and how classic it is, but since you loved it so much, THEN I SHOULD TOO. Plus I’ve already watched the movie so I don’t think I would get confused by anything.

    Awesome review Zoe!

  14. When I saw that title I immediately starting singing it. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT OKAY? Actually, I love all the LesMis songs. Anyway, HOLY CRAP I can’t believe you read this! I wanted to but the size is so freakishly daunting. I’m glad that you loved it, Zoe.

    Fantabulous review, hun! <33

    1. That was my goal, haha! 😉

      And I hear you. It is definitely a bit daunting to say the least. I hope you pick it up sometime though; it’s one of those books that really changes you.

  15. I’ve always wanted to give this one a try. One of my best friends actually read this one. As she lugged it around, we jokingly said it could be used as a weapon. Which it seriously could hahah.

    Kudos to you for finish such a long book! Personally, my attention span would likely end up taking over and I would leave this one to the side. It’s certainly daunting though it’s undeniable that reading this would be so worth it.

    Lovely review girl <33

  16. This must have been epic Zoe, being so long and able to stick with it until the end. Having your love for theater and all things musical probably helped as well. I’ve got the song stuck in my head now too as I’m typing. The longest book I’ve tackled has been Under The Dome which was around 1100 pages, but this truly is a weapon. Did you stop and start a lot, or just devoted all your reading time to it?
    Absolutely epic review Zoe, I’ll be singing show tunes to the dog all afternoon now 😀

    1. It was Kelly! 😀 And muahaha…that was definitely my intention! :smirk:
      I stopped and started a lot. I read about 50% of it, switched to another book, finished that book, and came back to it. 🙂 And I haven’t read Under the Dome yet – is it a good book?
      Thanks poppet! 😉

  17. WOW well done Zoe, you have tackled a massive book and you have done it! I love how you were able to slow down and appreciate the philosophical thoughts that you garnered from reading it, as well as the descriptions of Paris. I absolutely LOVED the musical movie, but I’m not sure if I could sit through the book. Great review as always!

    1. Thanks Jeann! ♥
      If you don’t think you want to commit to reading the whole thing, the musical is definitely a worthy substitute. It’s an amazing adaption – it captures the book so well.

  18. That is such a gorgeous cover! And oooh boy. I think one of the reasons why I’m satisfied with just watching the film and not reading the book is because the book is just too long. I don’t usually shy away from thick books, but 1,000+ pages scares me, haha. But it still managed to get 4.5 stars from you, and that’s impressive!

    The way you described Hugo’s writing makes me wish you’d at least included an excerpt about it. ;p I think that’s something that’s seriously lacking in fiction these days, though — the writing doesn’t make you think at all. You just get so absorbed in it that your eyes are just jumping over the words. And you don’t stop to think. I like that Les Mis both absorbed you and made you stop and ponder on the words for a bit. That’s some amazing writing skills.

    Heh, I can definitely imagine that it’d be super satisfying to finish reading a 1,500-page book. You can now brag to your friends! xD Maybe I might give this a go, but frankly, the size is still scaring me so I’ll probably just settle for a rewatch of the film. Even though I didn’t find it as great as everyone else did. Oops. ><

    1. Honestly, I shy away from long books too – so you have nothing to be ashamed of! If it wasn’t for my parents nagging me, honestly, I don’t think I would have ever picked this up.

      And if you don’t think you want to commit to reading such a long book, the movie is definitely a worthy substitute. It captures the book perfectly, and I’d say it’s the second best thing to reading the whole story.

  19. Whoa. 1500 pages?! I don’t know if I could do it. I mean, classics and I don’t really get along very well, but Fantine’s story sounds so heartbreaking! And the writing does sound lovely. I just.. I mean, I haven’t even seen the movie. But you have certainly piqued my interest with your great review!

  20. Omg Zoe, I’m so impressed that you tackled this beast! I’ve always wanted to dive into this book but the sheer amount of pages scares me so much. Much like Game of Thrones…

    I’m so glad you came out on the other side and loved it. Les Mis is such a powerful story and I remember bawling my eyes out at the cinemas when I watched it. The themes and messages it highlights are so powerful, it makes me weep a little just thinking about it. Wonderful, wonderful review Zoe!

    1. Thanks Joy! 🙂

      And it is such a powerful story, isn’t it? 😀 So many wonderful messages and characters; and I’m glad you agree!

  21. Oh man. All throughout reading this book I was like: the struggle is real. It’s just so long! So much description of the scenery and stuff. I have to admit, I preferred the movie 😛

    1. I completely see where you’re coming from Nara – it does have the potential to be a bit boring – especially considering the huge page count it has.

  22. This is definitely one of those books I know I need to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. It’s on my list, though! I absolutely loved the movie and felt all of the actors did a fabulous job. It’s always worth a rewatch. 😛 Awesome review, Zoe! I’m glad you enjoyed the book as much as the movie.

  23. Fantastic review Zoe! This is one of those classics that I certainly want to read at some point – despite the length (along with Anna Karenina). I’ve seen the movies for both, so now I’m even more interested in going back to the original novels. Beautiful writing (even if overly descriptive at times) definitely has its own charm, and the characters in Le Mis sound really complex and well-developed in themselves as well.

  24. I’m SO impressed that you read Les Mis! I’ve been saying “I should probably read that” for ages but have never gotten around to it, and your review is making me want to fix that. The size definitely turns me off – with 1,500 pages, there have to be SOME scenes that just don’t need to be there – but you make it sound like everything’s worth it in the end. The story seems so wonderful and heartbreaking – now I want to go pick this book up right now!

    1. Emily – I think the size turns everyone off! It’s definitely daunting, but it is truly worth it in the end. I do hope you give it a try sometime.

  25. I know this story. 🙂 Have read a manga adaptiation of it (recommend!) but have not seen the musical. I’ve recently watched Into the Woods and blaah I don’t like musicals apparently. I think the only one I enjoyed was High School Musical. But, ANYWAY, I will read this one someday. Every year, I seem to read something like 5 classics, so time will come for this one as well. Glad you loved though!! Hope it will not bore…1500 pages is kind of a lot, heh.

  26. Brilliant review. I bought this book around the time the film came out, with every intention of reading it and then just never did. I have to admit that I was put off by the size of it, that book looks like it would kill someone if I threw it at them. But you make it sound so rewarding, so maybe this is something I need to try and accomplish myself.

    1. It is definitely rewarding Charnell; not only storywise but emotionally as well. And you’re not alone – I think everyone who hasn’t read it has put it off merely because of it’s size – ha!

  27. This book is going to be my summer project. I’ve seen the musical many, many times including the famous Dallas production that was set in present day and the current revival on Bway. My mom is obsessed with this book, she uses it in all her bible classes and stuff – which is an association that unfortunately does nothing to aid me to start Les Mis.

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