by Victor Hugo
Category: Fiction / General
1467 pages; ISBN: 0140622918
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Les Miserables is about a man (Jean Valjean) convicted of stealing bread that he needed to stay alive. He is let out of jail after 19 years, and a benevolent bishop has an influence on him for the better. In a half conscious state of mind, and as a last struggle against good, he steals a coin from a little boy. But, afterwards, he truly reforms, and even becomes Mayor of a town. He grows rich, and establishes orphanages, hospitals, and factories to give the people jobs. He even cares for Fantine, a sick woman who has been forced to prostitution to get money to care for her little girl. After Fantine dies, he searches for her daughter. But Inspector Javert is on his trail.
The Inspector is trying to Valjean in for stealing the money from that little boy. Valjean discovers that another man is being tried for stealing in his place, and he turns himself in. Soon after, though, he escapes, finds Cosette (Fantine`s daughter) and places her in a convent, where he himself gets a job. In that way, they are safe from Javert. After nine years in the convent, he wants Cosette to see the world. They buy a little house with a garden, and hire an old woman as servant. But Cosette soon meets Marius, a part of the ABC group of revolutionaries. They fall in love, but then the Revolution begins. Marius is wounded, and Valjean rescues him. Then, as he recuperates, Marius and Cosette`s love is discovered, and plans are underway for a wedding. After the wedding, Valjean tells Marius that he is nothing more than a convicted criminal, and leaves their lives. Just as he is about to die, Marius discovers that it is Valjean who saved his life. He rushes to him to beg forgiveness, and Valjean dies in peace.
I think this book is truly wonderful. There are so many questions it raises about society that are still unanswered today. For example: Is it truly wrong to steal if you need that food or money to keep you alive? I think that many of the problems it discusses have not been solved yet. Poverty, prostitution, and other things are still a big part of the world today.
Victor Hugo is a truly talented author. All of his works are so clear, and he describes things so well that you really feel like you are right there. His description of the Revolution, the chase of Valjean by Javert, and the terrors of prison are exciting, terrifying, or tragic, as the case may be. But a truly great author not only describes things, but people. And this is where Hugo`s greatest talent lies. (In my opinion, of course) I think his portrayal of Jean Valjean is classic. The pain, the joy, the fear that this man feels is amazingly told. Javert is also a wonderful character. He is described, analyzed and portrayed very minutely. We feel that his characters are completely human. They have faults, scruples and feelings. They fall in love, they become desperate and they don`t always triumph.
A book that exceeds the generation it was written in is surprising. When it gets to the third generation, we are compelled to notice it. And Les Miserables has passed even that. It is now in the group of stories that have never failed to make us think, and touch our hearts.
Buy Les Miserables at amazon.co.uk
Buy Les Miserables at amazon.com