Thursday, March 27, 2014

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

So, I finally got down to reading Les Miserables. It's an absolute monster of a book, on par with War and Peace, although I finished War and Peace much faster.

Before I even watched the movie, all I knew of Les Miserables was that there was a priest who helped a convict that stole from him. That's in the first section of the book and made me wonder how many people read further. Well, it's a really thick book and it tends to ramble so I do understand if people don't finish it.

Les Miserables is basically the story of Jean Valjean (fleeing from the police, represented by Javert). All else is background. Well, along the way there's something about a revolution too. But for a book this thick, it has devoted so much effort to the character of Jean Valjean that all other characters seem flat in comparison.

My least favourite character has got to be Cossette, followed by Marius. Cossette, for someone who has gone through hardship and spent time in a convent, is surprisingly airheaded. As soon as she realises she's pretty, she completely changes. And her sole purpose for living is Marius. Nothing else. She can even gradually forget about Jean Valjean, the man who was like a father. Marius as a character had slightly more depth (he also had more of a storyline), but his insta-love and obsession with Cossette was tiring. Actually, it's probably because I'm not a fan of insta-love that made me not a fan of their relationship. It's got to be unhealthy, the way the two of them are. I mean, Marius only joins the revolt because he thinks his relationship with Cossette is doomed.

So, is it worth reading it? Yes, definitely yes. Victor Hugo does write well and for me, the story of Jean Valjean was so well-done that it made the book for me. And the book does have some pretty deep themes, like redemption, grace and love.

But what about the digressions, you ask. Well, it's not as bad as you think. The most obvious one would be about the sewers and I found that fairly interesting. And the chapters are divided in such a way that if you peek at the start of each chapter, you can figure out how many chapters you need to skip (if you want to skip the digressions). That would probably cut down on the time needed to finish this book too.

Bottom line: It's a bit hard to get through (all those digressions!) but it's a rewarding read.

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