September 9, 2013
Do you like lists? I like lists. They’re fun.
1. Backstory. Reading Les Miserables is like watching the reading the appendices of the musical – it gives you more backstory on the characters and era than you ever wanted to know.
2. Jean Valjean goes back to prison after he reveals himself in court to save the wrongly accused man. He escapes by faking his own death.
3. Gavroche is the Thernadiers’ abandoned son. They also have another daughter besides Eponine, and two more sons that they sell to be raised as nobles.
4. Jean Valjean and Corsette live in a monastery for most of her childhood. Valjean first enters the monastery by using his mad-convict skillz to scale the outer wall. He then smuggles himself out in a coffin, and re-enters by the front door to apply for the job of gardener. Read the rest of this entry »
August 8, 2013
Maybe the best thing I can say about Les Miserables is that it made me look at Christianity differently. I was raised Christian but stopped believing and practising when I was a teenager. If I was forced to categorise myself, I’d say I was an atheist. As an adult, I have to admit to having more of an ear for the negatives of religion – the wars, hatefulness and discrimination justified by doctrine; the parasitic opulence; the criminal concealment of child sex abuse. This novel has not made these sins any more excusable.
It has, however, reminded me of the positive side of Christianity. A good writer makes you sympathise with a character, and once you are hooked, the unfolding of their story allows you to experience a shade of a life you have never lived. Read the rest of this entry »
July 2, 2013
Les Miserables is a monumental novel with monumental faults. At over twelve hundred pages in a single volume, it is, literally, the biggest book I have read. When I take it out of my bag on the bus, I feel like I’m unfolding a piece of furniture. If I leave it on my desk at work, people stop and ask “what’s that”, as if it’s sheer size makes it unrecognisable as a book. My Arts degree was a smaller commitment (not that that’s saying much).
Luckily, most of it’s really good. The scale of Hugo’s ambition and intellect is dazzling. He attempts to capture the entirety of the social and cultural climate of his age, and in most cases, succeeds. Unfortunately, he’s also a self-indulgent wind-bag who is so eager to display his vast knowledge and research that he is prone to long, trying tangents. Read the rest of this entry »