Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (The First Third)

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

It was only six (yes, six) years ago when I started Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, this 1862 classic about Jean Valjean, the noble peasant and prisoner, and the Parisian underworld ripe for another level of French unrest. Add to that the prostitute who breaks your heart, Fantine, her little Cosette, the greedy and scheming Thénardier husband and wife duo, and the relentless detective Javert, who, quite frankly, needs to get a life.

Now, this is a progress report, not exactly a review. Sure, it’s taken me six years to get a third of the way through the novel, but it simply wouldn’t do for me to read an abridged edition. I personally don’t want someone else determining what segments of a classic I need to read, and what big chunks they can cut out on my behalf. I want to experience and come to conclusions over the whole reading for myself, thank you.

But, frankly, since I started book blogging on a schedule, and with my own books I have to write and publish and whatnot, taking time out to work through an entire epic nearly 1,500 (dense) pages long, all at once, would be quite the feat for someone who isn’t a speed reader, as much as she loves books.

And I do love this book so far, and have found something more to love about it every time I’ve picked it up, off and on, over the past few years. It’s the kind of read to get your intellect, reasoning, and convictions involved, as well as your emotions, and I can only imagine what sharp, thought-provoking, stirring nuggets I might have missed by reading a clipped-up version.

No offense meant to anyone who’s read an abridged Les Mis. The 2012 musical adaptation from Universal Pictures is one of my all-time favorite films and is, of course, an abridged version of the story. So, I get it. 🙂

Still, I didn’t want to go any longer without saying something about this extended reading adventure of mine. Perhaps, now that I’ve ventured to post about it on my blog, I’ll find a way to work in the rest of this remarkable novel before another six years go by.

Seriously, I don’t think it’ll take that long.


Les Misérables (2012)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Les Misérables (2012) from Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13. Drama, Musical, Romance, War/Epic
3 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress

Description (from the film case): Set against the backdrop of 19th Century France, Les Misérables tells the story of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean [Hugh Jackman], hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert [Russell Crowe], after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s [Anne Hathaway] young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

My thoughts: “Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.” Yes, exactly–ditto to what the film’s tagline says.

Les Misérables is a wonderful achievement and the film that solidified Hathaway’s spot on my favorite actresses list. When she, an agonized Fantine, sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” oh, it isn’t just the way she sings it but how she is right afterward: drained, silent, blank, as if she hasn’t (or has?) just wailed her whole tortured soul out to a world that can’t hear her. There’s pretty much no way she wouldn’t have won an Oscar for that role. And Jackman is absolutely amazing as Valjean, both in his fierce moments and in his quiet ones. I hear tell Jackman even fasted from water to give wandering, weary Valjean’s skin its wasted look toward the beginning of the film. (Nope, it isn’t just a film makeup job making Valjean look like that.)

This is the only movie I’ve ever gone out to see as soon as it released, and if I could’ve stood up to sing along during “Red and Black” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” in the theater, I would have. (But, alas, the people sitting behind me might have had something to say about that, and I didn’t know the words to the songs yet, anyway.) The film also compelled me to finally get around to reading Victor Hugo’s classic novel. I’ve not finished it yet, as it’s an unabridged version and I’m reading it in between other books, but I’m instantly right “there” every time I pick it up, and I already suspect it will end up on my list of all-time favorite reads.