Books that have film Adaptations · French Literature. · Holiday Reads

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Another holiday read.


I think I began reading this book again following a spurt of literary energy. I’ve seen the 2012 musical adaptation enough times. To be honest, the book is padded out by Victor Hugo’s hyperbole and the historical and character plot arc. I’m not particularly interested in reading about Napoleon’s battle strategy but if that interests you then that’s good! Perhaps at the time which the book was written, this was all within living memory so therefore tangible to the audience at the time.

The book has a superb plot arc which hasn’t been depleted too much by the musical. I did actually try to read this at one point before but got put off by the rather slow beginning. The thing is with Monsieur Hugo is that his books have about 100 pages of minutiae before delving into the nitty-gritty bit of the story.
While the musical is superb, the book adds more depth to the characters, and explores reasoning further. Characters aren’t just a facet – they are a character with their own actions and reasons for doing so. But you have to be patient in order to find this out.

I felt so-so about the whole Marius-Cosette plot arc. I felt it was trying to be a Romeo-and-Juliet romance and there were some cute moments but that was it really. The unrequited love Eponine felt for Marius felt more real in the book for some reason. She clearly had feelings for Marius and it was obviously killing her emotionally that those feelings were not understood or noticed by Marius. She only tells Marius of her feelings at the end.

I didn’t really care for Javert, even though he appeared to have a change of heart near the end. The way he is portrayed in the musical is obviously to have us feel more sympathetic towards him as a character who tries to juggle his duty with his personal feelings.

Despite all my despotic opinions of the book, I really liked it. Fantine’s love for Cosette made me want to cry. It just shows how deep and unyielding a mother’s love can be.
The relationship between Valjean and Cosette is interesting too. It makes his attitude to Marius more understandable. Ultimately, at its heart the book is superb. I cried during the last 3/4 of the book because I felt as if I had taken a personal journey with the characters. Valjean’s journey and struggle was so heartbreaking. A stellar book. Definately one of, if not the, greatest books ever.

MY RATING: 5 / 5.



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