Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Les Miserables (Book 1) by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Review of Book 1 - Fantine
Signet classics unabridged

Les Miserables is the longest book I have ever attempted to read.  Coming in at 1500 pages and separated into five books, it is a tome worthy of my time and yours.  Hugo is an excellent writer whose characters are mirrors into his own life and experiences.

The story begins in 1815 with the Bishop of Digne, Monsignor Muriel.  The bishop is a giving man who helps the poor, and lives on less than his salary so he can give most of his money away to those that need more than him.  He lives with his sister and his cook.

Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread for his sister and her seven starving children.  He got caught and served 19 years for the crime.  Talk about harsh punishment.  When he is released on parole, the only compassion Jean Valjean receives is from the Bishop of Digne.  The bishop feeds him, offers him shelter and provides him with the means to begin his life anew.

Fantine is dumped surreptitiously by her boyfriend when she finds out she is pregnant.  Stuck between a rock and a hard place she makes a decision she thinks is best for her daughter, Cosette.  She entrusts her child to an innkeeper to care for her until further notice.  She gets a job working for the mayor at a factory and sends money back, until fate intervenes and she can no longer pay.  Fantine, desperate for money, to pay the innkeeper debts that are stacking up, she sells her hair and front teeth.  Eventually she is selling her body on the street.

Javert is the policeman who arrestes Fantine for hitting a man on the street.  Javert recognized the mayor for the man he truly is and turns him in to authorities.  Javert makes it his life's mission to capture the parole breaking, elusive Jean Valjean.

Les Miserables is my weekend book and I'm taking my sweet time reading it.  The fact that it is separated into 5 distinct books of about 300 pages each, makes me think of how series are so popular today.  If Les Miserables was published as a series and you could purchase 5 separate books, it would be disappearing off the shelves.  I wonder if the book series of today will be packaged and sold in one big tome a hundred years from now.  If so, will people be apt to read it or shy away from it because of its size and length?

Book 2 Cosette