82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you thought Classics were 'boring', think again
I decided to read 'Les Miserables' more out of a challenge to myself than anything else. I honestly thought it was going to be one of those 'boiled cabbage' books that taste pretty dull but are very good for you. I could not be more wrong. From the first chapter, I was surprised by Hugo's sense of humour and sharpness. His take on the clergy and their not-so-humble...
Published on 6 Feb. 2000 by Paola Rizzato
99 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning!
This particular book is the ABRIDGED edition! This is fine if you are happy to read the 'lite' version as seen in the musical show. If you want to read the more complex and fascinating book that Hugo actually wrote make sure you are getting the whole thing!
Published on 12 July 2003 by K. Logan
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece,
This review is from: Les Misérables (film tie-in) (Paperback)
What a book - in both size and content. I haven't seen the show but after seeing the film I was inspired to read the book. I've read many classics, but somehow this never appealed to me before. I'm glad I did read it - what a masterpiece!
I found it much better than the film, simply because it's easier to get to truly know the characters and story. What amazing characters they are! My heart broke for Fantine as she gave up her precious daughter Cosette into the care of people who she believed would look after her, and desperately fought to earn an honest living before being left no choice other prostitution. Reading about Cosette's tragic start in life and then further detail of her rescue and the ensuing years was very moving. Then of course there is the incredible and emotional story at the book's heart, that of Jean Valjean whose life is changed by the kindness and acceptance of a Bishop.
All human life is here, and yes there is a lot of misery, but the overriding feeling by the time I came to the end of the novel was of hope and redemption. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys classics, or to anyone who loves the show/film and would like to better know the characters.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read thus far.,
For those intimidated by the length and epic scale of Hugo's magnum opus, you need not be afraid. Whilst reading Les Misérables I was pleasantly surprised by the fluidity and pace of the narrative. It took me no longer than a month to finish the novel, and I became completely engrossed and enamoured by the story. A story covering a wide array of important social issues as well as those issues that lie close to the heart - love, death, hope, redemption and tolerance. All of these are apparent throughout the tale, and told with wonderful style and enormous beauty from that great master of romanticism - Victor Hugo. Some may find his unapologetically florid, overtly poetical language overbearing, I, personally, found it refreshing and a joy to read. Les Misérables is a book you will not find a chore to finish (save for the lengthy Waterloo - only the last part is worth reading - and convent digressions, which some may find interesting, but I found tiresome). You will feel France as you move from Provence at the beginning of the book, to the city of Paris towards the latter half of the book, and will feel a certain connection to the characters as if they were real people - Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius and countless others are truly unforgettable characters, creative inventions few other authors, both past and present, could match. The fact they are 'real' characters and not idealised in any way, but awash with both flaws and qualities, adds to the beauty of Les Misérables - a tale both heartrending and humorous, zealously exciting and quaintly pleasant. You will not be disappointed. I promise, and I urge you read Norman Denny's translation, which retains the style and beauty of the original.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Les miserables is a great book, but this edition is terrible,
By A Customer
This review is from: Les Miserables (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
I was dissapointed to discover that this is abridged version. Maybe good for the people who get discouraged when seeing about 1000 pages book, but Les Miserables is well worth it to read in in unabridged version. Didn't want to give less than five stars to Hugo's masterpiece, but reader's should be aware that this edition contains about 1/4 of the original book.
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Polemic versus Story,
I warrant that the enduring popularity of this book is due in large part to the affection people hold for the musical based on it. I have never seen the musical, nor the film, so must judge the novel on its literary merits alone. I would say that it had a very mixed appeal for me. The actual plot was well written, compelling and page turning. The characters are well drawn, and comparisons can be drawn with the work of people like Dickens and Tolstoy. Jean Valjean is a fascinating character and his story is interesting and sympathetic. If this story were all there was to this book I would be giving it five stars. Sadly, it is not. This is not a small work. At about fifteen hundred pages it requires a great deal of commitment on the part of the reader. A substantial portion of the book is also not directly related to the plot. Hugo had a much bigger vision in mind when writing this book. He aimed not only to understand and beg for review of the French penal system, but also to enquire into and think about every ideal and institution that made France what it was at the time the book was set. He uses hundreds of pages to discuss religion, politics, empire and republic, philosophy, the inner workings of the battle of Waterloo, the life of Napoleon, and virtually any other area of French life he could think of.
Sometimes this is interesting. Sometimes it drags, and it always distracts from what would otherwise be a first rate story. It seems fairly common to take this approach to novels at the time. Tolstoy employs the same method in War and Peace, and I have the same criticisms of it. It detracts from the story, and I want to read the novel as a story, not as a polemic.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one classic in your life - it must be Les Miserables,
Persevere with this wonderful book. It is written in the style of all 19th century fiction and can seem wordy and even verbose to 21st century readers, but it is a treasure that will amply repay your efforts. The narrative and plot construction is faultless and there are hidden treasures in the narrative and the text that will astound. The fifty page description of the battle of Waterloo is probably the best ever written in the almost two centuries since 1815. I defy anyone who does not have a heart of stone not to be left with tears rolling down their cheeks as Jean Valjean breathes his last with his beloved Cossette and Marius at his deathbed. If you read no other book than this in your life, please, please, ignore the musical and the various films (all good) and read Les Miserables as Victor Hugo intended - savouring every word.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Victor Hugo is with out a doubt a REAL WRITER,
This review is from: Les Miserables (Clothbound Classics) (Hardcover)
I can honestly say this is the best book I have read in my entire life. The most thought-provoking and a still very relevant novel despite being written in a different era. And it may sound cheesy but as I was reading, I literally felt like Hugo's words are touching my soul and there are some parts in the novel when my heart felt like it was truly breaking for all these beloved characters.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One star omitted due to lack of appendices - which all full priced Penguins should have!,
This story can't be criticised under any circumstances - it can't come under the hammer for being overly long either; because it isn't. In my humble opinion, Les Miserables is simply one of the, if not the, greatest novel ever penned by an author, past or present. Nothing can compare for eloquence of style, sweep and grandeur. It's a novel which makes compulsive reading - and it doesn't, once you've entered the authors landscape - cause the reader to become overawed or indifferent because of its sheer length. I love it.
Criticism must however, be made with regard to this particular Penguin edition. Penguin released a series of green cover, budged classics, in direct competition with Wordsworth classics. The green covers provided a series of popular classics, in unabridged text (except Les Miserables, the green edition for that novel is abridged), at a very modest price. The reason for the cheaper release, was the omission of definitions and footnotes. Penguin's more expensive editions would always have a large selection of appendices at the back, which would provide the reader with helpful explanations of some of the more difficult analogies, terminologies, and/or archaic and unfamiliar words. That was always the way with the full priced Penguin versions. This, is one of the full priced Penguin paperbacks, retailing at eleven pounds in store; and although it is more competitively priced here, this full priced Penguin edition is completely devoid of any definition or footnote!
The above is a staggering revelation, because my older Penguin edition did contain a number of definitions and explanations (in fact, the cover of that older version is shown as an extra image). The paper quality, or indeed, the cover in this edition are in no way superior to any other paperback, so why the full price tag? This edition might as we be a budged green cover paperback retailing at a couple of quid! Norman Denny's introduction does not justify the full price tage of this book, end of!
Now, there is a solution to this. Avoid this edition. It isn't worth the price, even though it is presented cheaper here than if purchased within a bookshop. You could take a risk in the new and used section, in the hope that you'll be sent the older version, complete with appendices; however, your best bet would be to purchase the two separate editions published by Wordsworth Classics. They both retail at only two pounds each, and they contain a number of useful footnotes at the bottom of the page (as does Hugo's other masterpiece, The Hunchback of Notre Dame), which actually saves you from having look things up at the back of the book. There is a psychological advantage also, in the fact that the novels are in two parts, so you won't feel daunted by holding, what is in effect, a huge brick of a novel.
If you're new to Hugo's style, you'll need the Wordsworth - if you're familiar with Les Miserables, then I suppose this rather `bald; version will suffice.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great literary masterpiece and a fine French history lesson!,
Les Miserables is justifiably known as a great literary masterpiece. However, I had hitherto neither read the book nor seen the show. I am now so pleased that I have read the book before seeing the show and I am sure that I will enjoy the latter so much more through having enjoyed so greatly the former. This edition, translated by Norman Denny, runs to more than 1,200 pages and Mr Denny makes the point in his introduction that Victor Hugo's original contains 'digressions,' meaning that, to some readers at least, certain sections of the book, maybe some 100 pages or more in total, may appear to 'digress' from the principal 'plot.' But even the 'digressions' are valuable, for they give to the less knowledgeable - such as myself - a fine lesson in French history, as does the 'plot' itself. Victor Hugo takes the reader through some of France's most turbulent times, from before the Revolution of 1789, through the Empire of the first Napoleon, and to and beyond the further Revolution of 1848. If one were wanting to be flippant, it would appear that the French were for ever revolting and for ever at the barricades. I do not wish to be flippant, however, and this great tome charts the progress or otherwise of French affairs through the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth centuries with inimitable flair and profound knowledge, for the author lived through most of it, even suffering temporary exile from France when he crossed the authorities of Napoleon III. It is against the background of such ongoing turbulence (which explains so much of later French history) that the immensely moving and complicated tales of Jean Valjean and Cosette and Marius and all of the other larger-than-life characters are told. To those readers with the willingness to spend more than the average time on a tremendous and unforgettable work, this is for you. Read it and then see the show!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars French Revolution and romance intricately explained,
I imagine that many people will have come to the book having seen the stage show or the movie or both. I was initially a bit frustrated by the digressions into explanations of historical background or sometimes what seemed like irrelevant detail. Gradually I came to see these excursions as adding to the big picture behind the main plot.
I tried to read this book many years ago and gave up. Now with the movie as the background and as the spur to find out more about the characters and their origins, I became fascinated and intrigued by a period I knew little about. I wanted the revolutionaries to succeed, for the romance between Cosette and Marius to end happily, and for Valjean to find his freedom, because he deserved it and he had earned it.
I understand how obsession can grip you though so I can imagine how much Javert would have wanted to get what HE saw as justice for someone who had skipped parole and had also got away with theft even though we know that Valjean had never capitalised on the value of what he had stolen. Javert must have always imagined that Valjean sold what he stole and built a fortune on the basis of a crime.
Looked at from another angle, you could literally draw or paint a series of pictures of the characters representing their particular emotions.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Les Miserables,
This is a big book, not only in size, but also the story. I tried to read it just before I left school, but along with 'Gone with the Wind' I had to abandon it. But since then I've actually read it twice. A monumental epic based during the same period as some of Dickens' work, with the usual suspicious characters. It's a heartrending romantic story that covers many years, against a backdrop of poverty, love, and the 1830 Revolution. A stonking good read.
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Les Miserables (Penguin Popular Classics) by Victor Hugo (Paperback - 27 Sept. 2007)
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