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4.1 out of 5 stars39
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 5 November 2007
After reading so much modern garbage over the years I decided to take on a few classics to see just why they are referred to as such.
I now have no doubts.
Some may find the style old fashioned, some of the descriptive passages too long etc. Don't let that put you off.
If you decide to take this book on (both unabridged volumes - no less) then I am sure that by the end of it you will come to the same conclusion as I.
That this is possibly the best piece of work you will have ever read.
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VINE VOICEon 22 November 2009
It's not an easy job to try and condense the 1000+ pages of Hugo's 2 volume epic fiction into an Amazon review; nor is it any easier to "rate" it.

It would be enlightening to say that a modern reader drawn here on the back of the musical, and looking for the story, might well not even finish the novel, being fed up with its frequent digressions. Certainly, there are vast tracts of impossibly detailed historical commentary that interrupt the narrative flow with scant regard for the 21st century's time-pressed reader. Jean Valjean's flight through the sewers is a timely place for Hugo to explain the history of Paris' underground system; the time spent in the convent is preceded by a 10 page meditation on convents; the battle of Waterloo takes 30 pages of our time, albeit one of the more readable asides.

Roger Clark's useful introduction suggests that Hugo felt it was necessary to expound (albeit with his great skill and erudition) on the historical context of his characters' world; it is a story that was for him inseparable from the times that made it: Les Miserables is a critique of a city and a nation embodied in text. Still, this will be of little consolation to readers looking for the adventures of Jean Valjean, and Inspector Javert.

Yet, Hugo's storytelling skill is considerable. The opening of the novel is one I will always remember, the creation and story of the figure of Monseigneur Bienvenue is brilliantly realised. The novel's fictional characters, and the story itself, are compelling; thrilling at times, and definitely melodramatic; there's a sense of the theatrical about it all. The wronged hero Jean Valjean has his suitably cold nemesis in that pillar of the law, Javert - at one point Hugo terms them the "spectre and the statue": one made of shadow the other made of stone. Marius and Cosette bring the novel its romantic element; their blossoming, withering and revival of love is as compulsive as it is sentimental. Many other equally memorable characters are encountered along the way: the repulsive Thenardier family; the tragic and pitiful figures of Eponine and Fantine; the incorrigible street-child Gavroche. All this is played out against the Parisian streets, with the filth of the sewers, the paradise of a garden, or the subversive structures of the barricades never too far away.

From a literary perspective, Les Miserables is a magnificent work that can be read, and re-read on so many different levels, that it is hard to overestimate its significance. From a general reader perspective, Hugo is a frustrating writer whose verbose wanderings will probably be one of the most severe tests you will find in a novel.
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on 30 April 2013
Again I must say I have not really gotten through all of this novel ( Still on Vol 1 ) but I love it. The book goes into far more detail than any of the movies that have been made, so there were places and people I did not even know about! It starts by introducing people way back in time, and Valjean and the story we all probably know does not start until way later on in the book! However it is compelling reading and if you can bear with it I promise you, you will not be sorry ! Enjoy it, it is wonderful!
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on 15 November 2005
Lord, alot of people will probably hate me for that statement, but it's true. I bought this booka fter seeing the musical in the west end. It took me over a month to read it (that's along time for me) and I came close to throwing it in the bin a few times, but I am certainly glad I read it, and not just for the feeling of immense acheivment. However, I do feel that this book has an amazing storyline, and it is easy to see why it is a classic. Defintley a very clever man, Victor Hugo, as there was alot of politics behind this book. The love stories, the story of struggles, triumphs and no hope really touched me, and I felt as if I could almost touch France as it was through this book. Not for a light read, but if you want something with real meaning behind it, this is your book.
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on 6 April 2014
This book is not the theatre show or film, it is a gritty account of the inequalities of French society in the 1800's. Hugo intertwines reality with fiction expertly, and uses his own experiences to bring additional colour and life to the story. It is a social and political commentary of his time. His account of The Battle of Waterloo is very insightful, even though it is, understandably, somewhat biased toward the French point of view. Be preared for a long hard read. If you can stick it out it is very worthwhile.
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on 5 January 2013
Great book unfortunately I didn't realise this was book one (volume 1) and I hadn't ordered volume 2 my mistake.
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on 3 March 2013
Ever since I was a child I have loved this book reading it over and over again, or so I thought until, whilst packing to move house I found the book and I found that the book I had been reading over and over as a child was actually only the abridged version! How stupid was I?

So I bought volumes 1&2 of this book and OMG I love it even more. I have always been a fan of the musical (read the 'abridged' book before I saw the musical) and the new film is fantastic also (In my Opinion). This is a classic novel that, to me, still beats most others. I could honestly read it time and time again, even at its immense length.

I would thoroughly recommend this to any lover of books/reading, it is a must read, and a fantastic product.
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on 14 August 2013
Don't be put off by the size of these books, or by the dense and slightly convoluted beginning. The books have so much more to offer than the film/ theatrical versions.
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on 13 February 2016
Unbeliveable mix of fiction and history. The only complaint is too many long pointless sections. As fascinating as the Paris sewer system is, I don’t need that much detail nor 45 pages on the Battle of Waterloo. These mini-essays could simply be plucked out. When will someone write a good abridged version, I wonder? Well worth reading despite these digressions. Highly recommend.
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on 28 September 2015
All hail Jean Valjean. All hail Victor Hugo. Still stands taller than most today (though Hugo is rather fond of using ten words to say something when one would have done), as an epic, as a history, as a sociological study. The description of -and comment upon- the Battle of Waterloo is a particularly arresting piece.
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