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Les Miserables (Penguin Popular Classics) Paperback – 30 Apr 1998
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This book features many of the characters who are well-known: Valjean, the criminal trying to escape his reputation; Javert, the police agent trailing him; the unfortunate Fantine and her daughter, Cosette; the rascally Thenardier; and above all the splendid street urchin, Gavroche. Among the unforgettable descriptions are those of the Paris sewers, the battle of Waterloo and the fighting at the barricades during the July Revolution. There are few more complete, or more vivid, pictures of France at the beginning of the nineteenth century. "Les Miserables" is at once a thrilling narrative and a social document embracing a wider field than any other novel of its time. This edition is an abridgment of Norman Denny's translation.
About the Author
Victor Hugo (1802-85) was the most forceful, prolific and versatile French nineteenth-century novelist. He wrote Romantic costume dramas, many volumes of lyrical and satirical verse, political and other journalism, criticism and several novels.
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I am really glad I stuck with it as it really is a beatiful, timeless story that brings out genuine emotion. Although I can be taken over but characters and feel real emotion, this is (so far) the only book to have made me shed real tears - not from the joy of completing but the conclusion of Jean Valjean's story and the love in this book. I did not even realise I was crying until I was asked if I was ok, that is how engrossed I was with the words.
Dedication and persistance are needed but it is a wonderful journey that I only regret not doing sooner.
Also full of detail of early 19th Century Paris, which had me going to Google Maps to identify the places. Also had me wanting to know more about French history, being full of references to this. Reading on Kindle, with Wikipedia and Dictionary links enhanced the read no end.
I was interested in what would appear to be a 19th Century secular view, that still saw God as a given, unlike Europe today, but like Africa today.
I've not read another translation of Les Miserables (or as this version is named 'The Wretched') and frankly I don't think I've got the time as it's such a mammoth length. Therefore, I wanted to make sure as much as I could that the copy I was going to read was going to be the right one for me. I'm glad I chose the Christine Donougher translation as it is simply outstanding.
I can't conceive of the effort that must have been put into this version along with all its explanatory references and notes. Importantly for me, it's easily read on my phone with a Kindle app. I don't want to carry around a book of this size around with me on the bus or have to keep flicking pages around to explore a reference.
As for the story, well I'm sure you know what to expect... As for the version, I highly recommend this translation particularly on an electronic device (although I've now also got a hard copy copy for my mother-in-law which made me realise quite how long this book is...).
Thank you Christine and Penguin for enabling me to read this classic without hassle.
It's also emotionally overwrought, as characters are brought together through unlikely coincidence, in a manner that often happens in 19th Century novels. Here, the characters are also often presented facing a series of moral and spiritual crises, which gives the book a strong religious dimension. I don't know why the review on one of the front covers cites Les Miserables as 'a humanist masterpiece', because it's heavily freighted with both covert and overt religious ideas and language, e.g. atonement and guilt and forgiveness, though I would add that you do not need to be religious to enjoy it.
For me, I made a conscious effort to read it without having seen the film/ musical/ whatever first and I think that helped as there's often a genuine 'what happens next' urge compulsion to turn the next page. As you're going to have to turn over 1200 pages to get to the end, that sort of thing helps. Certainly, you need to have a good run at it or you will get stuck halfway.
I can see how for some the weight of historical detail, the superfluity of adjectives and general OTTness of it all might grate, but I enjoyed this almost all the way through and at times was genuinely spellbound. I'm now seriously encouraged to go on and read "Notre Dame de Paris" as a result, for example.
One minor but nonetheless annoying feature of the Kindle version is that the scanning/ transfer process has gone wrong so that the word 'die' usually gets translated as 'the'; there must have been some glitch in the system. You expect more from Penguin Classics.
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