It’s that time of the week again, where I’ll be taking a particular film, TV show or book, or even a place for that matter, and reviewing what I thought about it. This week, I’ll be looking at a tragically beautiful story, a book, several film adaptations and a musical.
It has inspired countless generations, and will most likely continue to be a beacon of hope for many (If you already know what I’m talking about, then don’t spoil it for those who don’t). It is the longest running musical of modern days, celebrating its 30th anniversary with a box office hit of a film, in 2012, winning 3 academy awards and 4 BAFTAs. I think you’ve already guessed by now what I’m talking about.
That’s right…I’m talking about…
Today, I’ll be reviewing the thick, heavy and wretchedly beautiful tome they call a book. Now, mind you, I’ve not even scratched the surface of this tome, because let’s face it, the book is quite long, and it will probably take me months to finish it…JUST LOOK AT IT!
Anyway, let’s get started with the review, shall we?
Title: Les Misérables
Author: Victor Hugo
Publisher: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Cie.
Genre: Epic, Historical Drama
Ok, so you’ve noticed that there is no “rank” or “rating” because this book is a classic. Of course, there will be lots of criticisms and lots of praises for the book, but that’s their opinions. Right now, I’ll try to summarise the story in a couple of paragraphs for you.
The book is a collection of different stories, ranging from a bishop to an ex-convict, and even from a desperate mother to rebellious students, fighting to free France from an oppressive leader. The main character, however, is a man called Jean Valjean. He was a convict from the galleys at Toulon, became a philanthropic business owner by the name of Monsieur Madeline, and rescued an orphaned child called Cosette.
In his later years he discovers that a boy named Marius Pontmercy is in love with Cosette and he tries to save the boy, as he is part of the freedom fighters club, called Friends of the ABC (or abaissés). In the end, he leaves his adopted daughter to the boy, and runs away, in order to keep Cosette in the dark about his past.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’ll take me months to finish this book. I’ve only just reached the part where Valjean meets Monseigneur Bienvenu, who is a bishop in a small town. If you’ve seen the musical, or read the book, you’ll know it’s not too far from the beginning. So, it will take me a couple of months to actually finish the book, and truth be told, this is the third time I’ve attempted to read the book. This is the furthest I’ve gone, and I’m determined to reach the end, but I’ll tell what I can from the little I’ve read so far.
The musical, the movies and any other adaptation of the compendium (for lack of a better word) does not do it justice. True, most of the time, Hugo rambles, he lays bare the inner feelings, thoughts and pasts of his characters in great detail, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s in these revelations that we get a better sense of his characters.
For example, in the very first part of the book, we see the background for Monseigneur Bienvenu. We see his daily life and his big adventures. He opens up his thoughts for us and shows us what sort of man Monseigneur Bienvenu is through the philosophical debates he has both with himself and with the people around him. It’s poetic and romantic, and sometimes boring, but that’s the beauty of it. Without Hugo’s ramblings, we wouldn’t feel as deeply for any of his characters. Sure we’d have some sense of their personality, but in the retelling of their backgrounds, we feel like we know the character, we’ve not only interacted with them, but we know them, like we know a friend.
Now, I do have one criticism about this book. It is called Les Misérables for a reason. If you don’t want to be a wretched, sobbing mess in public, don’t read it when you’re out and about. Like I said, I’ve not scratched the surface of the book, and not 100 pages in, I’ve already started bawling! It’s not for the faint of hearts, and when I say that I mean that if you’re moved by even the simplest act of kindness, this will probably cause you to have a full meltdown. There are points in the book where even I had to put it down and just lie in bed and cry for a good 15 minutes.
The example I can give you is the way in which Hugo introduces Valjean to us. In the beginning, he’s completely downtrodden. No one would give him any food or lodging, purely because he is a convict, and they don’t trust him. He was even ready to sleep on a stone-cold bench, outside the church, because no one (not even nature) would take him in, and when an old lady steps out of the church, and notices him, she points him to the bishop’s home. This was one of the most moving things I have ever read. So, if you’re ready with the tissues and need a good cry, then by all means read this book. If not, don’t.
I may not have read enough, but from what I’ve read I’d say you need to be able to stomach classic novels before you can read this. Not only that, you’d need to be steadfast when you read this book, because I know I probably will lose myself in this story before I finish. I suggest reading the likes of Dickens or Bronte first before you attempt this monstrosity of a book. That way you can get used to the phrases used in this book, because it does use a rhetoric that we probably don’t use nowadays.
Well, that’s it. I think I’ll go read some more Les Mis, while listening to the 25th Anniversary Concert (I prefer Alfie Boe singing Valjean and Matt Lucas playing Thenardier – of course Eddie Redmayne’s Marius is better but alas I’ll have to put up with Nick Jonas). Now, it’s your turn. Have you read Les Misérables? What did you think of it? If you haven’t would you like to? Have you seen the musical or movie? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll see you next week!
This is Feather, signing out!