This is an incredibly difficult book to review, for multiple reasons. I won’t even begin to try to summarize it. I spent two months and two days listening to the audiobook of Les Miserables, so that the experience stretched out for a very long time. Between that length of time and the massive epic-ness of the story, a synopsis and review both become a bit impossible. Instead, I’ll just leave a few of my impressions. (Spoilers included.)
1. Jason (my husband) thought I would hate this book. I did not. I didn’t even mind all the tangents that Victor Hugo went off on. Some were rather interesting.
2. The translation I read was by Julie Rose, and it was really good. I can’t say how it compares to the previous translations, but I thought it was great. The audiobook I listened to was read by George Guidall, who for the most part did a fantastic job. There were a few characters with whom he got overly dramatic, but he did well pronouncing his French, and I liked most of his vocal acting.
3. I did not like Enjolras. All the political and revolutionary sections bored the pants off of me.
4. I was surprised how different Eponine was in the book versus in the recent musical movie (my first ever exposure to the story of Les Miserables). She was much more sympathetic. I do wonder if she ever realized who Cosette was, though.
5. I adored Gavroche in every way. He reminded me too much of my son Laurence. The only time I cried was at his death.
6. I really wanted Cosette and Marius to find the two younger Thenardier siblings and adopt them the way Jean Valjean adopted her. That would have been a perfect ending to the book. I was sad and a bit disappointed when the book ended so suddenly with Jean Valjean’s epitaph.
7. I found Javert very interesting, especially in the end, and I would love to be able to read this book in the original, to see how he changes from tu-form to vous-form. I’ll bet there isn’t an explanation of that in the French version.
8. I think Victor Hugo understood the poor classes far more than someone like Dickens. It’s interesting to see how much realism there was in here, despite the serious romantic streak. It reminded me a bit of Zola, except that Zola didn’t have any rose colored glasses to look through.
9. Still not sure exactly how Thenardier figured out that it was Jean Valjean he saw in the sewers. I kept waiting for him to explain, but he never did.
10. It’s interesting to see just how much of Jason’s personality and writing style was carved from this book…
There’s probably more, but that’s what comes to mind right away. Again, it’s hard to keep track of a book that took over two months to listen to! I’m glad I listened in audio form, though, both because it was a good recording and because I doubt I would have made it through the book in print. It was a good book. Not mindblowingly wonderful, but a solid read. I’m less afraid of Victor Hugo now, and I also need to see the movie again, knowing all the things I know now.