And I’m back with a Challenge 2020 review! This book is now a famous Broadway and West End production as well as a famous film! Yes of course we are talking about Les Misérables!
“They are les misérables – the outcasts, the underdogs. And who is to blame? Is it not the most fallen who have most need of charity?”
Now for those of you who have no idea what Les Misérables is then let me introduce you (but also in the immortal words of Molly Weasley:
Anyway back to Paris. The July Revolution is where our stage is set. Now let’s meet some characters:
“Love, let us agree, may be a fault. Fantine’s was the innocence that rides above it”
- Jean Valjean – After stealing bread to feed his sisters child and repeated attempts of escape, he served 19 years of hard labour under the watchful eye of Javert, a police inspector. Upon his release he realises he will never be treated like a normal person because he is an ex-convict. He is taken in by Monsieur Myriel, the Bishop of Digne who he repays by stealing his silver. When Valjean is caught by Javert, Myriel defends Valjean in return for Valjean promise to become a good man. He then adopts pseudonyms to evade the police and makes a new life for himself.
- Javert – a police inspector whose strict beliefs in law and order means he’ll stop at nothing to enforce the harsh laws of France. Incapable of compassion or pity, he acts like a lion on the prowl with both eyes on prey. But along the way and in his quest to recapture Jean Valjean he begins to undermine his belief system that his life is built in
- Fantine – a beautiful girl has an innocent affair with a well-to-do student Tholomyès, leaving her pregnant. Once she has given birth she realises she will be unable to find work with an illegitimate child and so pays an innkeeper and his wife, the Thérnardier’s for her daughter, who she named Cosette, to look after her. When she is forced out of her job, Fantine sees no other option but to sell her hair, her teeth and eventually her body to pay door the ever increasing demands of the Thérnardiers. Despite everything, she never stops loving or caring about Cosette.
- Eponine – The eldest daughter of the Thérnardiers initially is a bully to Cosette but is eventually redeemed proving that no one is beyond redemption.
- Gavroche – The Thérnardiers eldest son is kicked out and becomes a street urchin. He is a happy child and enjoys the little things whilst also being fierce and brave.
- Cosette – Fantine’s daughter. After Fantine’s death (sorry spoilers), Valjean takes it upon himself to adopt Cosette. Under his care, she blossoms into a beautiful yet innocent lady possessing both intelligence and bravery.
- Marius – son of a colonel in Napoléon’s army, he suffers from an identity crisis as well as playing a pivotal role at the barricade as well as falling in love.
So there are just some of the pivotal characters that we meet, let alone the ABC crew that fight at the barricades. We meet so many characters along the way that it’s impossible to tell you about all of them now without giving away the whole story!
“What is admirable in the clash of young minds is that no one can foresee the spark that sets off an explosion, or predict what kind of explosion it will be…Chance is the conductor of those youthful symphonies.”
This is a tale about heroism, injustice and love. This is a tale about not underestimating people. If you’re looking for a fun and happy tale then you are in the wrong place my friends. It’s about the lowest and darkest parts of the French society.
“Let us not be too hard on the young.”
This book has a lot of parts which although add additional historical background, it also adds unnecessary pages to an already mammoth book – for example, there were 7 chapters alone on the history of the sewers of France.
“What, then, is Progress?.. It is the permanent life of all people.”
Nevertheless, this book is wonderful in so many ways. Yes there are parts of it that are heartbreakingly sad and make you cry (I have no shame in admitting that I cried a few times reading this), but there are also parts that make you want to scream a battle cry or to fall in love.
“Where those we love are affected terror knows no bounds”
My favourite part about how this book is written is that every single character we meet has a story to be told and Hugo tells us it. I think this is wonderful, sometimes with lots of characters it can be confusing to follow who is so whereas I didn’t really find that in this book.
“To trust is sometimes to surrender.”
I have never seen the stage show of Les Mis but is definitely on my bucket list! I’ve seen the film and it actually made it slightly easier to follow the book actually!
“Who looks for better may find worse.”
You can find this book on Amazon
“He sleeps. Although so much he was denied,
He lived; and when his dear love left him, died.
It happened of itself, in the calm way
That in the evening night-time follows day.”
Until next time,