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Les Miserables (book review) Victor Hugo

same review as [book:The Wretched|17905288]


121215: i have decided to reread some work i had originally rated five or four- particularly when i was very young, unread, innocent of much litcrit, but not genre young adult. this is a good idea here...


i read this book first when i think i was 19 as [book:Les Misérables|24280]. i had read some big books, [book:Shogun: A Novel of Japan|2215904], [book:The Lord of the Rings|33], [book:Moby-Dick or, the Whale|153747], when i decided to read it. this is a new translation, a new read, but as i do not read fluent french, i have forgotten details, i am uncertain how this differs, only certain that it seems longer though that was not an abridged version. i now realize that i read that translation before most of my artist friends and other friends, were born. i feel very old.. but this book makes me feel young...


there are questions. when rating my memory of the first read for goodreads, i gave it a 4. since reading some reviews, very effusive (hello aubrey), very intriguing (hello lisa), i decided to read it again. new translation, new perspective, from so many books read since, so much life passed, this was an interesting qualified rating- mostly because rather than read i was studying it. i read this in a slightly more educated, thoughtful, mature manner. as the reading progresses i find myself recalling what comes next but i am unsure whether this is vague memory or effective foreshadowing, and of course, sometimes i am frustrated that hugo is taking so long but then this probably reflects style of the era...


there are questions. in actual reading this time i also read various other works, novels, nonfiction, graphics, as the momentum of plot is not as intense when i already know the story, but there are surprises, things i did not remember, though the main queries remain- why does he take so long? why does he have entire chapters devoted to tactics, soldiery, results of clashes, at waterloo? why does he have a chapter explaining/apologizing for the use of slang? (france does now maintain a government section that rules on what is proper french). why have a chapter detailing the work on and history of paris sewers? (you are there, i guess it is useful) why why why? you will have a lot of reading time to ponder these questions...


yet i give this a five. i try to maybe learn something from everything i read, even if those things learned are things to avoid, things i do not like, but any such problems are swept away in the epic grandeur, epic emotions, epic actions, of hugo's work. i could give this a three, could grumble over digressions, sincerity of religious, moral, romantic thoughts- could even be bothered that this metropolis of paris if not the whole of france, seems to be inhabited by a very limited population who are all significantly, conveniently, connected to each other, through the years, through the city, the country, and show up at the right thematic time- often after moments that their presence, knowledge, action could have changed something in a big way- and i also notice, please, that no one ever truly talks or thinks thoughts always so endlessly and helpfully moving the plot along...


characters? there is no shortage. motivations? only strangely misinterpreted by such characters. emotions? well from the standpoint of a cynical 21st century man- there is a strong urge to slap some sense into him (you will know who). suffering? yes there is a lot of that but it mostly serves as plot motors or is carefully arrayed in the background portraying this cruel world. narrative voice? never remotely unreliable, always omniscient, only occasionally entering without comment into details of this or that character's thoughts. long? did i mention that?


so maybe i would have liked it shorter. so probably it is necessary that it is not shorter. some of this book works by delaying recognition, delaying revelation that everyone, everyone, everyone, somehow has a role to play, and emotional plot details about less important characters are finally shown as so meaningful. what is abridged in previous version? i suppose some of the digressions, but do not know. if i am learning something, well why this and not say stephen king? everything reads better from french? for i do learn, about architecture of melodramatic plot, identifiable characters, how to add this or that riveting episodes, irony and inflexibility not least in disproportion between fault or crime and punishment, in redemption and conscience and heroism born of suffering and meeting just the right forgiving bishop...


i study this with evidently more pleasure than i expected, given the length. i am slightly removed from all anguish, sorrow, suffering and survival of this book, maybe because i know some scenes coming up- but aside from satiric urges when he (you will know) suffers and fumbles through love-at-sight, there is some pleasure that is not diminished by repetition: rescuing from on high above the ship, faith and fate, love and war on the barricade, flight through the sewers...


so i did read versions of this twice- but probably not again unless I learn more fluent french, and proust is more likely to then read. yes i did read it over a month interspersed with other work, but i did come back to it, did enjoy it, did learn much from it, not least in granting value to melodrama, to romance, to adventure all in one. on the other, i have no desire to see either movie or musical...


compare with:


[book:The Count of Monte Cristo|16000357]

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