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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Les Miserables Book Review + Thoughts for Thursday--17

Les Miserables Book Review

Welcome to the Read and Review Hop, hosted by Anya of On Starships and Dragonwings.

So I finally finished Sir Victor Hugo's Les Miserables! All 1463 pages of the un-abridged version. Okay, that's kind of a lie. I did read the un-abridged version, but as anyone who's ever tackled it knows, there are who sections that are just history lessons and have nothing to do with the story. These sections can go on for chapters and chapters. When I came to these sections, I simply skimmed them, keeping an eye out for where the story began again.

Hugo's story of the convict Jean Valjean and all that befell him in his lifetime is timeless. It's a story of redemption and atonement, a story of love and honor, desperation and duty, of revolution and restitution. It's no wonder the story has survived all these years in so many different formats--books, movie, and stage.

Hugo's writing is difficult to read. He meanders a lot and uses way too much explanation and passive voice. It's the kind of writing that would never be published today, so thank goodness he wrote in the 1800s. He can even be excused for the history-book chapters, as most of his readers never went more than fifty miles from where they were born. He had to explain events and architecture in detail or they wouldn't have a background or frame of reference for the story.
"It is nothing to die; it is dreadful not to live." All at once he rose to his feet. these accesses of strength are sometimes the sign of the death agony. He walked with a firm step to the wall...detached...a little copper crucifix...and said in a loud voice, as he lay the crucifix on the table: "Behold the great martyr."--Les Miserables, 98.88%

Despite that, when Hugo gets going, he's magnificent. Despite the over-writing, it helps the characters come across magnificently! His prose and philosophical musings are downright beautiful and the story comes full circle, spanning Jean Valjean's life.
"The forests through which one has passed with one's child, the trees under which one has strolled, the convents where one has concealed oneself, the games, the hearty laughs of childhood, are shadows...The moment has come to tell thee the name of thy mother...She had as much unhappiness as thou hast had happiness. That is the way God apportions things. He is there on high, he sees us all, and he knows what he does in the midst of his great stars...Love each other well and always. There is nothing else but that in the world: love for each other."--Les Miserables, 99.05%

It took a lot of work and time to get through it, and I won't lie by pretending I'm not glad to be finished, but I'm also very glad that I read it. The story is powerful and well worth the read. The characters, unforgettable. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the film version that just came out.

What do you think? Has anyone else read Les Mis? Will you see the film?

Thoughts for Thursday

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Thoughts for Thursday is a new meme hosted by Musings on Fantasia and LKHill.  In this meme, we share thoughts or quotes that we know or have recently come across. Each week there is a specific subject or theme. These can be quotes from books, quotes by famous people, (quotes by YOU, perhaps ;D). Anything from anywhere is game, though we do ask that you keep your quote to a few sentences at most. Don't quote, for example, entire passages of a book or essay. These can be funny quips, cool sayings, hair-raising antidotes, movie lines, any kind of quote you can think of!

Readers may respond by either commenting on the quotes I put forward or contributing a quote of their own. Leave it in the comments or a link to your quote in the linky. Whoever comes up with the best one will get some swag and be entered to win a bigger prize later on!

Just have fun, collect awesome sayings by awesome people, and try to be inspired!

This week's theme is Happiness!!!

"For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."--Abraham Lincoln

"Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great purpose in heart."--Gordon B. Hinckley

"The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee you happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself."--Benjamin Franklin

"Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected."--George Washington

"You can be smart and happy or stupid and miserable...it's your choice."--Gordon B. Hinckley

What do you think? Which quote is your favorite? Do you have one to contribute?


  1. I just saw the new film version of Les Miserables in theatres a few days ago-- it was AMAZING! One of my favorite movies I've seen in a long time, and yes, it did convince me to try tackling the very hefty book. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the heads-up about the history chapters in the unabridged edition. I will probably read the unabridged (I hate abridged) edition, but might be skipping ahead to the story like you. Definitely recommend you see the movie-- you won't be disappointed!

    Kat @ A Myriad of Books

  2. Awesome review!! I applaud you for once again reading a book that I would never be able to get through! I looooove the musical, but I'm going to stick with memorizing the songs ;-) Thanks for joining in the hop this week!

  3. Les Miserables is one of my all-time favorite books because I think it's the most powerful story I've ever read/seen. I LOVED the new movie, the play, and the old movies too! :) I agree there are long boring parts in it, but I figure that's forgivable since the story is so amazing. And, as you said, you can always skim. :)

  4. This one hasn't really been on my radar. I keep meaning to read his The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's such a large TBR hill, right by my bed. I suppose I can add Les Miserables to the stack.