I did it. I finished Les Misérables. I convinced my mom to buy me this book just after we went to see the musical. In 2013. I literally got this book before I even started dating my husband. We have a baby now. This book took me 3 years to read. It is long. It is wordy. It is incredibly dense, complicated, and detailed.
And it was totally worth it. There are some books that I’m like, “Well, yeah – I read it because it’s a classic.” And I probably wouldn’t have finished it otherwise. (The Sound and the Fury, I’m lookin’ at you.) There are other classics, like Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, that I finally just said to heck with, and took back to the used bookstore. I only have one life to live. I don’t need to spend it pretending to like Walt Whitman. But I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame once upon a time, and it was amazing, so I stuck it out with Les Mis. And it was totally, 100% worth it.
Victor Hugo tells so much, so well, and with such beautiful prose, that it astounds me. This man had no “delete” key. As far as I’m aware, he didn’t even have an eraser. And somehow, he manages to have a side-story for every single extra character in the entire book (which is nearly a thousand pages), and just when you think you’re never going to see that person again, you realize they’re pivotal. It’s incredible.
He writes romance in an extremely sappy way, but makes it somehow bearable and even (gasp!) romantic. (For me, this is a big deal. I usually gag when I read romance.) He writes war and general violence incredibly well. He writes poverty so well you can see the fleas jumping off of people. If you loved the musical, or you love France, or you love poetic or romantic literature, read this book.
Having said that, don’t read this book if you don’t like long books. Because it’s crazy long. Also, I need to learn a lot about French history before I go rereading it. I know nothing about the historical context here.
Also don’t read this book if you find yourself disliking Hugo’s writing style. The entire reason to stick around is because of his style. Granted, the first 60 pages or so are a little slow and almost irrelevant – so don’t judge it right off the bat. But don’t force yourself through 900 pages of someone you don’t like.
I would give this book 5 stars, but only recommend it to someone who is willing to wade (and wait) through a lot of good writing. ♥