I read Les Miserables between 12-14 years of age. I have to say this was one that I remembered much differently. This is the primary reason I’ve enjoyed going back and re-reading many of the books that I read 15+ years ago. I enjoy seeing how my perspectives have changed.
Now, this being said, this is a story that we are all very familiar with. Seeing that it is a classical literature art piece, and then adapted for stage and film. Not to mention the phenomenal music score.
Unfortunately, I think that I like the stage/film versions best. It takes the very best of this very long book and all levels of it’s wordiness and helps you take away the greatest lessons it teaches. I know, normally I’m not a fan of abridging. But I felt that because of the extended length of this even if it’s been abridged takes away much from the lessons Mr. Hugo wanted to teach and instill within our souls.
I found that with the extensive length that I would get distracted by random annoyances. I also was disappointed by the parts that I felt that really had the greatest affects on the characters were not elaborated upon as much as other parts continuing on describing things that in the big picture didn’t play a vital detail. That was frustrating.
I also have come to realize more and more lately that I have a very hard time with ‘Love at First Sight’ or the like. I was so annoyed and mad through the sections that went on an on about what’s his bucket’s (I know, I should know – writing this review a few weeks after finishing) love for Cossette, when they’d never even carried on a conversation! He’d only seen her, and basically stalked her. Then Cossette conveniently falls in love with him because she notices him back and enjoys his behavior, mind you he’s terrified of her father and she plays games, like, Oh, Father, I didn’t even see whom you are talking about… etc, etc. Gag me! When authors expound and go on and on about their undying love for when they have never even had a conversation I want to do violent things to people! Gag me!
On the positive note, I do enjoy the handful of references to songs that the people have integrated into their lives, makes the whole stage/movie versions of this a bit more reasonable to see how they were able to more realistically convert and retell this story.
The story finally started getting good around page 1,200. The battles, the mercy… although still I was saddened the parts that I really love were not as well expressed. 😦
Taking an overall look at this story and what we learn from it, I love the story of trials, tribulations and overcoming ourselves and allowing love and mercy to ultimately work in our lives, for the greater good of ourselves, our loved ones and those who despise us. I love how one simple act of mercy changes the entire life and outlook of one man. Of that change of heart the changes and good he is able to deliver to the world and make it a slightly better place. I love seeing the selfless acts of service and sacrifice and how no matter how things don’t work out completely for him he continues to pay it forward in all that he does. Even in the end when Valjean shows a parallel act of mercy to the one man who hates him most in this world, Inspector Javert, whose whole life purpose almost seems that it is to destroy Jean Valjean, Javert can’t handle it. He doesn’t take the chance, he can’t allow the love and Mercy in his life, and kills himself. Likewise, how do we respond when shown the same love and mercy? What do we do with it? Cossette’s young husband’s attitude changes so drastically himself when he finds out of the wrongs Valjean has done in his life, but his heart softens and overflows with love in an instance when he finds out the other side of Valjean’s story of love and sacrifice.
I think ultimately we need to take a good hard look at this story and what we learn from it, how it applies to us, how we can improve our own self beings and implement into our daily lives. Obviously, with my annoyances, I still highly recommend this great classic.
(Actually finished August 23rd 2013)
- Jean Valjean – Intentional Disciple (id916.wordpress.com)
- Les Misérables and the Death Grip of Works-Based Worldviews (str.typepad.com)
- How Do We Understand Grace? (maxdray.wordpress.com)
- Les Miserables (labvie.wordpress.com)
- Silver Spoons: Les Misérables and the Power of Grace by Nigel Brady (claremontekklesia.wordpress.com)