Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A classic among classics.
I'd been meaning to read this ever since... what, the '80's? Okay. So I'm a bit late. No Andrew Lloyd Webber, either. And what a beast this novel is! Almost 1500 pages, full of grand sweeping expositions on War from Napoleon's exploits and downfall to the second French Revolution, diatribes on the language of convicts, the dealings of wine-houses, sewers, and no less than a dozen different social injustices of the time...
And yet, the horrible misery of the novel, some might say a grand depression from the outside and in for poor Jean Valjean, is rightfully a romance of epic proportions.
The misery isn't just his, of course. A wide tapestry of miserable creatures inhabits this novel. Some might say the miserable is all of France. They're all a mixture of the execrable and the divine. Full of heart and joy and committing suicide in the next breath. One might say that Paris was... perhaps is... bipolar. Manic and depressive.
As long as we go by the events and the backgrounds within these pages, of course.
Bigger than life and real for all that, this is probably one of those monsters of a novel that should be read and digested over a long period of time. That's not to say it's difficult to read at all. It's just long. So much happens it's like enjoying a better rendition of Shakespeare's King Henry the Sixth (in the entire) mixed with a milder Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment, adding a comedic romance with a little of Dicken's underworld horror shows, then topping it off with a dispassionate review of history with a massive side-order of satire.
Can we really pigeonhole this work?
No. Not really. It has wide swaths of everything.
And that's why it is a classic among classics.
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