I finished Les Mis! Actually I finished it Monday. I don’t really know what to say, it was just really really good. I was in school when I finished it, and frankly I was pretty offended that the world had the nerve to just go on turning as if nothing had changed. I personally had to take a time out from life for about ten minutes to come to grips with reality again. Then I had to go to class. But I don’t think a classic book has ever affected me like that before. I find myself wanting to read more before I remember that I already finished it. I’m having separation issues. I try to compensate by listening to the four songs from the musical I have on my ipod over and over again, but it’s not enough. I don’t want to read anything else.
I think everyone should read this book, even if you think you already know the story. It was shockingly easy to read most of the time (bear in mind I did read the unabridged version, so a few scenes could have been shorter, but this could be easily remedied for someone who doesn’t want to read 1463 pages). The story, of course, was awesome, with intertwining plotlines, complex characters, fascinating ethical dilemmas, and heart pounding action. I don’t think I breathed for several chapters during an exciting scene that never made it to the movie where Jean Valjean accidentally gets buried alive in a coffin (I know, now you want to know what happens, right?!) I think the book was better than the movie (although I have a lot of respect for the movie, they did a great job) because they rushed through some parts that were much more suspenseful and gripping in the book. In the movie some problems were solved before we could even get worked up about them. The book went into a lot more depth with the feelings and ethical dilemmas characters faced; I felt that the characters were much more fleshed out.
My favorite part of the book, however, was the precisely crafted language. We just don’t have beautiful language like that anymore! This alone is enough for me to recommend people read the book instead of just watching the movie and dismissing the story.
My favorite quote in the book (although it’s very hard to pick) pertains to Fantine because I like to think it applies to me too:
” I say nothing about Fantine, she is visionary, dreamy, pensive, sensitive; she is a phantom with the form of a nymph and the modesty of a nun, who has strayed into the life of a grisette but takes refuge in illusions and sings, and prays and gazes at the blue sky without knowing clearly what she is seeing or what she is doing, and who, with eyes fixed on heaven, wanders in a garden among more birds than exist there” (Hugo 137).
Isn’t that lovely? Who wouldn’t want to read that?! This should be required reading for everybody. Perhaps a “must read” if you want to move on to adulthood or something. I don’t know. I’m not in charge. But if I was, I’d force you to read this book. I can’t, but please read it anyway.
“So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine; so long as the three problems of the century — the degradation of man by the exploitation of his labour, the ruin of women by starvation and the atrophy of childhood by physical and spiritual night– are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words and from a still broader point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, there should be a need for books such as this.” -Hauteville House, 1862