Book Review: Les Miserables

“How wonderful it is to be loved, but how much greater to love! The heart becomes heroic by passion; it rejects everything that is not pure and arms itself with nothing that is not noble and great. An unworthy thought can no longer take root. . in her than a nettle on a glacier. The high and serene spirit, immune to all passion and vile emotion that prevails over the clowns and shadows of this world, the follies, lies, hatred, vanities and miseries, dwells in the blue of the heaven and feel the deep and subterranean changes of destiny no more than the top of the mountain feels the earthquake. “

As I read these lines, I knew how my review was going to begin once I finished the book, and that I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to hear it.

Les Miserables definitely counts as one of my favorite books and is, perhaps, one of the best works in all of literature. No wonder Ayn Rand looked up to Victor Hugo.

Be prepared, therefore, for a really long review The genius and master storyteller that Hugo is, the 1201 pages (the rest were relegated to the appendix by the translator) made for a quick read (except the account of the battle of Waterloo, ‘some pages of history’ and the French sewer system, all of which I completely skipped). The many twists and turns, the resurgence of characters that I considered irrelevant, in the most unexpected places to take the story in a whole new direction made it completely captivating, save for a few places where perhaps Hugo struggled with his editor and succeeded. One point to make sure that whatever I had written would find a place in the final work, for example the 3 examples mentioned above that tested my patience on the first few pages and which I blamelessly skipped over. The eloquent prose and lofty thoughts did a good job of transporting me to a different world and inspiring me with the daydream that makes a person write poetry. Believe me, as your eyes adorn the pages, all your finer sensibilities will be awakened and you will be intoxicated by idealism and beauty. As Howard Roark said, “For the glory of man.” That’s what this book is about: a story of heroism. Now, as Hugo himself said, “this book is a drama in which the protagonist is infinity.”

Jean Valjean, the protagonist and his savior Monseigneur Bienvenu will make you want to be a better person. First in the second. Show this: “Do not ask the name of the person who is looking for a bed for the night. He who refuses to give his name is the one who most needs shelter … We must never fear thieves or murderers. They are dangers outside, small dangers. It is ourselves that we have to fear. Prejudice is the real thief and vice the real murderer. ” He could go on talking about his “sublime absurdities of goodness” and how “peaceful in his solitude, worshiping, equating the tranquility of the heavens with the tranquility of his own heartbeat, rapt in the shadows by the visible and invisible splendors of God. , opened his spirit to the thoughts that came from the unknown “and how in all this” he did not scrutinize God but let his eyes dazzle “but what moved me the most, in addition to his meeting with Jean Valjean, was his delicacy:” Is there not true evangelism in the delicacy that refrains from preaching and moralizing? Avoid probing an open wound, isn’t that the most sincere sympathy? ” Okay, now on to one of the most moving parts of the story: the episode where Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, finds shelter, food, and most importantly humane treatment, in the bishop’s place and his soul to the devil and buy it. for God through the bishop. “Like an owl surprised by a sudden dawn, he was blinded by the glow of virtue.” Yes, dear reader, I have Les Miserables open by my side and this review will have many citations directly from the book (I have not yet passed 200 pages!).

I had hunches of what would happen to Fantine, but I thought Hugo was extremely cruel for her to die the way he did. His feelings for his daughter, which Hugo describes along with his observations about the miracles that children are, are sublime. And the ‘storm in the skull’ of Monsieur Madeleine and what he finally does in response to his conscience is extremely moving. Particularly moving was Mr. Madelene when he observed in the courtroom that in the previous case “he had been tried in the absence of God.” The same goes for the part about Fantine’s grave: “Fortunately, God knows where to look for our souls.”

Part 1 took me longer and, having reached book 2 of part 2, little by little I became aware that I had in my hands a book that I was sure to fall in love with. I was impressed, but not much, by then. My opinion changed very soon. Jean Valejean’s encounter with Cosette and their journey to happiness as father and daughter united by providence are mixed with prose so tender that one can hardly help but be moved. Take this: “To be by her bedside watching while she slept was to experience a shiver of ecstasy. She discovered the agonizing tenderness of a mother without knowing what it was, because nothing is deeper and sweeter than the overwhelming urge of a heart suddenly touched love. , An aged and sad heart made new! … Nothing is more enchanting than the glow of happiness in the midst of misery. There is a rose-tinted attic in all our lives. ” These lines beautifully summarize what these two souls were to each other: “He protected her and she sustained him. Thanks to him she was able to move on in life and thanks to her she was able to continue virtuous. He was the child’s support and she her bra “. . Sublime and unfathomable wonder of the balance of destiny! “

Javert chasing Jean Valejean and the fantastic entrance to the convent, both the first and the second time are phenomenal. Javert’s character at all times and his death are also excellent read. And more interesting is the hand of providence that ensured that it was the same convent in which old Fauchelevent had been working, who “having the opportunity to do a good work, clung to it with the eagerness of a dying man who offered him some rare crop that he had never tasted before. ” The character of the new gravedigger is also interesting: “In the morning I write love letters and in the afternoon I dig graves. That’s life.” Hugo was a genius, I repeat.

The third part turned out to be more charming than the previous two. Marius’s discovery of his father, the polishing of his character in poverty, and subsequently his love for Cosette, all were philosophy and prose poetry at its finest. I could name many, but exercising the power of choice scares me. Some of the most poignant and deeply moving lines, lines full of beauty and eloquence, have been slow to describe the love that Marius and Cosette shared and, if I start to quote, the 13,400 characters left for this review on Goodreads would be over without me I would have proceeded to the next part. This alone should suffice to say that the confessions of Marius and Cosette constitute one of the most tender ways in which love is announced in literature. I will not forget, for a long, long time to come, everything that preceded this: “And little by little they began to speak. The outpouring followed the silence that is plenitude.”

Gabroche’s was another unforgettable character and the night he spent with his two younger brothers without knowing their identity, affectionate and protective, and fun despite everything, was endearing. The revolution did not surprisingly quench the passion I had developed for the book by then, eventually reading part 3 onwards to the last in 2 flat sessions. Marius’s conversation with his grandfather after 5 years was food for thought for the psychology student in me, and the separation that followed, for both of them, was heartbreaking. From then on, dare I say, a different level is reached as the build-up was such that I couldn’t put the book down. Marius’s recovery, his grandfather’s ecstasy … the story seemed to be heading towards a happy ending. The sight of the old man praying for the first time in his life was moving again. But the confessions of that other old man and Cosette’s growing indifference put me on guard for a tragic end. Perhaps Marius would learn of the good works of this other father only after death had already separated them. This thought shook me and I’m glad it didn’t happen. However, Jean Valjean’s redemption and Marius’ recognition of the old man’s true worth were too much, as the lump in my throat threatened to burst and the tears that welled up in my eyes took on a life of their own and just wouldn’t stop. Again, I cannot quote those parts because there are simply too many. Thank goodness it was a happy ending. That’s all I could think of as tears ran down my cheeks as my eyes caressed the last 4 lines:

He sleeps. Although so much was denied,

He lived; and when his beloved love left him, he died.

passed by itself in the quiet way

That in the afternoon, the night follows the day.

I don’t know why … but books like these make me fall in love with God, even more …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *