Some Thoughts on Les Miserables

I did it. I finished Les Miserables. There were no pages missing. I wasn’t bored. I didn’t drift off. I finished it and it was glorious.

I loved this book. I loved it. It was so beautiful and uplifting but heartbreaking and devastating all at the same time. I belong to Victor Hugo for life.

Do you think I’m being a shade overdramatic? Perhaps. But this book really was incredible.

I saw the movie before I read the book, which means that some of my reading experience was for sure coloured by that. For instance, in the book Marius is really not friendly to Eponine. And I found myself disappointed by that because I was so into that unrequited love angle in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell that Eponine is into Marius. But it’s harder to get behind the idea when Marius is being kind of a dick to her all the time. Why do some women fall for cruel men? Marius in the book is not nearly as heart-throbby as Eddie Redmayne’s Marius. But was Mr. Darcy hot before he was Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? I don’t know. For me, they are one and the same. It might be the same thing with Marius. Although he really disappointed me when Jean Valjean came clean with him and Marius kind of turned against him and didn’t want Cosette to see him anymore.

He’s her dad Marius. He saved your life!

(Marius didn’t know this at the time. He made up for it. But it was a shade too late.)

I think Gavroche was actually my favourite character in the book. Jean Valjean is clearly the best character ever- everything he does is motivated out of a wish to be good and do the right thing. But while Valjean’s sainthood can sometimes be exasperating (can you just not go try and clear that other man’s name? Can you just leave it?!), Gavroche is a cheeky devil. He’s still concerned with doing right, but mostly by himself. He’s a street urchin, he needs to eat and he will do whatever he needs to. When he ends up taking care of two little boys (his brothers, but he doesn’t know that) who have lost their home…oh man. I don’t know if there’s a better illustration of poverty in France at the time than this. And then when he dies? Poor little man!

Obviously it’s a long book. And there were moments when I thought that I might never get through it. But they never lasted very long because even on his tangents of war and faith and love and goodness, Hugo always has a point. The story is so skillfully crafted – everything has meaning. Characters that you encountered early on, come back to be significant later. Finally, everything is tied together so perfectly. There might not be a more satisfying ending.

Despite its size, I’m actually contemplating reading this again one day. It was that good. In the meantime, I have the soundtrack to bring me back there.