Ceri’s Monday Updates (#21)


Today I shall be reviewing what I’ve read so far of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I have only read the first 50 odd pages, but I would like to comment on what I’ve read so far.

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean – the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. In Les Misérables Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breath-taking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope – an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

I have seen the movie version, so I roughly know what happens. I am struggling a bit with understanding the text at the moment, as it isn’t part of what is in the movie, so I can’t understand what is happening all of the time. What would be helpful is if it was written in the first person, because I feel like I keep getting thrown into different situations where I don’t know who the focus is supposed to be on.

At the moment it feels like I’m wading through marsh. There are many parts that I really don’t think are necessary, they just confuse me more. I feel as though I’ve been reading nothing because all I’ve read so far is a Bishop going round villages being nice. I understand the importance of setting the scene, however do you really need 50 pages about a Bishop that is only in the movie for two minutes?

I find it strange the way the book is structured. It is split into very short chapters, which really don’t help me with reading the book as the numbers disrupt my flow. In addition to this, there are receipt type lists, letters and essay type sections placed at random intervals in the text. Again, this disrupts my flow, which does not help me reflect on what I’ve just read as others might suggest. Surely Hugo could just describe these things, weaving them somehow into the story.

After all of this, I am still feeling optimistic as I think I will learn a lot from this book, including better syntax and vocabulary, which I am very much in need of. I do find the concept of the book boring (it’s not my cup of tea), yet I do feel it’s important for me to read this much loved book that will widen my reading horizon (if that’s a thing!).


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