Judy's Reviews > Les Misérables

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
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May 27, 10

Read in May, 2010

It took me four months and a change of translation to get through this enormous novel. I'm very glad to have read it and can see why it is revered as a great classic, yet I'll admit I often found it a struggle to go on reading and have mixed feelings about it. Really I would like to give five stars to some of the greatest sections, like the opening part about the priest, the barricades and some of the other sections focusing on great characters Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Eponine and Gavroche.

But I'd give two stars to some of the very long sermonising passages such as the description of the battle of Waterloo and the chapters discussing convents and the character of Louis Philippe. I did also notice that characters often declaim for pages on end rather than having conversations. I suspect I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd gone with the Norman Denny translation from the start, since his dialogue flows much better than that of Julie Rose, whose translation I read up to the halfway point or so. And, of course, I'm sure it is much greater in French - but it would probably take me the rest of my life to read it in the original!
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Reading Progress

04/18/2010 page 560
45.45%
04/23/2010 page 682
55.36% "Getting there slowly - more than halfway through now! Just when it was getting exciting again, I'm up to a whole section on French history." 4 comments
04/27/2010 page 720
58.44% "Now that I've changed translations I'm hoping to finish the book much more quickly, as this is a much smoother read."
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Comments (showing 1-23)




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Maria Judy, we're reading it together. I've waited for so long to read this, and I will say that Hugo has already sucked me in. My copy is translated by a man, Wilbur(?). How far are you?

Anyway, I'm savoring it.


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy I'm not very far in yet, Maria - a little way into book 2 of the first volume, so Jean Valjean has just come into the story. Hugo has sucked me in too and I really like the writing style of the translator of this edition, Julie Rose. I think it will probably take me a very long time to read it, but I'm savouring it too.


Maria I'm glad you love it too. the translator I've got, Wilbour, Charles, I think, is good, but I haven't even met Valjean yet. I agree this will take a long time, and I like that, because that means I'm covered with books-to-be-read for a long while. I have stuff piled at my bed; next is Alice Munro.


Maria The right translation makes such a difference, doesn't it? Now I'd like to see the movie, too.


message 19: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Sorry to be slow in replying, Maria - for some reason Goodreads has stopped emailing me comments from the site. I also want to see one or two of the movie versions as soon as I finally finish reading it! The translator has definitely mde a big difference for me.


message 18: by Maria (last edited May 05, 2010 05:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maria GR has also stopped e-mailing certain comments but not others. Most peculiar, not to mention certain e-mails that arrive months later. So it's become selective! In case you get this, have you ever read the Goriot book by Balzac?


message 17: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy I did actually get this comment emailed, thanks, Maria! Yes, I have read Pere Goriot and liked it very much - it was a few years ago now but I still remember it quite well. I don't remember who the translator was, though. It reminded me a bit of King Lear.


Cynthia Judy wrote: "I did actually get this comment emailed, thanks, Maria! Yes, I have read Pere Goriot and liked it very much - it was a few years ago now but I still remember it quite well. I don't remember who the..."

How funny you should mention Shakespeare. Another GR friend and I happen to be reading Les Miz at the same time and she mentioned how Shakespearean all the coincidences are in this as well. Since Balzac and Hugo were writing about the same time it makes sense though. I'm ~1100 pages in.


message 15: by Maria (last edited May 06, 2010 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maria I love these guys. Lear is my very favorite play (of his).

I'm starting Goriot after I finish A Mountains of Crumbs, because a friend wrote it and I'd like to express enthusiasm soon. I am VERY far behind.


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Huge apologies, Cynthia and Maria, I hadn't seen your comments here! I'm guessing you finished before I did, as they weren't emailed, again! I'm guessing you finished well before I did, Cynthia.


Maria Hello, Judy (and Cynthia),

Did you enjoy it as much as I did, I wonder? I really adored it, and frankly couldn't put it down. People sometimes suffer during the long descriptive stretches but that's what I loved most. I feel the author is my great-uncle or someone dear and familiar, somewhat didactic, old fashioned, pompous almost, who's setting me straight whether I want to be set straight or not.


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy I'm afraid I'm one of those who suffered during those long descriptive stretches, but I did love some parts and am glad to have read it.


Teresa Judy wrote: "I'm afraid I'm one of those who suffered during those long descriptive stretches, but I did love some parts and am glad to have read it."

Hi, Judy. I remembering struggling during the Waterloo passage, too, but everything else I loved. And, yes, translations can make such a big difference.


Maria Waterloo was one of my favorite parts! And the dissertion on argot. Well, all his "asides."


Teresa Maria wrote: "Waterloo was one of my favorite parts! And the dissertion on argot. Well, all his "asides.""

Have you read "Hunchback," Maria? If not, I know you'll love his big 'aside' passage on architecture ;) that was the only part I struggled through in that book.


message 8: by Ann (new)

Ann Glad you finished Lez Miz-so glad. Our sons know that sometimes I do NOT finish the many books I read. Hugo is one of the authors I much admire and want to understand him. Rodin supposedly caught author struggle in sculpture, but seems I dont get that either. My uncles are mostly herdsmen.


message 7: by Cynthia (last edited May 29, 2010 11:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cynthia Ann wrote: "Rodin supposedly caught author struggle in sculpture, ..."

Ann if you're ever anywhere near LA there's a whole room full of Rodin sculptures at the Los Angeles County Art Museum......


Judy Thanks, Ann - I doubted I would finish this one at times but got there in the end.:)


message 5: by Ann (new)

Ann What a good tip, planning to be at Los Angeles in August and is not Rodin sculpture but bronze. Wondering if "Hunchback" may be Hugo that I know best, but passage on architecture escapes me.


Cynthia There's one in front of the Norton Simon too.....the burghers of ???


Teresa Ann wrote: "What a good tip, planning to be at Los Angeles in August and is not Rodin sculpture but bronze. Wondering if "Hunchback" may be Hugo that I know best, but passage on architecture escapes me."

Is that a Rodin in your new profile pic, Ann? (Great photo, btw.) It looks mythological.


message 2: by Ann (new)

Ann Thanx, Youth, Maturity and Old Age as Rodin's objectives, portraying Hugo muse and certainly must be mythological. 'Les Orientales', 'Les Châtiments' and 'Meditation' may have been inspiration. Just as Wister will be remembered above Remington, think Hugo's work might surpass Rodin-mebbe not.


Teresa Ann wrote: "Thanx, Youth, Maturity and Old Age as Rodin's objectives, portraying Hugo muse and certainly must be mythological. 'Les Orientales', 'Les Châtiments' and 'Meditation' may have been inspiration. Jus..."

Ah, yes, now that I know it, I can see that it's Hugo.


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