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The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Winner of the American Library in Paris Book Award, 2017

'Never mind those self-help manuals urging that some classic novel may change your life; in this sparkling study of the birth, growth and afterlife of Hugo's evergreen blockbuster, David Bellos argues that Les Misérables already has' Boyd Tonkin, Economist

'Any reader who
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 26th 2017 by Particular Books
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Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Subtitled, “The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Miserables,” this tells the story of how this classic novel was imagined, written, published and the many ways in which it has been filmed and staged since it first appeared. The author is keen to say that, even though “Les Miserables,” is a pretty hefty novel, it is, in fact, 365 chapters – so, were you to read one chapter a day, you could finish this within a year. Last year, I tackled Proust’s, “In Search of Lost Time,” in a similar way and I ...more
Sorry guys but there are better books on this subject - Les Miserables & Victor Hugo (all available @Project Gutenberg)

Victor Hugo by Théophile Gautier. See my review here.

In: Vie de Henri Brulard by Stendhal (n 2 volumes). See my review here.

In: My memoirs by Alexandre Dumas (in 6 volumes). See my review here.

From BBc Radio 4: Book of the week:
David Bellos explores why Les Miserables is "France's greatest gift". He reveals its inspirations and its resonance now, while describing Victor

Description: David Bellos explores why Les Miserables is "France's greatest gift". He reveals its inspirations and its resonance now, while describing Victor Hugo's life as he penned his epic.

There has never been a book like it. War and Peace, Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment were all published in the same decade, yet only Les Misérables can stand as the novel of the nineteenth century. How did Victor Hugo's epic work come to be the most widely
Roman Clodia
Nov 14, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a great read for fans of Les Miserables, either the original novel or the musical with which so many are familiar. It's written with undoubted passion and enthusiasm but I have to say that it's lightweight and 'popular' for a book written by a professor of literature at Princeton. I read it hoping for something more enlightening, more scholarly, and instead got a bright and lively narrative that jumps around and is full of interesting snippets (why the colour red is associated with ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Bettie
Shelves: real-books, 2019
25 JAN 2017 - a recommendation through Bettie. Thank you, Dear Lady.

30 AUG 2019 - a good companion to Les Miserables providing behind the scene detail and information a book nerd like me appreciates.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books
You'd think that a book about such a fascinating novel would be more interesting.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
‘The Novel of the Century’ began at a disadvantage: I’d already read The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and "Les Miserables" by Mario Vargas Llosa. It’s hard for another book about Les Mis to compete with that beautifully written ode to Hugo’s masterwork. On balance, though, I think the two are complementary. Vargas Llosa tackles the sublimity of Les Mis, which Bellos doesn’t really approach. ‘The Novel of the Century’ instead gives the ingenious and quite exciting technical details ...more
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
pretty solid! i knew a good 80% of the information already, but the 20% i didn't was very interesting and articulated well. the book is more a collection of fun snippets with an extremely strong authorial voice – there's not really a narrative or thematic throughline here or much discipline in the way of structure. definitely a more useful and satisfying read for someone who's just a casual fan as opposed to an abject stan such as myself... having written quite significantly on some of the ...more
Sarah Bynum
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the writing of Les Misérables is just as remarkable as the novel itself. If you're mad enough to undertake a reading of the unabridged version, David Bellos' history of this novel is highly recommended. It may very well lend you the patience and fortitude you'll need to survive the Battle of Waterloo.
Quent Cordair
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read, particularly for a writer. A fascinating journey from inception through birth of one of the greatest novels ever written, with the process of publication revealed to be nearly as impressive. The Audible edition, synced with the ebook, is read by the author with exceptional elocution. A truly enjoyable experience all round.
Lorren Eldridge
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Easy to read and full of interesting facts. I suspect it could have been an introduction and footnotes to an edition of Les Mis rather than a book in itself, as every other chapter is really designed to be read alongside the text rather than alone.
Melinda Borie
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Written in a way that makes it very readable. If you are one of the select few to whom this sort of "inside baseball" narrative appeals-- if you like to peek behind the scenes, or if you just love Les Mis a lot-- you'll like this love letter to a classic.
Vivek Tejuja
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love books about books. There is something magical about them that cannot be ignored, say what you will. Books talking about books is almost surreal – not even meta, it is just something that makes you want to pick up the books that are being spoken about and reread them or read them if you haven’t already. This is what happened to me when I finished reading “The Novel of the Century” by David Bellos.

This book is about Les Misérables and how it came to be. I remember watching Les Misérables –
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Bellos does a few things in this book--a lot of it is about the writing and publishing of Les Miserables, describing what he sees as Victor Hugo's intentions for the book and its meaning, but Bellos also gives a lot of information about the history of early 19th century France, what life was like then, the money of the time, symbolism of colors, language, and more. Though I wouldn't describe this text as scholarly, Bellos clearly is a scholar who's done a lot of research and knows a lot of ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bellos is a Princeton literature scholar who specializes in French Literature, and with this book, he examines one of the most important pieces of French literatutre, Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. The book is part Hugo biography, literature analysis, French social history, and an overview of the publishing process. The result is pretty interesting read, particularly for fans of the book or the various movies and plays that have been based upon it.

I picked this up after it was suggested to me by
Laurel Hicks
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Intriguing study of Victor Hugo, his writing of Les Misérables, and the huge book itself. Worthy of another read.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this biography of the novel Les Misérables! Bravo! So many interesting little details and insights about Hugo, the story’s plot and the actual writing and publishing. It never got boring!
Nick Senger
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, favorites, 2017
The short answer is that if you love the novel or the musicalLes Misérables, thenyes, you should run right out and buy a copy of The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure ofLes Misérablesby David Bellos. If you are what Cameron Mackintosh calls a "Les Mis freak," then this book is definitely for you. But it is also for those who love literature in general, who love a good "behind-the-scenes" documentary, who are fascinated by literary history, or who love reading about how authors ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a terrific book. Of course it makes you want to sit down and read the 1000 or so pages of Les Misérables, a book I read some years ago, and couldn't put down as it reached its ending. But it does so much more: from every point of view, Bellos informs you about things that you didn't know in relation to the book and its very long writing and rewriting. You find history, geography, language, sociology and much more all woven into the background story, and discover things you wouldn't have ...more
Jason Wilson
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A warm and knowledgeable tribute to one of my fave novels that gives plenty of background and history . A pleasure
Hannah Grant
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for books on Les Miserables, this is excellent. Bellos' diction is incredible; he's definitely both a literature and French professor.
Feb 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book started off slow, it did pick up in the second half and I enjoyed the behind the scenes anecdotes of what went into the writing and publishing of the book at the time.
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
First sentence from chapter one: Victor-Marie Hugo was born in 1802 in the garrison twon of Besancon, where his father was stationed.

Premise/plot: The Novel of the Century tells the story of Les Miserables. It seeks to do two things, really: 1) It tells how Victor Hugo came to write, edit, and publish Les Miserables; 2) It discusses the impact of the novel since its publication to the present day. It is a book for literature majors and/or history majors, especially. It is simply packed with
I loved this book, The Novel by David Bellos. I'm not even a fan of Les Miz. It's like you just picked up a book and belatedly found that, wow this is good! And now I want to read its subject Les Misérables because I realized that I've never known Hugo's work, only others' interpretation of it, despite a book (abridged), a musical, and a movie.

"'I do not know whether it will be read by all,' [Hugo] told the publisher of the Italian translation [of Les Misérables ], 'but I wrote it for
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating! The story of Victor Hugo and how he wrote Les Miserables (LM), my favorite book!!! This interpretation was like reading an annotated copy....WOW, the stories between the lines are positively amazing. Truly!!!

LM was greatly influenced by Hugo's exile from France by LouisNapoleon. I love that French history.

Colors -- who knew the influence and perspective of the colors used in the story.
Coinage -- the multiple names of the coinage in the story stipulated social status!
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an accessible history and analysis of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Bellos, a translator and professor of French at Princeton, is most concerned with some of the social and political messages of Hugo's novel, but he does range widely, with chapters on everything from Hugo's use of language, dialect, and Latin to monetary conventions in the time the novel was set and what this reveals about the varying characters.

The book's introduction provides a brief summary of Les Misérables's plot,
Decent enough in most parts however, the author comes off as aggressively centrist which means his section on the politics suffers greatly.

He states that the politics of the use of the June Rebellion are difficult to assess without knowing what changes Hugo made when including the events, which is true, however, he then fails to show the changes at all, doesn't give the context or even any real information about the events, doesn't mention the political climate (most notably the earlier Canut
Richard Smith
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
When you've finished climbing a literary mountain like Les Miserables there's something gratifying about revisiting the book by reading a book about the book. I've done the same with Middlemarch. I didn't know that Les Miserables was by most measures "the greatest novel of the 19th century," but I did know that Victor Hugo had two million people at his funeral in Paris ( a world record?), so he'd clearly achieved something special--and Les Miserables is it, although I do remember greatly ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a historical view of one of the greatest novels of all time, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. David Bellos, a professor of French and comparative literature at Princeton University, has done a masterful job of tracing the history of how Hugo wrote this novel. It's not just the how, but it's the why, especially in the context of the times in which Hugo lived.

At times, with all the names, I did find it a little confusing to keep track of, but overall, Bellos has really piqued my interest in
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David Bellos (born 1945) is the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also a professor of French and comparative literature. He has won many awards for his translations of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare, and others, including the Man Booker International Translator’s Award. He also received the Prix Goncourt for George Perec: A ...more