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Les Misérables
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1001 books > Les Miserables

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message 1: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
This is our January 1001 2013 book. I'm putting the topic up early to give advance notice and because I want to allow early discussion on the book. Remember to please mark all spoilers with a spoiler tag!


Renee This is quite a long book. Are making it a two month read or just one month?


message 3: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
As with all books we start it in one month and the discussion continues on for as long as everyone needs to read it. After all not everyone will want to read this book next month still and not everyone will want to read our other 1001 book next month. I just finished this by the way and fully recommend it!


message 4: by Corey (new)

Corey | 12 comments If anyone uses a Kindle I found a great version of book for order on Amazon. I had a big ass book but could not use it, felt like a 20 lb. rock in my hand. So here it is.

http://www.amazon.com/Misérables-Tran...

I am 6% into the book and it is great so far. The bishop is such a great role model.


Kyle | 80 comments Mod
This book has been hanging over my head for years. "Yeah, I'll read that some day," I always say. "Sure, sure. I'll buckle down and get to it next month," I proclaim with at the time sincerity.

Well the new year is starting, and there is no more room for me to hide. To kick off my New Year's resolution, I will begin reading this book in January and I will not allow myself to read anything else until I have conquered it. Thank you, my dear goodreads group, for forcing this book upon me and pledging to provide companionship for the trudge through it. See you on the other side...


message 6: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "This book has been hanging over my head for years. "Yeah, I'll read that some day," I always say. "Sure, sure. I'll buckle down and get to it next month," I proclaim with at the time sincerity.

W..."


Good luck. I can promise it will be worth it!


Claire It was one of the books I wanted to read for a long time but because of its length and detail I found it quite intimidating and hard to read. In the end I found it a lot more enjoyable as a audio book would recommend that as an option if anyone struggles with it :-)


message 8: by Bev (new) - added it

Bev (greenginger) | 296 comments Likewise I will probably download a kindle copy as I hate heavy books these days. If anyone knows of one for Amazon Uk let me know.


Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Jonathan wrote: "Kyle wrote: "This book has been hanging over my head for years. "Yeah, I'll read that some day," I always say. "Sure, sure. I'll buckle down and get to it next month," I proclaim with at the time s..."

Thanks Jonathan. I really shouldn't be so hesitant, since the Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my favorites of all time, and I should be eager to read more Hugo. Perhaps part of it is that, in my mind, Les Miserables has a sort of vaunted status as not just a classic, but one of the classics. Unlike Notre Dame De Paris, Les Mis seems to occupy a hallowed ground of classic.

I'll certainly see if what I say ends up being true to me, but perhaps because I love Notre Dame so much, I'm afraid of being disappointed by Hugo with Les Mis. Either way... I'm committed now. No turning back.


message 10: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "Unlike Notre Dame De Paris, Les Mis seems to occupy a hallowed ground of classic."

Yes, a book like Notre Dame De Paris, while it certainly is a classic and has shaped how we view French literature and the Notre Dame Les Miserables is one of those classics which seems to have everything. It's like an essential, universal tale...


message 11: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Just started it, and came across the author's preface:

"...as long as there shall be on earth ignorance and wretchedness, books of the nature of this one cannot be useless."

... Oh my, what have I gotten myself in to? :D


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

Ben (benkaboo) | 6 comments All right I'm in. I've got an ebook and I'm a measly 1.5 percent in. So far I'm reading about this bishop guy who's basically awesome and I'm wondering how he's going to figure into the rest of the story.


message 13: by Corey (new)

Corey | 12 comments Ben-

The Bishop will be significant in the character change of Jean Valjean. The first 2-3 chapters of Bishop's life were kinda rough but the book then starts to flow rather easy. That is until around 22% in with the Battle of Waterloo. I had to read, reread and find synopsis on the internet.

Stick with it and good luck....


message 14: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Corey wrote: "Ben-

The Bishop will be significant in the character change of Jean Valjean. The first 2-3 chapters of Bishop's life were kinda rough but the book then starts to flow rather easy. That is until a..."


At least The Battle of Waterloo part was a smaller mention though...


message 15: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Yes, I can't say I'm sorry to be done with book 1 and its lengthy descriptions of the bishop and his life.

Yet, allow me to play the devil's advocate a little bit and ask the group this: is the bishop even believable as a character? Aside from a bit of narrow political thinking shown during the bedside visit to the old Republican, the bishop is more than just a stand-up guy. He's the archetypal saint.

Are there people who are actually as "good" as the bishop? Is it even possible for someone to be as selfless as him, or does human nature get in the way too much?

These are issues I constantly toyed with as I was reading all the different ways the bishop's virtue and piety manifest themselves.


message 16: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "Yes, I can't say I'm sorry to be done with book 1 and its lengthy descriptions of the bishop and his life.

Yet, allow me to play the devil's advocate a little bit and ask the group this: is the b..."


That's why I liked when Hugo also hinted at other elements which suggested the bishop wasn't perfect. I actually have met people pretty close to perfect like that. I mean if you want to live that kind of life you'll have to have that kind of personality I guess...


message 17: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
True, he did hint at a less virtuous past for the bishop. Though I suppose it's not hard to be less virtuous.

Perhaps I'm merely too cynical and jaded, but I'm not sure I've known of a person as kind and accepting as the bishop.


message 18: by Liz (new) - rated it 3 stars

Liz Hunt Kyle I know what you mean. It sits on the shelf and I haven't touched it because its one of those books.

I also saw it on stage when I was twelve and was utterly riveted. So I've been kinda worried about how my impression of the stage will affect the book.

Have read two per cent of it so far and am really enjoying but still waiting for characters I recognise lol


message 19: by Redd (new)

Redd Kaiman (reddkaiman) | 2 comments I'm wondering whether to watch the movie, the play, or the book first.

Check out my webcomic: http://reddkaiman.blogspot.com/2013/0...


message 20: by Corey (new)

Corey | 12 comments Can someone answer as to why Hugo would write 50 pages on Nun life in convents? I so need a stiff drink after absorbing myself in something that seriously does not have anything to do with the story. I feel like we are reading a great 5 star book and then wham another commercial for 50 pages.

Love the book but does anybody know why except to give us a tour of the 1800's France at the time?


Claire Jonathan wrote: "Corey wrote: "Ben-

The Bishop will be significant in the character change of Jean Valjean. The first 2-3 chapters of Bishop's life were kinda rough but the book then starts to flow rather easy. T..."


I think some of the characters are implausible but its one of the things I like about the book. I think he exaggerated characters to help the story, make a point or show people at the best that they could be rather than worry about how realistic they would seem


message 22: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Corey wrote: "Can someone answer as to why Hugo would write 50 pages on Nun life in convents? I so need a stiff drink after absorbing myself in something that seriously does not have anything to do with the sto..."

I obviously can't really speak for V. Hugo and I haven't gotten to the convent part yet so I'll have a better opinion when I get to it, but judging by his preface of the book he set out to write not just a novel, but a book to change the world. He was intentionally trying to write a social and political commentary about society at the time, and it seems he often had the desire to stop for a moment and highlight something he thought was important for us to know (regardless of whether it actually had anything to do with the story of the novel).

I'm still probably not even a quarter of the way through the book yet, so everything I just said/will say could be complete horsehockey, but my guess is that once we are finally finished with the book we will look back on all these tangents with a degree of fondness, and still consider them an important part of the book. I read and loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hugo still had numerous tangents in that book too. Yet, I would still never approve of anyone reading an abridged version, since I think all of it, even the imperfections, are part of what make the book great.


message 23: by Kyle (last edited Jan 06, 2013 02:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Claire wrote: "I think some of the characters are implausible but its one of the things I like about the book. I think he exaggerated characters to help the story, make a point or show people at the best that they could be rather than worry about how realistic they would seem "

I see what you mean. Some writers try to throw people into extreme caricatures in order to better show and deal with the broad spectrum of humanity (Gormenghast is the most profound example I can think of where it works perfectly). The trick in making it successful however, is still making those characters relatable so we can connect to them as human beings.

Perhaps I'm simply too flawed to be able to relate to the bishop, I don't know, but I had trouble accepting him as a character. (view spoiler) On the other hand, I actually think Javert is a very well done character. He too is a character who represents an extreme wing of human psychology, yet underneath all his superlative sense of right, wrong, and duty there is still a sense of humanity which, as a reader, I can latch on to better than I could with the bishop.


message 24: by Corey (new)

Corey | 12 comments Kyle wrote: "Corey wrote: "Can someone answer as to why Hugo would write 50 pages on Nun life in convents? I so need a stiff drink after absorbing myself in something that seriously does not have anything to d..."

Hugo does set up the setting for each book very well for the coming chapters ahead in each book. I guess I see now why the book was abridged and I agree with you Kyle, the unabridged version is the way to go.
I saw the Les Miz movie this weekend and have to say it was worth seeing. Highly recommend. If the film does not win the oscar over the madly boring Lincoln I will be shocked.


message 25: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
So, it seems a lot of people didn't really dig the whole battle of Waterloo part, and I can understand that. Stuff is happening, Jean Valjean does some serious stuff, and then... rewind in time to Waterloo. I agree it makes for a bit of an abrupt change, but I feel I must make a confession: I loved the Waterloo part. Of course, it helps that I'm a total Napoleonic Wars nerd and get my jollies off an nearly anything Napoleonic.

But my nerdiness aside, I thought it was actually a very well written and riveting account of Waterloo; it's better than some of my books on the Napoleonic wars! But oh!...the part with Cambronne! So, so beautiful. I was breathless. It gave me the chills the way the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae does, but more so. Where the account of Leonidas and his warriors, surrounded my the multitude of Xerxes's army is more 'mythic' feeling, the account of Cambronne and the last guard regiment was more 'heroic.'

And I would even go so far as to say that perhaps Hugo wasn't as on such a severe tangent as we might believe at first. To Hugo, Cambronne is the ultimate hero. A common man, a pleb, who found the inner strength to stand up for what he believes in while facing no hope of coming out on top. We can see Hugo's ideal citizen hero in Cambronne, we can see the mother who is sacrificing everything for the daughter she can't remember. We see the Mayor who has everything, give it all up for what he believes to be right. Hugo proclaims Cambronne to be the true victor at Waterloo, and the parallel is clear. No matter how desperate one's situation is, no mater how certain our own doom, if we stand up for ourselves, our ideals, and simply shout "merde!" in the face of the world arrayed against us, then even if we fail we still win.

I apologize for the rant (it seems Hugo might be rubbing off on me), but I think that even if the account of Waterloo is making your eyes glaze over, if troops movements and commanders' names are blending your brain into salsa, then I completely understand. But I think it's all worth it for the account of Cambronne and the last guard regiment, who so nicely synthesize what the whole book is about.

Or perhaps it was just silly old me who was so moved. :)


message 26: by Corey (new)

Corey | 12 comments Thanks Kyle for your review of the WATERLOO SECTION.
I do know after reading into the 40 percent Mark that the last few chapters of WATERLOO do come into play in future chapters. The awful innkeeper is involved. Guess he is not completely evil.


message 27: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (benkaboo) | 6 comments Kyle wrote: "So, it seems a lot of people didn't really dig the whole battle of Waterloo part, and I can understand that. Stuff is happening, Jean Valjean does some serious stuff, and then... rewind in time to ..."

That sounds pretty good, I'm at 18% at the moment and have been mentally 'bracing' for waterloo (which my wife told me was a bit tough to get through). I think I'll read the section with fresh eyes now, so thanks.


message 28: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Corey wrote: "Can someone answer as to why Hugo would write 50 pages on Nun life in convents? I so need a stiff drink after absorbing myself in something that seriously does not have anything to do with the sto..."

I think I'd agree with the comment that he set out to write a book to change the world. I also really think it's a chronicle of history in many ways. It seems to me that Hugo saw all these things going on and went 'alright I'm going to write these all down for people to read.' Of course writing styles were a little different back then too I mean he wouldn't get away with it now. I must also mention that the intro to the version I read called him 'the Mr Toad of literature' - or in other words a pompous writer with too much ambition but one still loveable despite the excesses.

Redd wrote: "I'm wondering whether to watch the movie, the play, or the book first.

Check out my webcomic: http://reddkaiman.blogspot.com/2013/0..."


I'd always recommend the book first since adaptations are things which build onto any story and it gives you the best chance to see whether the story is something you like the idea of or which version you like best.


message 29: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Ben wrote: "Kyle wrote: "So, it seems a lot of people didn't really dig the whole battle of Waterloo part, and I can understand that. Stuff is happening, Jean Valjean does some serious stuff, and then... rewin..."

Excellent! I think by the time you are through it, you will look back and appreciate it. :)


message 30: by Kyle (last edited Jan 13, 2013 12:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Jonathan wrote: I think I'd agree with the comment that he set out to write a book to change the world. I also really think it's a chronicle of history in many ways. It seems to me that Hugo saw all these things going on and went..."

That's an interesting way to put that Jonathan, and I think you're right. It's as though the book is less of a novel, and more of a chronicle; a record of the time, the people, the challenges faced, and some explanations for why those challenges might exist at all.

As far as Hugo not being able to get away with his writing style today, I can't disagree, yet when I think about that I become troubled. Not to start a tangent (even though here I go starting a tangent), but do we hold classics to a different standard than books today? Could Les Miserables even make it to print in the present? I'll leave those for other people to answer, since I'm not sure I can.


Snoozie Suzie (snooziesuzie) So I cheated and listened to the abridged version, although I didn't realise it when I downloaded it until the story seemed to jump a bit and didn't quite flow, at which point I checked and got annoyed at myself. I did enjoy the abridged version but I feel incomplete not knowing the inbetween bits. So don't cheat by going for the abridged version. It's not worth the feeling of 'grrr' afterwards. Do read the whole book.


message 32: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "Jonathan wrote: I think I'd agree with the comment that he set out to write a book to change the world. I also really think it's a chronicle of history in many ways. It seems to me that Hugo saw al..."

Yes, well I do think that today most authors who attempt anything ambitious are often labelled as pretentious. Not to mention that very few people will read anything published now that is of such a higher class like those classics. Most popular books now tend to be very easy reading... Not that that is a problem but it is a slight reflection perhaps on our society, our education and us as readers.


message 33: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
"Yes, well I do think that today most authors who attempt anything ambitious are often labelled as pretentious. Not to mention..."

I have often heard the term "modern classic," yet it seems pinning down exactly what people mean by the term might be too hard for me to make use of it.


message 34: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
I have heard it labelled for books from the 80s which are considered cult classics and books from the 50s like Lord of the Rings which we generally see as classics anyway now.


message 35: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (benkaboo) | 6 comments Well I'm definately through the Wellington section now (around 26%) and I can safely say it was not the scary beast I'd been led to believe.

I found the descriptions of the battle and individual stories of death/survival thrilling and visceral.

Two things I did (which may have helped).

i) Read the wikipedia article on Waterloo (this may have helped to coceptualise the action.

ii) I just let the names of all the officers and other soldiors pretty much wash over me (except maybe the top guys like Wellington and Bonaparte). My interpretation is that they were there to illustrate that these guys were real people with names, not to specify any particular information beyond that.

How did others go with this section when it came up ?


message 36: by Heather (new)

Heather | 3 comments I've decided to take the plunge. Any thoughts on audio vs. reading myself? Right now I'm leaning towards reading it but wanted to see what others thought.


message 37: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (benkaboo) | 6 comments Heather wrote: "I've decided to take the plunge. Any thoughts on audio vs. reading myself? Right now I'm leaning towards reading it but wanted to see what others thought."

A book of this size I'd definately read. It allows you to skim if you have too and I can definately read faster than someone speaking the words to me.


message 38: by Heather (new)

Heather | 3 comments Thanks, I think I'll start tonight!


message 39: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Ben wrote: "Well I'm definately through the Wellington section now (around 26%) and I can safely say it was not the scary beast I'd been led to believe.

I found the descriptions of the battle and individual ..."


I'm glad you ended up liking it Ben! Brushing up on Waterloo beforehand was probably a good idea too; I'll be sure to recommend doing that to anyone who is about to hit that part.


message 40: by Kyle (last edited Jan 14, 2013 12:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "I've decided to take the plunge. Any thoughts on audio vs. reading myself? Right now I'm leaning towards reading it but wanted to see what others thought."

I've never been able to get the hang of audiobooks. I either get frustrated because I'd rather be reading it myself, find the reader annoying, or my attention drifts off periodically. If I were listening to Les Mis on audiobook I think there would be way too many parts where my attention simply drifted off and I didn't hear what was being said. Then I would end up going back to re-listen, the same thing would happen again, and it would simply take me forever to get through the book.

I suppose if you're already really in to audiobooks then it might not be a problem for you, but I can't imagine myself attempting to listen to it.


message 41: by Heather (last edited Jan 14, 2013 08:32AM) (new)

Heather | 3 comments Kyle wrote: "Heather wrote: "I've decided to take the plunge. Any thoughts on audio vs. reading myself? Right now I'm leaning towards reading it but wanted to see what others thought."

I've never been able t..."


That makes sense. I used to struggle with them as well, but earlier this year discovered them. I've learned that the narrator makes a huge difference in whether I enjoy it or not. There are books that I think I wouldn't have liked if it weren't for the great narration. On the other hand, it can highlight a books downfalls. While I can't say since I never read it, I did listen to Gone Girl and hated it. But I think I might have enjoyed it more if I read it. Hard to say though! I do like that I get more "reading" done using audiobooks.

Oh and I'm a whopping 2% in Les Mis :) I didn't realize how long it was.


message 42: by Atta (new)

Atta Arghandiwal (attaullah3) | 2 comments I absolutely love audio but there are times I wouldn't mind reading. Memoirs are to be read.
Have a great day
Atta


message 43: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Heather wrote: " I do like that I get more "reading" done using audiobooks."

True. They are definitely great for long car trips.


message 44: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "Heather wrote: " I do like that I get more "reading" done using audiobooks."

True. They are definitely great for long car trips."


I agree, I could do with a set up for long car trips where I can just listen to audio books...


message 45: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
So... Gavroche is officially an awesome character. Just sayin.


message 46: by Jonathan, A dream within a dream (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 387 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "So... Gavroche is officially an awesome character. Just sayin."

Yup :D I do think though that Jean Valjean is one of the greatest characters in literature ever.


message 47: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (benkaboo) | 6 comments Wow, I just got through the section on 'life in a convent'.

Interesting, detailed but I can't quite see the point as yet. Any thoughts?


message 48: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle | 80 comments Mod
Ben wrote: "Wow, I just got through the section on 'life in a convent'.

Interesting, detailed but I can't quite see the point as yet. Any thoughts?"


I have to admit to speed reading a little bit during that section, but I found it along a similar vein as the Waterloo section when it comes to its contribution to the story (perhaps a bit less so).

I suppose it allows us to truly understand the type of environment in which (view spoiler) which allows more context for actions later on. Not the most riveting section, granted, but at least you're through it! :)


message 49: by Ruby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby Emam (goodreadscomruby_emam) Kyle wrote: "Yes, I can't say I'm sorry to be done with book 1 and its lengthy descriptions of the bishop and his life.

Yet, allow me to play the devil's advocate a little bit and ask the group this: is the b..."


I thought Hugo's portrayal of "a bishop" in Hunchback of Notre-Dame is very realistic and I have trouble understanding his unrealistic portrayal of the bishop in Les Miserables, while the whole book's events are based on realism.


message 50: by Ruby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby Emam (goodreadscomruby_emam) Ben wrote: "Wow, I just got through the section on 'life in a convent'.

Interesting, detailed but I can't quite see the point as yet. Any thoughts?"


Maybe it is a portrayal of those who choose to stay away from the real world, shutting all doors behind them, hoping for a normal life while the world around them is in turmoil.


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