2022 Reading Challenge discussion

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ARCHIVE 2020 > Les Misérables: General Discussion *Spoiler Free*

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message 1: by Winter, Group Reads (new)

Winter (winter9) | 4636 comments This month we will be reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking 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 that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.


message 2: by SarahKat, Buddy Reads (new)

SarahKat | 3094 comments I'm glad this thread is up already. I started listening to the audio book a week ago since it's 60 hours long!

I was worried this was going to be a dry slog like Moby Dick but I'm actually finding it enjoyable!


message 3: by Ashleigh (new)

Ashleigh Motbey | 1055 comments This took me 1 year and 1 week to read the first and only time, so I won't be doing it. Good luck everyone! I'd strongly suggest doing the unabridged version. If you can!


message 4: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Angle-boyer (svangle) | 22 comments Yes! I have been wanting to read this one again and I have the unabridged version!!


Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods* (marcthedarc) | 637 comments Me when this was selected as the group read for the month: HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH HAH HA HA HAH.

Good luck everyone. It's incredibly rich and emotionally powerful in a primal way, but there are also prolonged sections that will make your brain glaze over. I would love to hear the experience of those who start and finish it within the month of February. You know, the shortest month of the year. For a dense 1400 page book.

Afraid I won't be joining you, I finished it last year for the second time.


message 6: by SarahKat, Buddy Reads (new)

SarahKat | 3094 comments Marc wrote: "Me when this was selected as the group read for the month: HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH HAH HA HA HAH.

Good luck everyone. It's incredibly rich and emotionally powerful in a primal way, but ther..."


Seriously. There'd better be 55 people reading it this month. *glares pointedly at all the voters*


message 7: by Rob (new)

Rob Brown | 78 comments I know the story and I hated the film (to such an extent I turned it off half way through). I am interested in history. Is this worth reading?


message 8: by Laura (new)

Laura | 112 comments This will be the first time I've ever joined in on a monthly group read discussion- about to start the book since we are approaching February quickly - worried about my ability to finish before the end of the month and keep up in discussions


message 9: by Winter, Group Reads (new)

Winter (winter9) | 4636 comments Marc wrote: "Me when this was selected as the group read for the month: HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH HAH HA HA HAH.

Good luck everyone. It's incredibly rich and emotionally powerful in a primal way, but ther..."


haha yes it's so long xD I do want to read it one day, but it sure won't be this month. I also don't own the version I want to read yet ^^ Good luck readers!


message 10: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Wendt | 117 comments I'd also like to read this book someday but one month is not long enough! Especially when I'm currently partway through David Copperfield and planning on reading The Count of Monte Cristo for February-March.


message 11: by Dusty (new)

Dusty Marie (dustymarie) I just finished this book a few weeks ago after three and a half years. I chose the unabridged version, and while it's an incredible story, it is not a quick read. It's not a book as much as it is a journey. If you are ready for a commitment, then I can't recommend it enough.

Anyone who can complete this in a month is a superhero in my opinion. I loved the book and am so glad I read it, but there's no way I'm dedicated enough to read it again.


message 12: by Ashleigh (new)

Ashleigh Motbey | 1055 comments Dusty wrote: "I just finished this book a few weeks ago after three and a half years. I chose the unabridged version, and while it's an incredible story, it is not a quick read. It's not a book as much as it is ..."

It took me one year and 1 week to read the unabridged version. I do not have the capacity to read it again haha


message 13: by kim v (new)

kim v (joseygirl) | 2 comments Aaaaaargh!! Such a long book for such a short month :(. I’ll have to hope for a Newfoundland snowstorm in Ontario so I have enough time to eat this work without having to worry about going to work :)


message 14: by Lisa (last edited Jan 24, 2020 01:11PM) (new)

Lisa Grønsund (gullita) | 3273 comments Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals. In my opinion, the best way to get acquainted with this is in a theatre. I've seen it on several occasions and loved it everytime. Even in Danish! which I was not expecting (thankyou, Stig Rossen for that. You almost lived up to Colm Wilkinson's legacy). Movie adaptations (the ones I've watched) just don't live up to it.

Anyways. I have also read it. in French. in highschool. And I'm not doing that again. EVER. lol
I would really like to read it in English, at some point, but I highly doubt it'll be this February. I just don't feel like I have the mental capacity or motivation for it. Maybe I'll change my mind within the next week....


message 15: by Lisa (last edited Jan 24, 2020 01:15PM) (new)

Lisa Grønsund (gullita) | 3273 comments Aargh and now I have "Bring him home" on the brain.... I'll be playing Les Miserable soundtrack for the rest of the evening! *grabs the tissues*


message 16: by penwing (new)

penwing | 5 comments OK... yes! I read this when I was a teenager and I've been re-reading it as a back-burner book (book club books and others tend to get priority) but when I do pick it up I love it. The priority is to finish it by April (so I'll have read it in less than a year) - I guess now by the end of February...

I've been reading Julie Rose's translation which I've found glorious - real sense of vitriol in the author's attacks on injustice and poverty. And surprisingly funny.

And, oh, the digressions and diversions and unnecessary sections... it's amazing.


message 17: by Liz Wahba • (new)

Liz Wahba • Elyse Welles  (elysewelles) | 4 comments What is the best translation to read? I want to order my copy ASAP! It’s a loooonnngggg one!


message 18: by Tammy (new)

Tammy (tadisabright) | 1 comments I am going to give this a try but doubt I will finish it in a month. I also was wondering which translation group members will be reading.


message 19: by penwing (new)

penwing | 5 comments I'm reading Julie Rose's translation, published in 2008 - it's pretty modern 8-)

Lots of annotations too - a two-bookmark kinda read...


message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken | 16 comments Okay, I'm gonna read this one. I may not finish in in February, but I'll try. I download a $2.99 English translation from BookRix GmgH & Co. onto my Nook e-reader. It's 1,72 pages. This will be the longest book I'e read. So far, I'm a little over 100 pages into it; and, I'm enjoying it. I've see the Musical (both in theatre and on film), but I've never read the book. The character development is amazing, and I'm expanding my vocabulary with the amount of dictionary word lookups that I'm doing. The one may hamper my ability to reach my 2020 goal, but it's likely worth it!


message 21: by Ken (new)

Ken | 16 comments Liz wrote: "What is the best translation to read? I want to order my copy ASAP! It’s a loooonnngggg one!"
Liz, I download a $2.99 English translation from BookRix GmgH & Co. onto my Nook e-reader. I'm enjoying it thus far.


message 22: by Gabi (new)

Gabi | 62 comments I chose the audiobook for this one. And since it is original in French I can turn to the German translation without having a bad conscience (I try to read English books in English, but of course I'm much more comfortable with my mothertongue). I have a 58 h long version perfectly narrated by Gert Westphal, and I am surprised how much I'm enjoying it so far.
I love the musical (and I, too, have the songs in my mind all the time now - my kids already start running away when I go "Do you hear the people sing …") because it is so powerful. Now I'm delighted to see that the book is just as powerful. Of course there are looooooong chapters where Hugo digresses into French history and puts the story on hold, but even those are interesting so far.


message 23: by SarahKat, Buddy Reads (new)

SarahKat | 3094 comments I'm also listening to a 58-hour audio version (though in English, as that's the only language I speak). Narrated by George Guidall. I think I've listened to about 18 hours so far and I still really like it! Except for those aforementioned super-long digressions.
The song I've had in my head is "Red and Black." My son used to love when I sang that to him and now he runs away screaming. Butthead.


message 24: by Gabi (new)

Gabi | 62 comments SarahKat wrote: " The song I've had in my head is "Red and Black." My son used to love when I sang that to him and now he runs away screaming. Butthead."

I guess our sons reached the age where mums become embarrassing XD.

I'm now over halfway in and I'm still enjoying it. The first part was my favourite so far, but he rest has its charm as well.


message 25: by Laura (new)

Laura | 112 comments Starting to wonder if this is going to slow my pace in the overall yearly challenge and if I should have done the audiobook but in the print version I'm able to go back easier and re- read a sentence if comprehension gets messed up


message 26: by Alli (last edited Feb 02, 2020 11:32AM) (new)

Alli The Book Giraffe (allithebookgiraffe) | 43 comments This was the last book I read in 2019. I agree the audiobook is a better good choice. It is a long read but so worth it!


message 27: by Carol (new)

Carol | 69 comments Hi guys! I’ve been meaning to read this in ages so I’m in. Like many others love the musical. Based on your comments I’m going audiobook and it’s the first one I’ve bought you have to download in sections! Wish me luck! 😊


message 28: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 1 comments I’m 8 hours into the audiobook and really enjoying it!


message 29: by Gabi (last edited Feb 03, 2020 05:48AM) (new)

Gabi | 62 comments Laura wrote: "Starting to wonder if this is going to slow my pace in the overall yearly challenge and if I should have done the audiobook but in the print version I'm able to go back easier and re- read a senten..."

That's exactly the reason why I went for the audiobook. I guess with eye-read this one would be my only book for February.


Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods* (marcthedarc) | 637 comments Gabi wrote: "...I guess with eye-read this one would be my only book for February."

Eye-read? Is that a thing? I have not heard that term before.


message 31: by Gabi (new)

Gabi | 62 comments Marc wrote: "Gabi wrote: "...I guess with eye-read this one would be my only book for February."

Eye-read? Is that a thing? I have not heard that term before."


I learned this term in another GR-group to distinguish audiobook from paper/ebook and I totally like the expression.


message 32: by Laura (new)

Laura | 112 comments Gabi wrote: "Marc wrote: "Gabi wrote: "...I guess with eye-read this one would be my only book for February."

Eye-read? Is that a thing? I have not heard that term before."

I learned this term in another GR-g..."
I love the term eye-read so appropriate and yes this book is going to consume my February even though I have others started


Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods* (marcthedarc) | 637 comments Laura wrote: "Gabi wrote: "Marc wrote: "Gabi wrote: "...I guess with eye-read this one would be my only book for February."

Eye-read? Is that a thing? I have not heard that term before."

I learned this term in..."


It makes me sad to think that reading would get a term suggesting that it is not the default mode.


message 34: by penwing (new)

penwing | 5 comments I am not giggling at the fact that we have digressed from discussing Les Miserables... Nope... not giggling at all


message 35: by Rachael (new)

Rachael (allons-y-bookworm) | 3210 comments Re: translations. I read the one by Hapgood - I think it was abridged. I studied French up to (first year) university level so I had a few issues that bits were too literally translated but other than that, it was fine.


message 36: by Ken (new)

Ken | 16 comments I’m trying to figure out why Hugo digresses from the story/plot to give us a history lesson.


message 37: by Shayma (new)

Shayma | 1 comments Re: Translations. I initially started with the Hapgood translation, but I found it too literal so I switched over to the Norman Denny translation which I'm finding much more enjoyable.


Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods* (marcthedarc) | 637 comments Ken wrote: "I’m trying to figure out why Hugo digresses from the story/plot to give us a history lesson."

What part are you at? He does this several times, it always (eventually) feeds back into the narrative, although it can take a looooonnnngggg and very detailed time to get there. Somehow it leads to a powerful emotional punch, IMO.


message 39: by Laura (new)

Laura | 112 comments I am finding the battle of identity and consciousness engaging in the area of the book I'm reading. It gives a good look at the lengths we as humans can go to justify and rationalize the choices we make and the process by which we arrive at those justifications.


message 40: by Leigh (new)

Leigh van Zyl I have only just joined this group and just found out this is the group's book for the month. Happen to have a copy and plan to dive right in, let's see how far I can get this month....


message 41: by SarahKat, Buddy Reads (new)

SarahKat | 3094 comments I've done the math and I have to listen to over 90 minutes of the audio to finish it by the end of the month. It's winter and I'm not going on as many walks or car trips so I have to listen to this at every odd second I get. It's not very conducive to retaining the information and I'm zoning out a little bit.


message 42: by Carol (new)

Carol | 69 comments I'm about 6 hours in. I'm enjoying the character based sections, but it's not a pacy one!


message 43: by Gabi (new)

Gabi | 62 comments Carol wrote: "I'm about 6 hours in. I'm enjoying the character based sections, but it's not a pacy one!"

Definitely not :D. This one needs a lot of patience.


message 44: by Ken (new)

Ken | 16 comments Marc wrote: "Ken wrote: "I’m trying to figure out why Hugo digresses from the story/plot to give us a history lesson."

What part are you at? He does this several times, it always (eventually) feeds back into t..."


I posted my comment after I finished the narrative on Waterloo. I'm now halfway through the book, and I've read a couple other history digressions. Hugo does make it tie back into he story and character development quite well. I'm getting so much more from this read than I expected, and I may be able to finish it this month.


message 45: by Ken (new)

Ken | 16 comments Shayma wrote: "Re: Translations. I initially started with the Hapgood translation, but I found it too literal so I switched over to the Norman Denny translation which I'm finding much more enjoyable."

I'd like to hear others' thoughts on the various language translations. I'm enjoying my English translation of the book, but I'm finding myself doing quite a bit of word lookups with a dictionary, wikipedia, or google search.


message 46: by Gabi (new)

Gabi | 62 comments Ken wrote: "I'd like to hear others' thoughts on the various language translations. I'm enjoying my English translation of the book, but I'm finding myself doing quite a bit of word lookups with a dictionary, wikipedia, or google search..."

I was listening to a German translation (I don't know by whom) which was superb. The wording and phrasing was older and fit wonderfully for the (melo)dramatic power of the story.


message 47: by SarahKat, Buddy Reads (new)

SarahKat | 3094 comments I have about 19 hours left, so I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book. I just finished about an hour's-worth of Hugo's thoughts on slang, and whether or not it should be studied as seriously as the accepted language. I found it really interesting actually, but I'm a word nerd. I'm still really enjoying this book more than I thought, but as I mentioned above, there are times I've zoned out for a while, especially when I just sort of have to fit in 5 to 10 minutes of listening time throughout the day. This book should be digested in large chunks.

Ken, I like my translation. It is English and the audio narrated by George Guidall. It flows well and I haven't wondered at any weird sentences as can sometimes happen with translations. The only thing I have trouble following is place and people names, but that's just because they are all French and on audio, not a translation issue.


Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods* (marcthedarc) | 637 comments Ken wrote: "Marc wrote: "Ken wrote: "I’m trying to figure out why Hugo digresses from the story/plot to give us a history lesson."

What part are you at? He does this several times, it always (eventually) feed..."


I guessed that it was the Waterloo section. I glazed over so many times getting through that part, and the culmination of it is such a small thing but has such a huge impact on the rest of the story.


message 49: by penwing (new)

penwing | 5 comments SarahKat wrote: "I just finished about an hour's-worth of Hugo's thoughts on slang, and whether or not it should be studied as seriously as the accepted language."

I've also recently finished that 20 page book. I also loved it, not least for the completely irrelevant I Am The Narrator Of This tale And Let Me Tell You About My Grudge Following A Review Of My Novel From Twenty Years Ago attitude. This is not the only example of The Narrator injecting himself in and it's just... well, something 8-)


message 50: by Leigh (new)

Leigh van Zyl Marc wrote: "Ken wrote: "Marc wrote: "Ken wrote: "I’m trying to figure out why Hugo digresses from the story/plot to give us a history lesson."

What part are you at? He does this several times, it always (even..."


I have to admit I have glazed over certain bits as well. The book has been a much better read than I anticipated and I got hooked on the story but there were parts where I felt like I had zoned out a bit....


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Les Misérables (other topics)

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Victor Hugo (other topics)