Les Misérables Les Misérables discussion


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What an impact!!

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message 1: by Marianne (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marianne I don't know about you, but for me this book really changed my perception of people, their motives, their connection with themselves, their spirituality and insight of others. Talk about overcoming adversity and self-mastery. Incredible and very inspiring!! Any thoughts?


Heather Harris Hugo did a wonderful job of showing several very different types of people and their motives. I can see reflections of myself in a lot of them, for good and bad. What really got me the most in this story was Valjean. All that he dealt with could have so easily made him bitter, unhappy and vindictive - but the fact that he chose to be better and not go that route is very inspiring. Your circumstances don't dictate who you will be. This is something to think about when I'm dealing with situations where I can choose either path.


April I absolutley love this book. I love the theme of redemption, that no matter what you've done in life you can still change for the better. I love that the bishop in the beginning taught that to Valjean. That he showed him love and forgivenss and compassion. He's the reason Valjean tries so hard to be a better man, and also the reason he succeds.


Willie This is one of my all time favorites. I love the theme of redemption and also of unconditional love. The love that Valjean shows for his adoptive daughter and the patience he shows to her foster family is inspiring.


message 5: by Emily (new)

Emily Rule If you like this book, try to see the musical. It changes the story a little bit, which is bad, but mildly understandable since the book is so long. But, despite some storyline changes, the message (which remains the same)coupled with the amazing music changed my life! It's incredible!!!!!! A must see!


Sara It's COMPLETLY changed my thoughts on people in general. How a man who has done bad things, isn't so bad and how all is not lost. His overwhelming love for Cosette is what got me, I cried when he laid out her clothes from when she was little...and was so mad that he didn't think he deserved to be happy! But it ended nice (not exactly happily) anyway. And Eponine's story was touching in it's own way too, I think she might have been a better lover than Cosette. She didn't have the well-breeding, but she had more depth to her love. I can't see Cosette putting her hand over a muskett to prevent it from hitting Marius.


message 7: by Coalbanks (last edited Aug 20, 2008 06:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Coalbanks We succeed or fail on our own merits.



Toby C This is easily the best book I've ever read. I absolutely love the ending. Valjean is my hero. How he went to court to save someone he didn't even know.... I hope I would do something like that if I were in a similar situation.


EDantes I have read it twice, and it had a huge impact on me twice. I read it in my early 20s and was so touched by Valjean's humility and kindness. I shut the back cover and just sat and pondered the meanings for a long time - I don't know how long, because I completely lost track of time.

I re-read it recently at a time when I have a teenage daughter. The change at the end in his relationship with Cosette was brutal. I fought back tears until the end when I couldn't fight back anymore.

I could have done without the history of Waterloo and the description of the Paris sewer system. But yes, this is truly a masterpiece.


message 10: by Katie (last edited May 05, 2011 11:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katie Stewart I could have done without the history of Waterloo and the description of the Paris sewer system. But yes, this is truly a masterpiece.

I laughed at that, because that's what I've always said. But I guess in that day and age, without the ease of the internet to get information, all that 'extra stuff' was appreciated.

This is one of my favourite books of all time, simply because I don't think you can get better characters than Valjean and Javert. They are so three-dimensional, each flawed in his own way. My favourite scene is where Valjean is held prisoner by the Thenardiers. Valjean says so much in that scene, even though he hardly speaks a word until the very end.


Simon In a strange way, I think I am the only person I know who ENJOYED the 200 pages of the Waterloo battle descriptions.

Unfortunately I read this book a bit too young... When I was about 12-13, and never since have I re-read it completely, only partially. So you can imagine that for a 12 year old reading Les Miserables the description of the Waterloo battle would stand out, and indeed it is the part of the book I remember the most vividly, though I was still very touched by it.

In fact, I think it was the first book I ever read that touched me at a truly deep level. It also made me romanticize France a lot.


Peachy Coalbanks, what about a little help from strangers and friends?

Simon, you enjoyed it? I've been trying to actually read every word for years. I tend to skim that part.

I sometimes think this book should be required reading for life. It's so full of it (life that is).


Molly What an incredible story of grace, law, and love! Jean Valjean is a real, flesh and blood man who struggles with justified bitterness and hopelessness until one man provides a bit of light to guide him. This opportunity to change his life, thereby changing the lives of others, is inspiring, but more than that, his story is reflective of the power of love to completely alter our perspective. His condemnation of the world is replaced with compassion, which has not been shown to him, and he is repaid with the unconditional love of a child not his own. Inspector Javert is the merciless law, which must be satisfied, no grace allowed, for the law is based upon the principle that people can never change and the only hope for society is to punish those evil ones so the good may live in peace. But the organic alteration that slowly consumes Jean Valjean disproves Javert's very reason for living, reminding the reader that redemption is always possible. This is a potentially life-changing novel, a celebration of the human spirit.


message 14: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Slaughter This book and The Fountainhead have impacted me more than any other books I've read thus far. My life and even my writing style (syntax included) have been changed by Les Miserables.


Robin I loved this book as well. Cossette is another sequel but not by the same author of course. Loved the whole flavor of the book. Very detailed and picturesque. Felt like I was there.


message 16: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Li This book really spans the spectrum of human experience.


Simon Peachy wrote: "Coalbanks, what about a little help from strangers and friends?

Simon, you enjoyed it? I've been trying to actually read every word for years. I tend to skim that part.

I sometimes think this boo..."


I’m a big history fan. I just enjoyed getting detached from the story. For some reason, the 150-page description of the battle of Waterloo is as vividly imprinted in my memory as any other part of the book.


Megan Baxter I found myself bogged down in the Waterloo section, although I absolutely adored the rest of the book (and I'm a history grad student - although not military history.)

On the other hand, that may be because, for some insane reason I don't really remember, I was simultaneously reading Les Miserables and War and Peace. Getting the long descriptions of 19th century war from two different sources was just too much for me.

I would suggest not trying to read those two at the same time - although most people probably have more sense than I do, and wouldn't try in the first place!


message 19: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Li For some reason, I really enjoyed the Waterloo section, and thought it generally accessible even for those who aren't avid history or military buffs. I first read Les Miserables in the eighth grade, and to me, the integration of the Waterloo section helped provide a sense of the context of the story. I most admire Hugo's ability to provide great contextual drama for his stories, also true for Hunchback. So while others find it mere tedium, these long, descriptions that go into the depths of the history of the times make, I feel, what's Hugo's "Hugo". Truly, Les Miserables, taken at its most superficial value is only a very short story. Reading it without regard for its forays into the details of the era is to ignore what makes it great.


message 20: by Abby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Abby Nim I read this book when I was a freshmen in high school. As I read this book I came to love all the characters. WOW what a good historical fiction book. Since I read the book I have always wanted to see the play. Seeing the play has been on my bucket list. Well I am going to see the play next month. I am so excited. Thank you Victor Hugo for writing such an amazing book. It's one of my all time favorites.


Robin I loved this book as well. I have not ever seen the play.


Molly Robin wrote: "I loved this book as well. I have not ever seen the play."

Seeing the musical on stage is an incredible experience. It has great music and incredible staging. I've seen Les Mis on Broadway and performed by touring companies and it never fails to move me. One suggestion: be sure to take tissue!!


message 23: by Abby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Abby Nim Molly wrote: "Robin wrote: "I loved this book as well. I have not ever seen the play."

Seeing the musical on stage is an incredible experience. It has great music and incredible staging. I've seen Les Mis on Br..."


Thanks Molly. I will.


Robin I think I may have to see it one day.


Lorrie Did you know he (like Charles Dickens who was a contemporary) were paid by the word? It doesn't lesson the fact that I too love this book. Though after having read all of it once I do skip the Waterloo parts but I am glad others enjoy it. The sewers is so gripping,the fight to the top of the wine shop, the reconciliation of Marius and his Grandfather, then Marius learning of Val Jean's true role were great! Other areas I also liked were little Cosette's trip to the well and the orphaned children with Gavroche in the giant elephant/statue thing I loved the description. Defiantly a great read.


Javed Hayat The greatest, most powerful book I have ever read, and I have read quite a few. Dont think I will ever come across a better novel than this.


Curtis I'm re-reading this now (the new Julia Rose translation). I still can't believe the care Hugo took in crafting this story. He put almost 100 pages into developing the Bishop's character, just so we can get the full impact of his simple act of forgiveness that changed Jean Valjean's life.

Someone mentioned The Fountainhead. I just couldn't get into that, but Atlas Shrugged was my one life-changing book.


Cheryl I read the book many years ago in anticipation of seeing it on Broadway...what an amazing experience. The book was so powerful and it gave a whole new depth to an already awesome musical. And I don't even like musicals!

I admit I skimmed some of the in depth history stuff- just not my thing.

So happy to see others who love this book as much as I do...might have to read it again one of these days.


Leslie I still weep buckets in the beginning when the priest doesn't turn him in to the police and is so kind to him though he had every reason not to be. Very inspiring in this harsh modern world.


Robin I love this book as well.


Elisabeth I was introduced to the music of Les Miserables first and fell in love with the story. Then my parents bought me the book last year and I'm afraid I've become something of a fanatic :] Victor Hugo's writing style was simply incredible; his characters were so developed and so REAL--each one with special qualities but also with faults which sometimes made you wince. I still love to read Fantine's story--she's in the book for such a relatively short time but still becomes one of its most famous and beloved characters. Eponine simply makes me cry every time--she and Gavroche quickly became my favorite characters. Marius and Cosette's impossible love story in the face of a revolution, Javert's turmoil after he, the spotless servant of the law, is saved by a criminal, the Thenardiers' scheming and scraping a living together in often comical ways, and the tragic sub-plot of Marius and his group of student friends all added a unique flavor to the story. And of course, Jean Valjean's story, which weaves its way through all the others, is such a picture of redemption and grace to a broken man.
I saw Les Mis live recently and it was absolutely breathtaking. Only a book this great could inspire a musical like that!


message 32: by Peggy (new)

Peggy Morgan I recently saw a show on PBS on which actors simply sang all the songs from the musical version. I was totally blown away by the Christian themes. I had no idea it was so Christ-centered. I think I'm going to recommend it to the local book club that I belong to.


Pippin My wife and I read this book together out loud, taking turns. I think it seemed more real because everything was heard and not simply read silently in my head. I do remember her falling asleep during the chapter on Waterloo, so I summarized it and we went on.
It is, undoubtedly, great. Whittaker Chambers (author of Witness) said it led him into the communist party and out of the party.
I didn't follow some of the French historical stuff, but I can still vividly picture many of the scenes from Les Mis.
Question: what is the earliest age that you would recommend someone read LesMis?


Robin Probably teenage years. It is a quite grueling book. But would rather them read this than Lord of the Flies.


Abbie Riddle This is one of my all time favorite books. I read this in Advanced English in highschool (the unabridged version). I then had to write many papers on the symbolism and such. It is powerfully well-written book. I home school and this is set for our 7th grade year. I can't wait to read it again with my 5 children! I haven't seen the movie and have wondered how closely it follows the actual book.


David Brollier For me Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo was required reading in my high school English class (1966). The story was amazing and reawakened in me my love of reading. Please realize that Jean Valjean was a convicted criminal, and by French law at that time he was guilty, even if he was doing it to help his sister-in-law's family. He DID become bitter, because after he was released he had to show this card stating he was a dangerous criminal. Even the local cop made him get up off the bench. He found, however, refuge in the house of the Bishop, and this is where the story of our hero truly begins. For it is the kindness and love shown here that changes Jean's life. One of the truly remarkable things about this book is how that in 1983 I began a career as a correctional officer. This book helped me have a more compassionate attitude towards those behind fences and prison walls. In fact, I've found that there are other heroes, just like Jean Valjean, behind those walls. Inmates who will pray for the people who keep them locked up. Men who will go to the aide of an enemy, and in one instance, a man who was mistakenly arrested for crimes committed by his brother. This man did his brother's sentence without a word of complaint. I was told that the words "Les Miserables" actually means the wretched poor. Well, Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Maybe Hugo and Jesus knew something about people that we refuse to see.


Lorrie Robin wrote: "Probably teenage years. It is a quite grueling book. But would rather them read this than Lord of the Flies."

totally agree but then I was 'forced' to read 'lord of the flies' (hated it) I read Les Mis cause I wanted to.


David Brollier Reading is a fundamental thing everyone should have. It helps each of us in our own way. There are so many different writers and genres out there so no one needs to be displeased. You all know that I tend more towards Christian works, or at least mysteries, but I find reading fascinating. Reading (fiction) is like opening a door to another world. Non-fiction can tell you so much more about things you would like to know about. In fact as a mystery writer I've come to learn that almost every mystery writer (Christian and secular) knows just where to find the True Crime section in the library. And sometimes the research is almost more fun than writing the book. I thank God that He used Les Miserables to re-awaken my love for reading.


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

Gin Tadvick I read Les Mis in HS in French and then in English and loved it. Being a lover of Musical Theatre, I love the musical as well. I agree with Lorrie and Robin - I was "forced" to read "Lord of the Flies" in 7th grade and again for a theme based class in 9th grade. It is a well written book but I would prefer to be forced to read Les Mis.


Robin Les Mis was a far better read than Lord of the Flies. My daughter has to read it for 9th grade.


David Brollier Les Mis or Lord of the Flies? No contest. Get the flies out and stick with the wretched poor, they have much to teach us.


Robin I know.LOL


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

Toby C I wonder if there is anyone in the world who has read Les Miserables and doesn't like it.


Robin From what I have gleaned from this thread, everyone loves Les Miserables!


Forrest Book...amazing!
Play...amazing!
Such a great piece of work. A little lengthy, yes, but you need it!


message 46: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Li They say it was the most popular book read among soldiers during the American Civil War. Loved by both blue and grey.


Robin Didn't know the above fact. That is nice to know that it had an impact on both sides of the Civil War.


message 48: by Hobb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hobb Whittons Marianne wrote: "I don't know about you, but for me this book really changed my perception of people, their motives, their connection with themselves, their spirituality and insight of others. Talk about overcoming..."

Yes, it's a fantastic read; a gem. Only one thing: it's so, so dark! Would you agree?


Curtis Hobb wrote: "Marianne wrote: "I don't know about you, but for me this book really changed my perception of people, their motives, their connection with themselves, their spirituality and insight of others. Talk..."

Les Miz is nowhere near as dark as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Both are good reads. But the themes in the Hunchback are much darker.


Véronique I agree! Amazing!


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