Les Miserables: Complete and Unabridged

Les Miserables: Complete and Unabridged

4.2 283
by Victor Hugo

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Victor Hugo's towering novel of Jean Valjean, his unjust imprisonment, and his lifelong flight from a relentless police officer.  See more details below


Victor Hugo's towering novel of Jean Valjean, his unjust imprisonment, and his lifelong flight from a relentless police officer.

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Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Signet Classics Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.34(w) x 6.91(h) x 2.23(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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I. Monsieur Myriel

In 1815, Monsieur Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel was bishop of Digne.1 He was an elderly man of about seventy-five and he had occupied the seat of Digne since 1806.

There is something we might mention that has no bearing whatsoever on the tale we have to tell—not even on the background. Yet it may well serve some purpose, if only in the interests of precision, to jot down here the rumors and gossip that had circulated about him the moment he first popped up in the diocese. True or false, what is said about people often has as much bearing on their lives and especially on their destinies as what they do. Monsieur Myriel was the son of a councillor of the Aix parliament, a member of the noblesse de robe.2 They reckoned his father had put him down to inherit his position and so had married him off very early in the piece when he was only eighteen or twenty, as they used to do quite a lot in parliamentary families. Charles Myriel, married or no, had, they said, set tongues wagging. He was a good-looking young man, if on the short side, elegant, charming, and witty; he had given the best years of his life thus far to worldly pursuits and love affairs. Then the Revolution came along, events spiraled, parliamentary families were wiped out, chased away, hunted, scattered. Monsieur Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy soon after the Revolution broke out. His wife died there of the chest infection she’d had for ages. They had no children. What happened next in the destiny of Monsieur Myriel? The collapse of the old society in France, the fall of his own family, the tragic scenes of ’93,3 which were, perhaps, even more frightening for émigrés4 watching them from afar with the magnifying power of dread—did these things cause notions of renunciation and solitude to germinate in his mind? Was he, in the middle of the distractions and amorous diversions that filled his life, suddenly hit by one of those mysterious and terrible jolts that sometimes come and strike at the heart, bowling over the man public calamities couldn’t shake, threatening as these did only his existence and his fortune? No one could say; all that was known was that, when he came back from Italy, he was a priest.

In 1804,5 Monsieur Myriel was the curé of Brignolles.6 He was already old and lived like a real recluse in profound seclusion.

Around the time of the coronation, a small parish matter—who can remember what now?—took him to Paris. Among other powerful persons, he called on Cardinal Fesch,7 Napoléon’s uncle, to petition him on his parishioners’ behalf. One day when the emperor was visiting his uncle, the worthy curé, who was waiting in the anteroom, found himself in His Majesty’s path. Napoléon, seeing the old boy give him the once-over with a certain curiosity, wheeled round and said brusquely: “Who is this little man staring at me?”

“Your Majesty,” said Monsieur Myriel, “you see a little man, and I see a great man. Both of us may benefit.”

That very night, the emperor asked the cardinal what the curé’s name was and some time after that Monsieur Myriel was stunned to learn that he’d been named bishop of Digne.

But, when all’s said and done, what was true in the tales told about the first phase of Monsieur Myriel’s life? No one could tell. Few families had known the Myriel family before the Revolution.

Monsieur Myriel had to endure the fate of every newcomer in a small town, where there are always plenty of mouths blathering and not many brains working. He had to endure it even though he was the bishop, and because he was the bishop. But, after all, the talk in which his name cropped up was perhaps nothing more than talk; hot air, babble, words, less than words, pap, as the colorful language of the Midi8 puts it.

Whatever the case, after nine years as the resident bishop of Digne, all the usual gossip that initially consumes small towns and small people had died and sunk without a trace. No one would have dared bring it up, no one would have dared remember what it was.

Monsieur Myriel arrived in Digne accompanied by an old spinster, Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister and ten years his junior.

They had only one servant, a woman the same age as Mademoiselle Baptistine, called Madame Magloire. Having been the servant of Monsieur le curé, she now went by the double title of personal maid to Mademoiselle and housekeeper to Monseigneur.9

Mademoiselle Baptistine was a tall, pale, thin, sweet person, the personification of that ideal expressed by the word respectable; for it seems a woman must be a mother to be esteemed. She had never been pretty, but her entire life, which had been merely a succession of holy works, had ended up laying a sort of whiteness and brightness over her; as she aged, she had gained what you could describe as the beauty of goodness. What had been skinniness in her youth had become transparency with maturity; and this diaphanous quality revealed the angel within. She was more of a spirit than a virgin. She seemed a mere shadow with scarcely enough of a body to have a gender; just a bit of matter bearing a light, with great big eyes always lowered to the ground, an excuse for a spirit to remain on earth.

Madame Magloire was a little old lady, white skinned, plump, round, busy, always wheezing, first because of always bustling about and second because of her asthma.

When he first arrived, Monsieur Myriel was set up in his episcopal palace with all the honors required by imperial decree, which ranked bishops immediately after field marshals.10 The mayor and the president of the local council were the first to visit him, and on his side, he made his first visits to the general and the chief of police.

Once he had moved in, the town waited to see their bishop on the job.

II. Monsieur Myriel Becomes Monseigneur Bienvenu

The episcopal palace of Digne was next door to the hospital. The episcopal palace was a vast and handsome town house built in stone at the beginning of the previous century by Monseigneur Henri Puget, doctor of theology of the faculty of Paris and abbé of Simore,1 who had been bishop of Digne in 1712. The palace was truly a mansion fit for a lord. Everything about it was on the grand scale, the bishop’s apartments, the drawing rooms, the bedrooms, the main courtyard, which was huge, with covered arcades in the old Florentine style, and the gardens planted with magnificent trees. It was in the dining room, which was a long and superb gallery on the ground floor opening onto the grounds, that Monseigneur Henri Puget had, on July 29, 1714, ceremoniously fed the ecclesiastical dignitaries, Charles Brûlart de Genlis, archbishop prince of Embrun, Antoine de Mesgrigny, Capuchin bishop of Grasse, Philippe de Vendôme, grand prior of France, abbé of Saint-Honoré de Lérins, François de Berton de Crillon, bishop baron of Vence, César de Sabran de Forcalquier, lord bishop and lord of Glandève, and Jean Soanen, priest of the oratory, preacher in ordinary to the king, lord bishop of Senez.2 The portraits of these seven reverend fathers embellished the dining room and the memorable date of July 29, 1714, was engraved there in gold lettering on a white marble panel.

The hospital was a low, narrow, single-story house with a small garden.

Three days after his arrival, the bishop visited the hospital. When his visit was over, he politely begged the director to accompany him back to his place.

“Monsieur le directeur, how many sick people do you have in your hospital at the moment?”

“Twenty-six, Monseigneur.”

“That’s what I counted,” said the bishop.

“The beds are all jammed together,” the director went on.

“That’s what I noticed.”

“The living areas are just bedrooms, and they’re difficult to air.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Then again, when there’s a ray of sun, the garden’s too small for the convalescents.”

“That’s what I said to myself.”

“As for epidemics, we’ve had typhus this year, and two years ago we had miliary fever—up to a hundred were down with it at any one time. We don’t know what to do.”

“The thought did strike me.”

“What can we do, Monseigneur?” said the director. “You have to resign yourself to it.”

This conversation took place in the dining-room gallery on the ground floor. The bishop fell silent for a moment, then suddenly turned to the hospital director.

“Monsieur,” he said, “how many beds do you think you could get in this room alone?”

“Monseigneur’s dining room?” cried the astonished director.

The bishop sized up the room, giving the impression he was taking measurements and making calculations by eye alone.

“It could easily hold twenty beds!” he mumbled, as though talking to himself. Then he spoke more loudly. “Look, my dear director, I’ll tell you what. There has obviously been a mistake. There are twenty-six of you in five or six small rooms. There are three of us here and we’ve got enough room for sixty. There’s been a mistake, I’m telling you. You’ve got my place and I’ve got yours. Give me back my house. This is your rightful home, here.”

The next day, the twenty-six poor were moved into the bishop’s palace and the bishop was at the hospital.

Monsieur Myriel had no property, his family having lost everything in the Revolution. His sister got an annuity of five hundred francs, which was enough for her personal expenses, living at the presbytery. Monsieur Myriel received a salary of fifteen thousand francs from the government as bishop. The very day he moved into the hospital, Monsieur Myriel decided once and for all to put this sum to use as follows. We transcribe here the note written in his hand.

household expenditure

For the small seminary 1500 livres

Mission congregation 100 livres

For the Lazarists of Montdidier 100 livres

Seminary of foreign missions in Paris 200 livres

Congregation of the Saint-Esprit 150 livres

Religious institutions in the Holy Land 100 livres

Societies of maternal charity 300 livres

For the one at Arles 50 livres

For the betterment of prisons 400 livres

For the relief and release of prisoners 500 livres

For the release of fathers of families imprisoned for debt 1000 livres

Salary supplement for poor schoolteachers in the diocese 2000 livres

Upper Alps public granary 100 livres

Ladies’ Association of Digne, Manosque, and Sisteron,3 for the free education of poor girls 1500 livres

For the poor 6000 livres

My personal expenses 1000 livres

total 15000 livres

The whole time Monsieur Myriel held the see of Digne, he made almost no change in this arrangement—what he called, as we shall see, “taking care of his household expenses.”

Mademoiselle Baptistine accepted the arrangement with absolute submission. For this devout spinster, Myriel was both her brother and her bishop, the friend she grew up with and her superior according to ecclesiastical authority. Quite simply, she loved him and revered him. When he spoke, she listened, and when he took action, she was right behind him. Only the servant, Madame Magloire, grumbled a bit. As you will have noticed, the bishop kept only a thousand livres for himself which, added to Mademoiselle Baptistine’s pension, meant fifteen hundred francs a year. The two old women and the old man all lived on those fifteen hundred francs.

And when some village curé came to Digne, the bishop still managed to find a way of entertaining him, thanks to the assiduous scrimping and saving of Madame Magloire and Mademoiselle Baptistine’s clever management.

One day, when the bishop had been in Digne for about three months, he said, “With all that, things are pretty tight!”

“They certainly are!” cried Madame Magloire. “Monseigneur hasn’t even claimed the money the département owes him for the upkeep of his carriage in town and his rounds in the diocese. In the old days, that was standard for bishops.”

“You’re right, Madame Magloire!” the bishop agreed. And he put in his claim.

A short while later, after considering this application, the department council voted him an annual stipend of three thousand francs, under the heading, Bishop’s Allowance for Carriage Upkeep, Postal Costs, and Travel Expenses Incurred in Pastoral Rounds.

The local bourgeoisie was up in arms over this and an imperial senator,4 who had been a member of the Council of Five Hundred5 promoting the Eighteenth Brumaire and was now provided with a magnificent senatorial seat near Digne township, wrote a cranky little private letter to the minister of public worship, Monsieur Bigot de Préameneu.6 We produce here a genuine extract of a few lines:

“Carriage upkeep? Whatever for, in a town with less than four thousand people? Travel expenses incurred in pastoral rounds? To start with, what’s the good of them anyway? And then, how the hell does he do the rounds by post chaise in such mountainous terrain? There are no roads. One has to proceed on horseback. Even the bridge over the Durance at Château-Arnoux7 can barely take a bullock-drawn cart. All these priests are the same. Greedy and tight. This one played the good apostle when he first turned up. Now he acts like all the rest. He must have a carriage and a post chaise. He must have luxury, the same as the old bishops. Oh, these bloody clergy! Monsieur le comte, things will only come good when the emperor has delivered us from these pious swine. Down with the pope! [Things were not good with Rome at that point.]8 As for me, I’m for Caesar alone.” And so on and so forth.

Madame Magloire, on the other hand, was delighted.

“Hooray!” she said to Mademoiselle Baptistine. “Monseigneur put the others first but he’s wound up having to think of himself, finally. He’s fixed up all his charities. Here’s three thousand livres for us. At last!”

The same night, the bishop wrote a note, which he handed to his sister. It went like this:

carriage upkeep and travel expenses

Beef broth for the sick in the hospital 1500 livres

For the society of maternal charity of Aix 250 livres

For the society of maternal charity of Draguignan 250 livres

For abandoned children 500 livres

For orphans 500 livres

total 3000 livres

And that was Monsieur Myriel’s budget.

As for the cost of episcopal services, redemptions, dispensations, baptisms, sermons, consecrations of churches and chapels, marriages and so on, the bishop took from the rich all the more greedily for giving it all to the poor.

It wasn’t long before offerings of money poured in. The haves and the have-nots all knocked on Monsieur Myriel’s door, some coming in search of the alms that the others had just left. In less than a year, the bishop became treasurer of all works of charity and cashier to all those in distress. Large sums passed through his hands, but nothing could make him change his style of life in the slightest or get him to embellish his spartan existence by the faintest touch of the superfluous.

Far from it. As there is always more misery at the bottom of the ladder than there is fraternity at the top, everything was given away, so to speak, before it was received, like water on thirsty soil. A lot of good it did him to be given money, he never had any. And so, he robbed himself.

The custom being for bishops to put their full baptismal names at the head of their mandates and pastoral letters, the poor people of the area had chosen, out of a sort of affectionate instinct, the one among all the bishop’s various names that made the most sense to them, and so they called him Monseigneur Bienvenu—Welcome. We’ll do likewise whenever the occasion arises. Besides, the nickname tickled him.

“I like that name,” he said. “Bienvenu pulls Monseigneur into line.”

We are not saying that the portrait of the man we offer here is accurate; we will restrict ourselves to the claim that it is a passing likeness.

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

V. S. Pritchett
Hugo's genius was for the creation of simple and recognisable myth. The huge success of Les Miserables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to its poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature... Hugo himself called this novel 'a religious work'; and it has indeed the necessary air of having been written by God in one of his more accessible and saleable moods.

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Les Miserables 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 283 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is truly a masterpiece. The reader is absolutely drawn in by the characters. I adore books that make me cry because I know that then, I am definately involved. For this book, I bawled! I have to warn you that I have read a couple of different abridged versions and some of them cut out really crucial parts. Play it safe, pick up the unabridged version! You'll love it!
Lisa Rivera More than 1 year ago
I love this book, but I was not at all satisfied with the Nook version. It worked fine at first, but then it would freeze up on me. I would constantly get error messages saying the Activity Reader has stopped working, and then I would have to force close it. Then to top it all off, the last part of the book is missing! Not worth wasting your $ ... even if it's only a dollar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have spent nearly two hours with customer service because my nook freezes up whenever I try to something unusual like highlight a portion, look up a word, or turn the page. Also got the Activity Reader Error. Final engineering report: we will refund your money. I will purchase another version, but still unabridged as the story is wonderful.
Robtish More than 1 year ago
Don't buy this for the NOOK! It's the translation by Fahnestock (as advertised). It's the Hapgood translation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The misleading title "complete with all 5 volumes" had me thinking this was an unabridged version. It is NOT. Though I enjoy the translation, I wanted to read the WHOLE book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story of Les Mis is absolutely wonderful. I was drawn to reading the book after seeing the 25th Anniversary production of the musical at the O2 in London (also highly recommended). I like that in the unabridged version, you get more details about the story, but you also get extensive social commentary from Hugo on the world he sees around him. It adds another dimension to the book. That having been said, this particular file works great until you get to 700 out of the 1250 pages. From that point on it continually freezes everytime you try to turn a page. It also frequently kicks you to an entirely different page which may be numerous pages back from where you are currently reading or several chapters ahead.
Booklover154 More than 1 year ago
The very ending of the book is missing. It starts freezing towards the end. Loved the story and so upset I couldn't finish it.
JDH714 More than 1 year ago
Les Miserables is without a doubt the greatest novel ever written. With 1463 pages, the unabridged version published by Signet Classics is the translation you simply must read. Based off of the classic C.E. Wilbur translation, the voice of Victor Hugo is clear and consistent throughout the novel, and yet the adaptation of the language by MacAfee and Fahnestock makes the story easy to understand and appreciate. While some translations and abridged versions seem to steal away the personalities of the characters and the author, this complete translation makes you feel like you personally know Jean Valjean, Javert, Enjolras, and Victor Hugo. Les Miserables isn't like a lot of the classical books that you are forced to read in school, with tragically simple and unsurprising plot lines and blan characters. No, in Les Miserables, there is a surprise in every chapter, and the characters are original and refreshing. (Take Cosette for example: she is not just some boring, preppy 1800's girl. She laughs and jokes with Jean Valjean, and has a bit of a snooty side, very modern and exciting.) Victor Hugo included in the novel several poems, songs, and philosophical discussions, which are enlightening and inspiring. In a scene near the beginning of the novel, Bishop Myriel of Digne has a debate with a member of the National Convention, who tells the Bishop why the French Revolution happened, why it had to happen, and why it was a good thing. In no other book is the fight against tyranny expressed as well, save perhaps the works of Thomas Paine. And if poetry and philosophy and redemption aren't your thing, there are still the Friends of the ABC. Lead by the brave, Bad-A, Enjolras, this group of quirky students, workers, and misfits take to the streets of Paris in June of 1832, and build a barricade to fight off and over-through the rule of Louis-Philippe. Bravery, action, and explosions fill the later parts of the novel. And yes, even the most manly of men will cry, as our heroes sacrifice their lives for the cause of freedom. With its amazing characters, intense plot, and moving words, Les Miserables, written in French by Victor Hugo, and translated into English by C.E. Wilbur, Norman MacAfee, and Lee Fahnestock, is what a novel is supposed to be. You will be spellbound. Though a daunting read, you will not be able to put down what is the greatest novel ever written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many books before but this one just touched my heart in a diffrent way. It made me think diffrently and Victor Hugo did a very good job! It will make you see a diffrent way of life. I hav only read the free sample but it was just as fasinating. P.S- invest in a box of tissues!
Opinion More than 1 year ago
The novel has several poems, songs,and other passages that are essential to the story. In this edition, these passages are truncated on the right side of the page. No matter how small you shrink the font, you can't see the whole line, and the lines don't wrap. Don't buy this edition if you care about the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is truly a classic. But why pay even $0.99 when you can get it for free at Project Gutenberg????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Les Miserables is among the greatest book ever written. However, this ebook edition has too many faults to be forgiven. There are several pages that are presented in French with no translation. The last 20 or so pages of the book are missing. The ebook itself bogs down about midway through. Pages become VERY slow to turn. Barnes and Noble should stop selling this edition. The book deserves a five star rating but there are too many problems with this ebook edition.
tst63 More than 1 year ago
Although I am somewhat familiar with this story through theater, I wanted to see how much more the book went in detail, etc., but the sample will not open. BUY WITH CAUTION.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This version, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee, is my favorite, and is NOT available on Nook. I bought the one that was shown with the paperback version, thinking it was the same, and it is NOT. I am so angry right now! Talk about misleading & false advertising, Barnes & Noble! Please don't ever do this to your customers again.
BellGuginofan1 More than 1 year ago
won of the best books ever! as long as you keep in mind when it was written and the state literature was in at the time. absoulutly his masterpiece. very long book though and at times he went so far of the subject at times that it got frustrating but i was still satisfied with the book. though it it extremely long and quit intimidating at times, i had really no problem reading it. it took me about 2 weeks to read it. i really loved the characters of Jean Valjean, Eponime, Fantine and Javert.....these characters i was absolutly absorbed by i was with them every step of the way and when they all died i felt like i had lived their entire lifetimes. Marius and Cosette were my least favorite characters i felt they were put too high on a pedestool and inspite all they went throughout their lives together and separately they somhow managed to mantain their innocence which i find very hard to believe (which is why i put up on top - as long as you keep in mind the times it was written and the state of Lit. then) i found Cosette boring and Marius surprising cruel. and when he wasn't he always seemed aloof. however without them there is no novel such as this. so i could live with them. the rest of the characters i was indifferent too but again without them the heroes of the book wouldn't be so heroic. everyone complains about the addingof Waterloo, the Sewers and other "Books within a book" that deviates from the points that Victor Hugo is trying to make. i too found them distrating. however you find out later how inportant it is too the novel in explaining why a certain character(s) do somthing or in their thinking. think of them as tools you can use if you wish to elp you understand the book. if you skip them, i don't think that it will deminish from you enjoyment of this novel at all. read them after you read the story. i might help you understand it a little better. it is up to the individule reader i think. if for anything you can read those long passages on it own merit. they make good little books all by themselves. Think of them like they were DVD extras if you want. it also goes for his long rants of philosophy you can treat them like the other sub-passages of the book. but this is a little more important and some of them are more inportant to the direct reading of the book and pivitol of the plot. overall i think this is an excellent novel for summer reading. enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well... Where to start? I really did enjoy this story, despite the fact that I had to read the UNABRIDGED version for a school assignment. I believe that if I could have read it for pleasure (and not have a deadline) I would have enjoyed it much more. Overall, I liked most of the characters. There were a few who kind of creeped me out, like Cossette and Marius' story, but I digress. I really got attached to some of the secondary characters that ended up dieing in the end (which was frustrating). I also felt that Hugo spent much too much time on certain things (like chapters on battles and convents and sewers) while skimming over more important things (like character development). Overall, I would say it was worth the read. However, if you have a choice, I would definitely go with the abridged version unless you have hours upon hours of spare time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the greatest books ever written. If you have not read this book, you must read it soon.
Jessica Little More than 1 year ago
I think this book is inspiring and touching but this version seems to not work. Read the book though.
Joethereader More than 1 year ago
Huge, wide-ranging story, including a lot of French history of the era. Much of it is obscure to me with "insider" references, but the classic aspects of this great work are apparent. The translation is dated, but quite readable, particularly with the dictionary feature of the Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great. I don't know about the sample, but I bought the real deal. I downloaded it and its great. This is a rather large book so it definitely took longer than normal to download. Probably the other users problems. Highly recommended!
Lacey Ballard More than 1 year ago
Do not buy this, it doesn't open.
Rowsdower42 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book so much for the fact that it was challenging! I usually only read books that were "fun" or "enjoyable" for me, but this was the first real book that actually tested my mind! The wording in this book is totally different (probably because it was written by someone who is french), but it changes the way you think and understand what the story is about. I cannot even count how many new words I came across! It helped me practice my reading skills and enhanced my ability to think about and understand different types of writing. This book is not only for the challenge, it is also for the enjoyment. I honestly thought that I would not like it at all, but as I started to get into it, I was hooked. This author really goes into detail of all of the character's emotions, and various opinions about certain problems. It really makes you understand what the main characters are going through, and you almost feel that you are with them, feeling those same emotions. This book really shows the true meaning of love towards father and child. This author really opened my eyes to how the main character (Jean Valjean) will do anything to take care of her, and nothing more. It would be very easy for him to escape and go off by himself, but he truly respects the law, but also knows that she (Cosette) cannot live in the state she was first in, (being a slave). he therefore dedicates his life into taking care and raising her up until she can take care of herself, so then he can settle his deal with justice. I really admired this character, and loved all of the detailed feelings he had for this little girl, which truly touched my heart. I would defiantly recommend this book to people (around ages 15+) who want a challenging book, and are wanting to put their mind to the test. It is such an amazing book with challenging words and names that are hard to tell apart, but that was the fun of it for me! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oh, quel bon livre! I picked up Les Misérables because it was French, and it filled me with the pain of Fantine, the innocence of Cosette, the reform of Jean Valjean, and the valor of Marius. When I finally got to the last page I didn't want to be there. It was as if I'd known the characters for years. The book constantly surprised me and even caused me to exclaim aloud a few times, which is highly unusual for me. Don't be daunted by this book's size. It is intimidating, but once you get into the intricately weaved story, you'll never forget it.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago