Les Miserables

( 288 )

Overview

Victor Hugo's tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to ...
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Les Miserables

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Overview

Victor Hugo's tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Miserables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.

Norman Denny's introduction to his lively English translation discusses Hugo's political and artistic aims in writing Les Miserables

Trying to forget his past and live an honest life, escaped convict Jean Valjean risks his freedom to take care of a motherless young girl during a period of political unrest in Paris.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Children's Literature
As part of the "Bullseye Step into Classics" series, this book offers young readers a simplified version of the classic tale of the haunted and hunted man relentlessly pursued by the unforgiving police inspector. The opening scenes of the story, depicting the desperate poverty that drives Jean Valjean to steal a loaf of bread and, after his release from prison, to treat his benefactor dishonestly, are passed over quickly in narrative form and don't engage the reader on an emotional level. However, once Jean Valjean rescues Cosette from a terrible life and takes her as his daughter, the story becomes more and more compelling. This version will hold the interest of young readers and it is to be hoped that, when they are a few years older, they will search out the original masterpiece and become immersed in the drama of Jean Valjean, the hunted and Inspector Javert, the hunter. 1995, Random House, $3.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
Library Journal
Hugo's classic tale set against the backdrop of political upheaval in 19th-century France retains its timeless appeal in this notably condensed rendition of the struggles of former convict Jean Valjean. While the abridgment inevitably cuts many of the intricate subplots and minor characters who enrich Hugo's vast tome, this suspenseful central plot tracing Valjean's endeavor to emerge from desperate circumstances while being pursued by the duty-obsessed Inspector Javert remains intact and comprehensible to listeners. The principal characters retain their epic proportions, and the major themes of redemption through good works and the importance of authentic charity are undiminished. Narrator Michael York adds vigor and distinct characterizations to the broad cast of characters in this fittingly dramatic performance. Suitable for collections that do not already contain one of the many audio versions of this work (e.g., Audio Reviews, LJ 5/1/93).--Linda Bredengerd, Hanley Lib., Univ. of Pittsburgh, Bradford
Library Journal
Hugo's standard is being reprinted to tie in with the Disney animated feature. Though the average kid is not likely to wade through this epic, Hyperion's illustrated edition is actually quite nice if you're looking for a quality hardcover at a good price.
Kirkus Reviews
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (40 pp.; Sept. 1997; 0-531- 30055-2): A storybook retelling of Hugo's classic of the lonely bellringer and his hopeless love for the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmerelda, whom he rescues from hanging and the evil archdeacon Dom Frollo and reunites with her mother. While remaining relatively faithful to the original, this version from Wynne- Jones (The Maestro, 1996, etc.) is always competent, but never compelling. Slavin creates lovely illustrations, but his pale washes leave even the most festive scenes sedate. The volume lacks power or emotion; adults seeking an alternative—any alternative—to the Disney film may find that this one hardly competes for the hearts and minds of the target audience.
From the Publisher
"Hugo's genius was for the creation of simple and recognizable myth. The huge success of Les Misérables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to his poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature." —V. S. Pritchett

"It was Tolstoy who vindicated [Hugo's] early ambition by judging Les Misérables one of the world's great novels, if not the greatest… [His] ability to present the extremes of experience 'as they are' is, in the end, Hugo's great gift." —From the Introduction by Peter Washington

From Barnes & Noble
A rousing adventure story peopled with heartbreaking, unforgettable characters and a powerful allegory about the good and evil lying beneath the surfaces of human beauty, ugliness, and superior intellect.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433254598
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 23
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was born in 1820. He was one of France's greatest poets, dramatists and novelists. During his lifetime he produced twenty volumes of poetry, nine novels and ten plays. He was deeply concerned with the social and political developments ofhis time and his outspokenness eventually forced him to leave France until 1870 when he was elected to the national assembly. Norman Denny was educated at Radley College.

Biography

Novelist, poet, dramatist, essayist, politician, and leader of the French Romantic movement from 1830 on, Victor-Marie Hugo was born in Besançon, France, on February 26, 1802. Hugo's early childhood was turbulent: His father, Joseph-Léopold, traveled as a general in Napoléon Bonaparte's army, forcing the family to move frequently. Weary of this upheaval, Hugo's mother, Sophie, separated from her husband and settled in Paris. Victor's brilliance declared itself early in the form of illustrations, plays, and nationally recognized verse. Against his mother's wishes, the passionate young man fell in love and secretly became engaged to Adèle Foucher in 1819. Following the death of his mother, and self-supporting thanks to a royal pension granted for his first book of odes, Hugo wed Adèle in 1822.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Victor Hugo came into his own as a writer and figurehead of the new Romanticism, a movement that sought to liberate literature from its stultifying classical influences. His 1827 preface to the play Cromwell proclaimed a new aesthetic inspired by Shakespeare, based on the shock effects of juxtaposing the grotesque with the sublime. The great success of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) confirmed Hugo's primacy among the Romantics.

By 1830 the Hugos had four children. Exhausted from her pregnancies and her husband's insatiable sexual demands, Adèle began to sleep alone, and soon fell in love with Hugo's best friend, the critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. They began an affair. The Hugos stayed together as friends, and in 1833 Hugo met the actress Juliette Drouet, who would remain his primary mistress until her death 50 years later.

Personal tragedy pursued Hugo relentlessly. His jealous brother Eugène went permanently insane following Victor's wedding to Adèle. His daughter, Léopoldine, together with her unborn child and her devoted husband, died at 19 in a boating accident on the Seine. Hugo never fully recovered from this loss.

Political ups and downs ensued as well, following the shift of Hugo's early royalist sympathies toward liberalism during the late 1820s. He first held political office in 1843, and as he became more engaged in France's social troubles, he was elected to the Constitutional Assembly following the February Revolution of 1848. After Napoléon III's coup d'état in 1851, Hugo's open opposition created hostilities that ended in his flight abroad from the new government.

Declining at least two offers of amnesty -- which would have meant curtailing his opposition to the Empire -- Hugo remained in exile in the Channel Islands for 19 years, until the fall of Napoléon III in 1870. Meanwhile, the seclusion of the islands enabled Hugo to write some of his most famous verse as well as Les Misérables (1862). When he returned to Paris, the country hailed him as a hero. Hugo then weathered, within a brief period, the siege of Paris, the institutionalization of his daughter Adèle for insanity, and the death of his two sons. Despite this personal anguish, the aging author remained committed to political change. He became an internationally revered figure who helped to preserve and shape the Third Republic and democracy in France. Hugo's death on May 22, 1885, generated intense national mourning; more than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Good To Know

Hugo was seen by his fans as a grand, larger-than-life character -- and rumors spread that he could eat half an ox in one sitting, fast for three days, and then work without stopping for a week.

Hugo owned a pet cat named Gavroche -- the name of one of the primary characters in Les Misérables.

The longest sentence ever written in literature is in Les Misérables; depending on the translation, it consists of about 800 words.

When Hugo published Les Misérables, he was on holiday. After not hearing anything about its reception for a few days, Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher, reading, simply:

"?"

The complete reply from the publisher:

"!"

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    1. Also Known As:
      Victor-Marie Hugo
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 26, 1802
    2. Place of Birth:
      Besançon, France
    1. Date of Death:
      May 22, 1885
    2. Place of Death:
      Paris, France

Read an Excerpt

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age--the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night--are not yet solved; as long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless. Hauteville House, 1862.


1815, M. Charles Franois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D----. He was a man of seventy-five, and had occupied the bishopric of D---- since 1806. Although it in no manner concerns, even in the remotest degree, what we have to relate, it may not be useless, were it only for the sake of exactness in all things, to notice here the reports and gossip which had arisen on his account from the time of his arrival in the diocese.

Be it true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence upon their lives, and especially upon their destinies, as what they do.

M. Myriel was the son of a counsellor of the Parlement of Aix; of the rank given to the legal profession. His father, intending him to inherit his place, had contracted a marriage for him at the early age of eighteen or twenty, according to a widespread custom among parliamentary families. Charles Myriel, notwithstanding this marriage, had, it was said, been an object of much attention. His person was admirably moulded; although of slight figure, he was elegant andgraceful; all the earlier part of his life had been devoted to the world and to its pleasures. The revolution came, events crowded upon each other; the parliamentary families, decimated, hunted, and pursued, were soon dispersed. M. Charles Myriel, on the first outbreak of the revolution, emigrated to Italy. His wife died there of a lung complaint with which she had been long threatened. They had no children. What followed in the fate of M. Myriel? The decay of the old French society, the fall of his own family, the tragic sights of '93, still more fearful, perhaps, to the exiles who beheld them from afar, magnified by fright--did these arouse in him ideas of renunciation and of solitude? Was he, in the midst of one of the reveries or emotions which then consumed his life, suddenly attacked by one of those mysterious and terrible blows which sometimes overwhelm, by smiting to the heart, the man whom public disasters could not shake, by aiming at life or fortune? No one could have answered; all that was known was that when he returned from Italy he was a priest.

In 1804, M. Myriel was cure of B----(Brignolles). He was then an old man, and lived in the deepest seclusion.

Near the time of the coronation, a trifling matter of business belonging to his curacy--what it was, is not now known precisely--took him to Paris.

Among other personages of authority he went to Cardinal Fesch on behalf of his parishioners.

One day, when the emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy cure, who was waiting in the ante-room, happened to be on the way of his Majesty. Napoleon noticing that the old man looked at him with a certain curiousness, turned around and said brusquely:

'Who is this goodman who looks at me?'
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
The book which the reader now holds in his hands, from one end to the other...treats the advance from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsity to truth, from darkness to daylight, from blind appetite to conscience, from decay to life, from bestiality to duty, from Heaven to Hell, from Limbo to God. Matter itself is the starting point, and the point of arrival is the soul.
—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Twenty years in the conception and execution, Les Misérables was first published in France and Belgium in 1862, a year which found Victor Hugo in exile from his beloved France. Enemies and admirers throughout the world devoured his works—poetry, political tracts, and fiction—and the effect of these works upon the public was always sensational. On the morning of 15 May, a mob filled the streets around Pagnerre's book shop, eyeing the stacks of copies of Les Misérables that stretched between floor and ceiling. A few hours later, they had all—thousands of books—been sold. Hugo's critics were quick to condemn him for making money by dramatizing the misery of the poor, while the poor themselves bought, read, and discussed his book in unprecedented numbers. True to Hugo's political stance, he had written a book about the people that was for the people, a book that demanded a change in society's judgement of its citizens.

The story is set between 1815 and 1832, the years of Hugo's youth. The descriptions of Paris, the characterizations of Gavroche and other Parisian stock characters, and such statements as, "To err is human, to stroll is Parisian" all attest to Hugo's unswerving adoration of his home city. Exile no doubt encouraged the romantic meanderings of Hugo's prose. The protagonist of Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, is also in exile from the world of men because of the desperate crime he committed in his youth. Liberated from prison, Valjean hides his identity and becomes a successful man, as charitable as he is rich and powerful. His altruism leads him to promise Fantine, a dying prostitute, that he will seek out her exploited young daughter Cosette after her death. The ensuing love between "father" and "daughter" (Cosette) is miraculous, redeeming Valjean and bestowing happiness on his otherwise grim life. To some extent, Hugo also was seeking redemption, having, for much of his youth, ignored the populist concerns of Republican France. He sacrificed his lifestyle in Paris for justice, and Les Misérables, "the Magna Carta of the human race," is a testament of this humanitarian awakening.

The Revolution and Republic of France had failed to redress the unconscionable social conditions in which many French citizens languished. Les Misérables became an expression of and an inspiration for that attempt. Hugo initially entitled his work, Les Misère ("the poverty"), but changed it to Les Misérables, which, in Hugo's time, denoted everyone from the poor to the outcasts and insurrectionists. In Hugo's lifetime, the schism between "haves" and "have-nots" was vast; an unbalanced economy made jobs scarce for those who earned their living by work. This was an era without a welfare system, unemployment benefits, or worker's compensation. The closest thing to a homeless shelter was prison, a macabre dungeon where inmates slept on bare planks and ate rancid food. To this place the disabled, insane, hungry, or desperate citizens of France eventually found their way. The one hope of the poor for relief was charity from those who were, if not indifferent to their plight, outright hostile to it.

Les Misérables vindicates those members of society forced by unemployment and starvation to commit crimes—in Jean Valjean's case, the theft of a loaf of bread—who are thereafter outcast from society. It is fairly common parlance today to suggest that prison creates more hardened criminals than it reforms, but the idea was radical to Hugo's contemporaries. "Perrot de Chezelles, in an 'Examination of Les Misérables,' defended the excellence of a State which persecuted convicts even after their release, and derided the notion that poverty and ignorance had anything to do with crime. Criminals were evil." Jean Valjean morally surpasses characters working on behalf of this excellent State. The poor and the disenfranchised understood Hugo's message, accepted the affirmation he gave them, and worshipped him as their spokesman. Workers pooled their money to buy the book not one of them could afford on their own. The struggling people of France had found an articulate illustration of the unjust forces arrayed against them.

Hugo's gift to the people simultaneously affirms that every citizen is important to the health of the nation and emphasizes how that fact gives each individual responsibility for the conditions we all share. Hugo sees the world as a convoluted pattern: "Nothing is truly small...within that inexhaustible compass, from the sun to the grub, there is no room for disdain; each thing needs every other thing." He illustrates a system full of injustice, but in that same sphere, a single gesture of kindness redeems the world; he shows us a civilization based on self-interest and profit, but in one generous act the possibilities of a better world become manifest; he portrays people who regard their neighbors with suspicion and contempt, but with one vow of love, humanity's faith is born anew. Les Misérables is one of history's greatest manifestos of hope for humankind.

The immense popularity of this story has not diminished over time. Since the original 1935 film version, there have been several other international films entitled Les Misérables including a Spring 1998 release starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman. The "most popular musical in the world" has toured the globe several times and has been running on Broadway since March 1987. Why does this story continue to charm and inspire audiences and readers? In our time, as there was in Hugo's, there is cause for despair: greed and violence undermine true progress; human life is rendered meaningless through materialism and nihilism; children the world over suffer neglect, poverty, and ignorance. Who does not identify with Jean Valjean's arduous journey through the sewers, and who does not long for an escape like his emergence into the pristine Parisian dusk? Hugo illustrates how the most profound revolution takes place in our individual consciences, how every moment we are faced with decisions to do right or wrong, and how to make in our hearts pitched battles against our own worst impulses. Les Misérables incites us to make the best fight of our lives the fight to become authentically good people and gives us hope that our efforts will not be in vain. Time cannot change the necessity or urgency of that message—only people can.

ABOUT VICTOR HUGO

Victor Hugo died in 1885 as one of the most famous Europeans in history. The number of people who attended Hugo's funeral ceremony was larger than the normal population of Paris. On the first of April, Hugo's pauper's coffin, which he had requested in his will, was carried from the Arc de Triomphe to his final resting place at the Panthéon. At eighty-three years old, Hugo had outlived two siblings, his wife, three out of four of his children, and thousands of admirers and critics who had watched his career transform and flourish. Prolific and protean as an artist, a politician, and a man, Hugo was capable of testing the limits of extremes, having learned the tension of polar opposites from his parents early in life. Victor-Marie Hugo was born on 26 February 1802 to Sophie Trébuchet and Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo. His father was a decorated General in Napoléon's army, stationed in Italy and Spain during much of young Victor's youth. His mother was not only a Monarchist, but was involved in a plot to overthrow Napoléon. Under the care of his stoic mother, Hugo grew into a traditionalist, sworn to preserving the neo-Classical tradition of French literature and the rights of the French monarchy.

Hugo's literary talent was first publicized when he was seventeen years old. In 1819, he submitted two poems to the Académie Française, winning the Golden Amaranth for one poem and the Golden Lily, the Académie's highest honor, for another. (Hugo was elected to the Académie in 1841.) He published 112 articles and twenty-two poems in Le Conservateur Littéraire, the magazine founded by his brother Abel. These writings all supported traditional French literature and castigated early Romanticism, an ideology that soon thereafter lured Hugo to its camp with its irresistible ideals of freedom, honesty, and originality.

In 1830, Hugo's play Hernani put all Paris on its feet. The play opened at the Comédie Française and was attended by the new and the old aesthetic regimes. Ignoring the classical unities and their stale dignity of speech, Hernani was cheered by the Romantics and insulted, booed, and declaimed by the older, more conservative "kneeheads." Aesthetic disagreements escalated into riots, and duels were even fought over Hugo's play. Thus began a volatile and prolific career, each work fresh, surprising, and loaded with that Hugolian tendency to incite controversy. Hugo's literary output was staggering and the following is but a brief list of his major works: (poetry) Les Châtiments, Les Feuilles d'automne, La Légende des siécles, Les Orientales, Odes et Ballades, Les Rayons et les ombres, L'Art d'^etre grand-pére, (novels) Bug-Jargal, Notre Dame de Paris, Les Misérables, Les Travailleurs de la mer, L'Homme qui rit, Ruy Blas. Add to this his political and cultural commentary, his travelogues, letters, speeches, and plays, and you have a corpus of work that scholars are still compiling, publishing, and analyzing.

Hugo made no attempt to separate his life as a writer from his life as a citizen. In 1845, Hugo was made a pair de France (life peer and member of the Upper House), a position which should have endeared him to powerful circles and alienated him from the people. Yet a comfortable existence acquiescing to unjust powers was not to be Hugo's destiny, as he often proclaimed, "Not to believe in the people is to be a political atheist." During the revolutions, riots, and massacres of 1848 and 1849, Hugo abandoned the regime of Louis-Napoléon, nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, because of its increasing authoritarianism; and when Louis-Napoléon was confirmed the leader of the Republic, Hugo and thousands of other thinkers, dissenters, and literati went into exile. For the next twenty years, Hugo disseminated his works from Belgium and the small islands in the English Channel, smuggling political satires and polemical verse in sardine tins, walking sticks, and baggy trousers. It was at this period Hugo produced his magnificent excoriation of Louis-Napoléon, Napoléon-le-Petit, as well as Les Châtiments (The Punishments), an explosion of poetic wrath directed at the emperor. Throughout his life, Hugo worked to further Republican virtues, affirming education and a democratic distribution of property, denouncing the unbalance of power and capital punishment.

Hugo's home, however, did not quite match the utilitarian simplicity of his ascetic ideal Jean Valjean. He had proven that one could get rich writing books; it was partially Hugo's love of humanity that had made him a millionaire. The two women he loved—his wife Adèle and his mistress Juliette— shared in a large part of the work—answering letters, copying manuscripts, etc.—and a small part of the glory. Hugo had married his childhood sweetheart against his parents' wishes in 1822, and they had four children. This family avoided the actress and ex-prostitute who resided down the street from them, Juliette. Her affair with Hugo lasted for fifty years, perhaps the longest extra-marital affair in history. Neither a model of virtue or simplicity, Hugo nonetheless inspired the people of many nations and many generations to act with greater regard for others.

Today it is hard to imagine a playwright whose works young men die defending, a poet whose followers cry for revolution, a thinker whose thoughts change world history. Hugo was all of these and his legacy survives through his tremendous literary bequest. He lived in a time when children were shot in the streets of Paris and governments were violently overthrown every twenty years. His presence was a beacon and a pillar, a palpable force to struggle against or with, a mad blend of courage, genius, and kindness. It is not his godliness which assures Hugo's place in eternity, but his humanity.

RELATED TITLES

Notre-Dame of Paris
Translated with an Introduction by John Sturrock

This powerful evocation of Paris in 1482 and the tragic tale of Quasimodo has become the classic example of French romanticism.
0-14-044353-3

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • How did Bishop Bienvenu's visit to the dying revolutionary G—change him? What about this man surprised the Bishop and why? How are the Revolutionary ideals espoused by G— similar to or different from the pure Christian ideals of the Bishop?
  • Why did Jean Valjean steal the Bishop's silver? How was this act influenced by his experience in prison? Discuss the process of change that occurred in Valjean after the Bishop "bought back his soul from Satan" with the silver. Would this bargain have been successful with every person? Why was Valjean subject to such transformation?
  • Discuss what you know about the French Revolution and its cultural echoes in France. Could this story of Valjean's redemption be told in another historical context? In what ways is this story dependent on and independent of its setting?
  • How would you characterize Hugo's political and nationalist stance based on his description of the Battle of Waterloo and his account of other political events? Can his loyalties—Monarchist, Bonapartist, nationalist, humanist, etc.—be discerned and defined?
  • Marius's friends die in the July Revolution. What values were they defending? What do you think Hugo values in these heroic characters and how oes his description of them show this?
  • Hugo inserts a rather scathing aside about the nature of Fame in Part I, chapter one: "Prosperity presupposes ability." Jean Valjean is an example of a man who is exceptional in many significant ways, who positively and profoundly affects the lives of people around him, and who lives and dies in absolute obscurity. This portrait is drawn by a man who was inarguably the most famous man in France, literally "a legend in his own time." How can fame adversely influence one's ability to do good in the world? How does Valjean safely covet his obscurity, and how does this obscurity contribute to the good deeds Valjean habitually performs?
  • Cosette was never more fortunate than when she left the home of the socially "respectable" Thénardiers to be raised by a feared ex-convict. How is this an indictment of Hugo's society's criteria for respectability? What are the Thénardiers symbolic or symptomatic of?
  • One of the most psychologically complex characters is Javert, who— though he plays the role of a villain—acts not out of malice but out of a sense of duty to what he truly believes is ethically correct. How would you define Javert's value system? There is a weak link in Javert's chain of rationalizations for his behavior and his life. Identify it and explain how it leads to Javert's suicide. At which points in the book does Hugo show Javert to advantage? At which points does Javert appear to be more a classic villain?
  • Hugo clearly adores Paris. How is the street urchin Gavroche symbolic of the city in which he runs rampant? If he is truly a "son of Paris," which attributes did he inherit from his "mother"? Compare Hugo's descriptions of Paris to his descriptions of the French countryside and smaller cities. How do Parisians differ from denizens of the rest of France? Are these differences slight or serious?
  • Compare the musical Les Misérables to the book. What is left out, emphasized, or added? How does the change of medium effect the pace and tone of the story? To what do you attribute the long-running success of the musical?
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 287 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 1999

    Would It Be Possible To Love A Book More?

    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!

    39 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 28, 2011

    Buy at your own risk!

    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.

    32 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2008

    Over-rated

    I'm not sure how this excruciatingly long-winded book managed to achieve classic status. The characters are completely flat, from the relentlessly selfless Bishop of Digne to the reformed Jean Valjean who, though he sometimes doubts himself, always winds up being utterly generous and humble, to Thenardier, the caricature of bottomless greed, and Javert the relentless inspector who instead of pursuing murderers, rapists and con-artists, inexplicably spends ten years obsessing over the capture of a guy who stole a loaf of bread and wouldn't give a kid back a coin that he'd dropped. <BR/>For all its flowery prose, this book doesn't manage to bring much of anything to life. We're told that Jean Valjean has this timeless love for adopted little Cosette, but we never get to see that love develop. We never see any tender and inspirational moments between them. The author just insists that it's an amazing love and we are supposed to take his word for it. Likewise the romance between Cosette and Marius. Not much of anything happens between them. There is never a moment when they are together and we feel like we're seeing two people discover the elements of love buried beneath their outward surfaces. Here everything is surface. VH insists that their love is great; we watch them pining away for each other; but really we wonder why exactly they're pining.<BR/>As for the famous digressions in the book, they aren't the problem. Okay--four chapters on the sewers of Paris and the poetics of excrement were a bit much, but the real problem is that Hugo endlessly repeats himself. It seems like he doesn't think the reader is smart enough to appreciate the sense of what he's saying unless he repeats it three or four or five times. At one point, I put the book down in disgust because he posed the same philosophical question (with slight rewording each time) over and over again till it filled up most of a page. If you read this book, be prepared to mutter under your breath "All right, I get it already...could you move on please" quite frequently.<BR/>I've read some reviews that cite this book as a good lesson in the history of the French Revolution. It's not actually about THE French Revolution, just an uprising in Paris more than forty years later, though echoes of the Revolution and its aftermath are everywhere. Unfortunately for the modern non-French reader, Hugo pretty much assumes you already know everything about the Revolution, the Restoration, the reign of Napoleon and lots of more obscure tidbits of French history. He doesn't often explain, but only rhapsodizes on bygone days so that, if you aren't already steeped in French history, you often have to resort to an online encyclopedia to find out what it is he's actually talking about.<BR/>Speaking of not being a French reader, will someone please tell the idiot translators of these kinds of books that they need to translate everything into English. There are untranslated French and Latin phrases sprinkled throughout every chapter. I realize they may not have an exact equivalent in English, but I could at least get a sense of them if they were translated. Leaving them in French or Latin just leaves me with a bunch of words I have to translate myself.

    20 out of 69 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2011

    Good Book but Glitchy File

    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.

    17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2011

    Try a different version!!!

    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.

    16 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2012

    Don't buy this for the NOOK! It's the translation by Fahnestock

    Don't buy this for the NOOK! It's the translation by Fahnestock (as
    advertised). It's the Hapgood translation.

    14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2011

    Do Not Buy THIS Version

    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.

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    Great Translation - But Abridged

    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.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2011

    Great book, but why pay?

    This is truly a classic. But why pay even $0.99 when you can get it for free at Project Gutenberg????

    8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2012

    Les Miserables is without a doubt the greatest novel ever writte

    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.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    Crucial parts are unreadable. Don't buy this

    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.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Emotional

    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!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    X

    I WENT TO SEE THE THE MOVIE IT WAS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SAD BUT SOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!z

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    One of the Greatest Classics Ever

    The movie is good, the play is good, the movie based on the play is good, but none of them can hold a candle to the book. It is brilliant and life altering. It is one of my favorite books ever. I have read it many times.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Great book but edition

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Good Story, but cannot open Sample

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Unabridged

    This is the unabridged

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    Les Miserables

    Although this isnt the right one, i still love the story. I saw a nonmusical version of the movie and it was good so i cant wait to see the new one soon. My dad espesially... you shouldve seen his face when he found out its been released X-mas day. XD

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2012

    This version, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee, i

    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 &amp; false advertising, Barnes &amp; Noble! Please don't ever do this to your customers again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2012

    won of the best books ever! as long as you keep in mind when it

    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 &quot;Books within a book&quot; 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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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