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4.2 out of 5 stars
Les Misérables (English language)
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175 of 179 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I know it's scary. It's probably one of the longest and hardest to read books you've ever picked up (or at least it was for me). Hugo goes into painstaking detail with his history, his scenery, and his character development. Reading on can be frustrating sometimes because you just can't see where the author is going. Minute descriptions of people, places, and political views abound. But you come to trust in Hugo...because you realize that no lengthy discussion is wasted with him. It has a purpose and a place and provides a richness to his story that I have never seen in any other work.

The scope and depth of the story is UNBELIEVABLE. The characters are so completely flesh and bone that you know them. You know who they are and exactly how they will react in a situation before it ever happens. The scenes are so masterfully laid out that you can envision every detail in your mind. And oh, believe me when I say the storytelling is breathtaking. Les Miserables is about poverty and the human condition, set against the backdrop of decades of French history. But it is so much more. It's a story of the redemption of man, despite everything the world can throw at him. It is a story of fear and sadness, but most of all, hope. The hope that we can do better. The hope that religion will not lead us down a path of self-righteousness, but to true righteousness, which to quote the book of Isaiah is "to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke". There is so much to be learned about forgiveness, love, happiness, and life from this story.

Les Miserables is not just a book. It might be the best book ever written. It is a LIFE CHANGER. Don't be afraid of it. Experience it for yourself.
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176 of 186 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
To clarify a misconception -- in the "product details," the ISBN listed (1449565530) is in error, as is the corresponding number (218) of print pages. That ISBN corresponds to "Volume II, Cosette." A publisher broke the rather long book into volumes so that they could sell five books instead of just the one megabook, and volume II is 218 pages. The kindle book is the complete, unabridged edition with all five volumes. Like all scanned books, it has scattered scanning errors that you can, in general, read through without compromising the experience.
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84 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
THIS IS THE HAPGOOD TRANSLATION and the rating is for the translation, not the novel. Amazon doesn't seem to like to list the translators but it can make a huge difference. I just got a Kindle, and having read Hunchback several years ago and having the Signet Classics Les Mis waiting on my shelf for a while, I decided this would be a good first hurdle for the Kindle. The hardcopy is so huge! Along the way I wondered why I seemed to be reading so slowly and having to re-read sections -- was I not adapting to the Kindle? -- and then I finally came across a phrase in this translation that really didn't make any sense at all. Maybe a word-for-word translation rather than an interpretation? - "...the great art: to make a little render to success the sound of a catastrophe..." I had another free download of the book, and found exactly the same translation. In the Signet Classics Fahenstock/MacAfee translation, however, it was in perfectly good English: "...the great art, to give a success something of the sound of a catastrophe..." Here's what's annoying: if I pull up the Signet Classics version on Amazon, it has link to buy it in Kindle edition, but the LINK'S TO THIS COMPLETELY INFERIOR TRANSLATION! Amazon doesn't offer a Kindle version of the Signet Classics translation so I'm looking elsewhere and using conversion software if I need to, then picking up where I left off in the Hapgood translation. Free is fine for public domain English-language books (Dickens, Twain) but I've learned my lesson with translations and will pay for premium.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I started Les Mis with the translation by Fahnestock & MacAfee in paperback. After reading more than 3/4 of the book, I purchased a Kindle. While I awaited its arrival, I downloaded Kindle to my PC & searched for a Kindle copy of Les Mis (& didn't want to pay a second time for the book). I could not find the same translation, but this is very similar. I easily transferred over 450 highlights from my paper copy to the ebook (on my computer). It took time, but it was pretty straightforward (a little awkward since the translations weren't identical). It would have been much harder & longer to try to do that on the actual Kindle.

One thing I miss in this translation: "Slang" is usually used instead of "argot", "emeute" is not used for "riot". It was fun to have some French words which would be explained & repeated in the text, used as text (in the F & M translation), instead of a translation which seems weak (in the Kindle copy). This is why I gave it a 4 instead of a 5.

I really liked the links from the Table of Contents to each volume, book & chapter (chapters were not listed in the Table of Contents of the paperback). But there is no forward option (to the next chapter). The format was very readable, even easier than the paperback (a blank line between paragraphs, which was very helpful on the extra long paragraphs).

An added bonus, which I found helpful, at the end of the Kindle copy, there is a letter Hugo wrote to the Italian publisher in 1862 telling in his words why Les Mis is for all nations. (This was not in my paper copy.)

By the time my Kindle arrived, my notes were ready to sync from the PC to the Kindle (pretty quick & mostly painfree), & I finished the book with the Kindle... much easier to hold & manipulate than 1500 pages.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Les Miserables is one of the three or four greatest and most important novels ever written. It is a magnificent historical tour de force filled with all the riches of cultural context, of human striving, love, and compassion as well as the despair and cruelty of poverty in 19th century France (or perhaps anywhere). It is loaded with profoundly memorable characters and their absorbing stories and interrelationships. If it has a fault as a novel it is that on rare occasions Hugo indulges in some socio-historical essay writing, which somewhat disrupts the flow of the larger story and which might have been better inserted as footnote material. Tolstoy does the same in War and Peace, which LM to some extent resembles. It is no accident that the greatest modern musical is based (fairly faithfully) on this wonderful monument of French fiction. It is a very long, dense book, so take your time and savor every scrumptious morsel. NB: this is not the book you take on the plane to destract yourself for a couple of hours. This is not chewing gum for the mind a la James Patterson. This is literature at its greatest, and you have to let yourself be absorbed into its astonishing depths. BTW, I am NOT and have never been HEIDI. I am JBF. Don't know why Amazon wants me to be Heidi, but couldn't figure out how to change.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is the most beautifully written book I have ever read. That being said, it is not for everyone. This book weighs in at nearly 1,500 pages and as such can be a bear to read. Hugo describes every facet of this story in such excruciating detail that it is almost painful, but in my opinion, this makes it better. How many times have you read a book, fallen in love with the characters, and finished the last page feeling a sense of loss and wanting to know more? Every page sends you deeper into the story and it inspires you to be a better person. When I finally finished it, I was almost floored. The profundity of what you read leaves you in thought for a few days. After journeying with the characters and beautiful speech for 1,500 pages, you almost don't want it to end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Some parts are tough to wade through as the section on sewers but the expounding on the ways of humans and how we treat one another is good food for any soul wishing to bring peace on earth to all men.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This story of a poverty stricken man sentenced to years of imprisonment for the theft of a loaf of bread in the 19th century resonates with me as an Australian convict descendant. Like my ancestors from Britain and Ireland, Hugo’s character in France, Jean Valjean, has the opportunity to turn his life around, not through a Ticket of Leave in a new country but through an act of kindness.

The novel’s overall message of the goodness and beauty of human nature is an appealing one. Hugo opens the readers’ eyes to what is important in human interaction. He shows us that people are forced to become what they are by the rules and expectations of society which imprisons people even when there are no prison bars. Characters are stripped of the labels stamped on them by a judgemental society. For example, Valjean sees Fantine not as the prostitute she has forced to become but as a woman and a mother, a mother desperate to be reunited with her daughter. Instead of condemning her and taking advantage of her vulnerable situation Valjean respects her and helps her.

For those who are daunted by the prospect of reading one of the longest novels ever written it might be useful to approach it as five novels (1: Fantine 2: Cosette 3: Marius 4: Saint-Denis 5:Jean Valjean) and settle down to read one novel at a time.
Each volume is a leisurely narrative that includes lengthy descriptions of characters, settings, conditions and events; a narrative that wanders off onto tracks that don’t appear to have any connection with the plot which I found annoying and frustrating .

Such a book as Les Miserables deserves a longer review than I have time for. To summarise, it is a story of the human condition, of love, loss and hope, of French society in the 1800s, and it is a plea for social justice.

Those who are like me and enjoy reading Dickens are likely to enjoy Les Miserables.
.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The basic story of Les Miserables is truly incomparable. Victor Hugo does get a little carried away with the fine details, the battle of Waterloo for instance went on and on too long I thought for what it impacted on the story.. The detail about the French sewers also seemed too much for its importance in the story.
In spite of going on a little long on some of the details, it was a fascinating read, and learning more of the story behind the movies and musicals was very rewarding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
When this story "is good" i.e. when it stays with the plot and characters, it's everything you could want a read to be: rich in detail, beautifully told, exciting, powerfully inspirational, an absolute page turner. I shed tears of joy and of pain; I sat back in awe; was so moved, so frightened, so impressed.

But when the story "is bad" i.e. when dear Mr Hugo frequently deviates from the plot and devotes chapter after chapter to endless accounts of incidental characters and events that are never mentioned again, and long portrayals of wars and politics over the years that, for me, added nothing to enhance the understanding or enjoyment of the plot or characters, one has to learn eventually how to artfully skip over these parts without losing anything from the book. I think I accomplished that.

I have since learned that Hugo's frequent digressions were a style of writing popular at that time, so this excellent book can't be faulted for that.
I personally happened to like the part about the convent though, and read every word of that - maybe there are those that felt the same way about the other parts I had to skip over. (if so, I salute you, dear reader, for being a real trooper!) Otherwise the parts that involved the characters pertinent to the story were what I loved - an extremely rewarding and profound reading experience. Loved it enough to scan through hundreds of pages of book to get back to my story, and still give it 5 stars.
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