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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We should be better for reading it..., June 28, 2006
This review is from: Les Misérables (Modern Library) (Hardcover)
... but this was the most popular book, read by soldiers, North and South, during our Civil War. We should be better for hearing democracy in Beethoven, piety in Bach, compassion in Mozart -- and perhaps we do, one person at a time, but I fear we are always running out of time.

I read this book thirty years ago, over two winters, setting it down midway in March 1977 I believe. I had heard a near-complete reading on NPR, spread over at least a month of Saturday afternoons. I always made sure I was home for that; I was a single parent, then, father of a seven year old boy. To use a cheap term of the day, I could 'relate' to Jean Valjean, and I was thrilled by the music that opened each episode: the March to the Scaffold from Berlioz' "Symphony Fantastique." After the final episode, I went out and bought the Modern Library Giant, and began to read.

The radio production was not complete! While I found the details surrounding the Battle of Waterloo truly informative -- the description of the battlefield as a captial A was a vivid model of simplicity -- the long section on the history of the nuns' order where Valjean and his young ward take refuge, and where she is educated, invited a lot of skimming.

Skim where you will, but try to read the complete book. At some later time you can return to those pages you skimmed, and discover what you missed.

Les Miserable, The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, Moby-Dick, Joseph and His Brothers, Remembrance Of Things Past (okay, In Search Of Lost Time), Ulysses -- all of these demand much of us, particularly our time. That is a good thing, considering the many ways modern life invites us to waste time, and I could not begin to choose the best among these. Fortunately I don't have to; I might run to "As I Lay Dying" or "Lord Jim" instead.

Meanwhile, I'm glad I devoted a chunk of my life to this book. I do know I emerged a better man for that, and how sad I was when I read the final page, and closed the book.
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