I love musicals!
There, I said it. I love the big emotions, over-the-top costumes, crazy silly misunderstandings, the dancing, and, of course, the singing! I often times wish I had my own theme song (something like John Williams Jurassic Park) or that my friends and I would just randomly break into song and dance. Alas, that rarely happens. Luckily, Rent sing-a-longs have been known to occur in my household.
All of this is a big interlude to explain why I decided to read the 1232 page book: Les Miserables. Now, I would be a horrible friend if I also didn’t mention that a friend of mine, Nick, and I have our own personal reading club. It’s just the two of us and we take turns choosing what book to read next. I believe this was actually his choice. (Sometimes I think he chooses books that are from a mysterious list called “books over 1000 pages long”. But that’s really neither here nor there.)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is an amazing book that is part fiction, part historical, part political rant, part liberation theology, part really long diatribe, and part love story. This is a book of romantic love, lies, mistaken identities, scorned love, parental love, war, justice, and classism. It’s a book that questions progress. What is progress? What should it look like?
The book is over 1200 pages long. It can cover a lot of ground. Of course, if you’re looking for the plot line, there are full chapters you can actually skip. Many translations will tell you which chapters are often skipped own the abridged versions.
If you haven’t read it yet and you think you are going to, I highly suggest listening to the musical while you read it. This is what I did. The musical moves much faster than the book – so it’s a little like listening to someone constantly foreshadowing what is to come. The musical leaves out so much detail, though, that it won’t ruin any surprises (well, not too much).
While most of the book is rather sad (it is a book about those who are miserable), I found myself feeling hopeful at the end. Here’s how the book ends:
“Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it: nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.”
– Victor Hugo