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Les Misérables

Les Misérables - Victor Hugo, David Case I have avoided this book for decades, because it's long, it's "set against the backdrop of revolution," and it's about people enduring hard lives. None of these things are really my cup of tea, but a few weeks ago my husband and I watched Les Misérables starring Hugh Jackman. I can't say that I loved that movie (it was ok), but it did make me think that perhaps I should give the book a shot, so I did.

After reading the book I've changed my preconceived notions. I really thought that this book was only minimally "set against the backdrop of revolution," and I didn't think that it was so much a story about people enduring hard lives as it was a story about the love a parent feels for their child. The book was absolutely heart-rending when Jean Valjean pulls out his daughter's little girl clothes on the day of her wedding and has a good cry over the fact that he's "lost" her to her husband, and when on his deathbead Jean Valjean reflects upon how much joy Cosette brought into his life. I don't have children, but I love my niece and nephew as if they were my own kids, and these passages made tears spring to my eyes. They beautifully capture such complex emotions that I think anyone who loves their children can relate to.

That said, though, while I enjoyed Les Misérables, I wasn't as overcome by the bulk of the book as I was by the ending passages. From a purely analytical point of view I can appreciate the magnificence of this work. From a personal point of view, though, it didn't move me as often or as forcefully as I sort of expected it to. In fact, I was ultimately left wondering what all the fuss is about.