“There is nothing like a dream to create the future
So - where should I begin? I do not even think it remotely possible to sum up all my feelings about this novel in 20.000 simple letters. Perhaps I will never be able to put down in words how this book touched me and burned into the core of my being.
I have long been hesitating about whether I should read "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo. Not only because of its pompous amount of pages, but also because of its historical significance and importance, its long-reaching influences, and its seemingly chaotic labyrinth of characters and story lines. It seemed deeply complicated to me, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to understand it.
However, I was happily surprised. The novel may contain a whirlwind of characters, but they are introduced properly and in a logical order, and their separated story lines are quickly united and tied up in a beautiful bow. I didn't get lost in their names - instead I actually got to know them and distinguish them from one another.
"We are drawn to what we lack. No one loves daylight more than a blind man
Hugo's writing puzzled me, and I still haven't figured out its simple, and yet completely magical structure. At first glance the writing merely seems simple and clear - but as you look closer, lovely quotes will appear almost everywhere. Each page contained a little wonder: a single sentence or an entire description, that I just wanted to bottle up and keep and cherish forever. So modest and so alluring at the same time.
"They did not speak, they did not bow, they were not acquainted; they saw each other; and, like the stars in the sky separated by millions of leagues, they lived by gazing upon each other.
I simply adored the love story between Marius and Cosette. It was delightfully told and with so much depth - at Marius' part at least. The clumsy portrayal of his pursuit of "Monsieur Leblanc" and his dear "Ursula" made me laugh several times. And isn't that the well-known silliness of youth? The comical and melodramatic Marius won my heart in those chapters.
The tangible love between Marius and Cosette was perhaps the only happy thing in this enormous novel. So I clang to it through all the tragedy and all the sorrow. Otherwise the story of Jean Valjean and his surroundings would be too hard for me to bear.
"Les Misérables" is indeed a tragedy. It's even in the title, as the book is an account of so many different kinds of sorrow and hurting. The death of children, the death of parents, abuse, lost ideals, shattered dreams and deep regret, is thoroughly described within these pages. And it is sad. It is supposed to be. The greatest power of "Les Misérables" is perhaps in its way to communicate all this pain and agony.
"Diamonds are to be found only in the darkness of the earth, and truth in the darkness of the mind.
My favorite character and the most interesting conflict is perhaps that of Javert; the police inspector struggling between rules and regulations, and basic human emotion. His internal battle was highly complex, and as it turns out, the only battle he couldn't win. His suicide embodies the deep rift between the law and the people, leading to Hugo's conclusion that there can never be unision between those.
"Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo is by no means a flawless novel. At times Hugo becomes too superfluous and the amount of historical facts becomes too excessive.
But I can forgive those long passages of history lessons completely, as the novel is filled with interesting psychological portrayals, deep and basic human conflicts, the eternal struggle between ideals and reality, a profound compassion for the poor, and of course a vivid and lasting impression of Hugo's France and his beloved Paris.