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Les Miserable

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Like having your heart torn out a hundred times over? Read this book!

I guess the title should have been a good indication that there would have been many tears shed when I read this book but I still decided to read it anyway and blame the author when I cried at all the deaths (don't worry, I won't spoil it for you, I won't tell you who dies. But certainly from the title and the many people running around who love the musical, you've picked up that there are many deaths).

I'm a fan of the old book smell (who isn't) and the way old, classic books look on my shelves. Also, I like being able to brag that "I own that book" when talking about a classic. Therefore, I own many classics such as Les Miserable, Don Quixote, Dracula, Charlotte's Web, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and many more. My classic shelf is nearly full. However, I have not read most of the books on the shelf. Thus, when I finished the Michael Vey series and had to decide on a new book to start, I thought I would choose a classic to read and challenge myself.

I said to most people who I'd asked for suggestions on what to read next that it was the particularly strong "old book smell" of Les Miserable that drew me and made me decide on that book over all the other books that they had suggested for me to read. But while Les Miserable did have a beautiful "old book smell" (I book it at a library book sale for $0.50 and it has a nice old cover and old pages and its smell of thick worn paper could draw any reader in), I was curious to read the book.

I will confess, before reading the book, I had not seen the Les Miserable movie adaptation in full. Nor had I listened to the full musical playlist. Nor had I seen the play performed anywhere. This made it quite interesting.

I do love a few of the Les Miserable songs. "On My Own" has always been a favorite of mine (a drama teacher sang it to us once to boost our confidence and cheer us up before a production. She was one of the best singers I've ever known). I quite enjoyed "I Dreamed a Dream" having always thought it had a good tune to it. And "Castle on a Cloud" was taught to me at singing lessons I had as a kid and though I hated the lessons, I loved the song.

So I read the book. And though it took much longer than it usually takes me to read a book (not that unusual considering it was written in the 1800s and there were a number of slow parts and French words I had to take a second to understand what they were referring to), I really enjoyed the book. The language was not too hard to understand. Though I certainly would not have recommended the book to a novice reader, someone who had been reading all their life could certainly read it, whether or not they understood French (as I said before, there were a few French phrases left in the translation and many French places or terms that the reader had to understand before moving on).

But the best thing about reading the book was watching the movie afterward. While there were a few annoying places where the movie swapped the order of events or missed key points, it followed the book pretty well. And having read the book, I knew who all the characters were, though I might not have if I hadn't read the book. I'll tell you this, it isn't a spoiler: there's a little boy in the movie who comes on the scene and isn't immediately introduced, in fact, he isn't introduced until quite a bit later. Had I been watching the movie without reading the book, I would have been confused. But having read the book, I knew he was Gavroche.

My favorite part, though, was hearing and watching "I Dreamed a Dream" for the first time after reading the book. The song is beautiful, I always thought that. But what I didn't realize is that the song actually tells Fantine's backstory, the story of Cosette's father. The story is told in the book and listening to the song for the first time since reading the book I was able to make the connection. I was in tears by the end of the song.

All in all: five stars. I would totally recommend reading the book. Especially if you are an accomplished reader. Especially if you enjoy classics. Especially if you haven't seen the movie before and could therefore watch it after the book. Or, I mean, you could fulfill all three and then definitely, definitely you should read it.

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