When Plinky sent me an email asking "What book could you read over and over?" I could not resist the urge to answer. My choice may be somewhat unique, and maybe for that very reason alone, I must tell you about it…
The one book (besides the Bible) that I can and have read over and over is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I read it for the first time when I was about 14.
You might wonder how I came to read it for the first time… it isn't exactly something you hear American teenagers raving about.
At the time, I was taking piano lessons in a quaint little backwoods town. Right down the street from my piano teacher's house was one of the most fascinating libraries I have ever been in. It was located inside an old house and most of the books were antiques. When you wanted to check out a book, all you did was sign your name in a spiral bound notebook and write your phone number.
One summer afternoon as I explored the wonderfully spicy aged smelling stacks, I stumbled across a copy of Les Miserable divided into five hardbound volumes that looked old enough to be the very first English translation.
I started reading on the way home and as our sped down the winding mountain roads, I fell in love with the story of the man named Jean Valjean.
Before I was done I was hopelessly smitten with a young passionate rebel named Enjolras and was quite indignant at the ungrateful and somewhat brainless actions of the young Cosette. My heart went out more to her mother, the tragic beauty, Fantine.
Since that time, I have been gifted with my own unabridged paperback version. It sits proudly on my shelf, or wherever it happens to get dropped when I start rereading it. The spine is now severely creased in several spots and looked to be in danger of splitting apart all together.
Someday soon, I will purchase a hardcover version, which no doubt I will wear out also.
If you haven’t read Les Miserable yet, I challenge you, read it! Don’t cheat and get an abridged version either. Victor Hugo took 7 years to write that. Any abridgement takes out the heart and soul he poured into it. It is more than a novel… it is a discourse on all of life and humanity and comes very close to capturing the mysterious essence of the human spirit.
I will definitely have to look into this…I am looking for a new book to read! A book that I really enjoyed and can read over and over is Life of Pi…I highly recommend it. And I must agree the Bible is always important.
Raul: I’ve heard good things about The Life of Pi… I should read it soon. 🙂 Enjoy Les Mis!
Wow, guys… thanks so much! I can’t believe all the views I am getting! Being featured on “Freshly Pressed” is awesome!
I so loved the book that I was actually disappointed by the musical…Oh well, isn’t that the same with movies based on books?
as the wordpress homepage loaded, my eyes caught something delightfully familiar; the bilboard of a musical with incredible passion and a realism that seemingly no other story can capture. i played many songs from les mis in my high school band, and, shortly after graduating, found myself still playing through the sets in my mind (and to the dismay of others, i was still drumming the parts on whatever was around me). after being exposed to the musical for so long, i knew there was no other choice but to buy the novel itself and start reading it. i did get the abridged version. i haven’t finished it, since i have difficulties reading, but i must say with enthusiasm, that you are absolutely correct the last line of this post. it is definitely a discourse on humanity. and i agree with you also that reading an abridged version of the story is an injustice. i’m so glad that there are still people in the world who do read, and yea, even appreciate the true value of such works.
I love the plot (but dislike Cosette, I so GET Eponine’s perspective! She’s much more my type), but I found the book rather boring. I’m 14 now, the same age you said you were when you first read it. I felt that taking 77 pages to actually introduce Valjean and spending 100 pages on the Battle of Waterloo, just to give us some historical information, was a little bit much. And then all that stuff about the sewers of Paris … I must confess, I skipped out rather a lot of it.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading it because when it got onto the point, the exciting bits WERE exciting. But, though this may sound shocking, I do prefer the musical. It’s like they took the whole thing and compressed it into something much shorter.
But I think people should read the book as well. After all, the musical misses things out — Fantine sells her teeth in the book, but not in the musical, and Eponine dies saving Marius from a musket ball, not returning from taking a message: she didn’t take it, in the book, it was Gavroche. Who also happens to be her brother, a fact not mentioned at all in the musical.
Sorry about the long comment. I get carried away talking about books 🙂
Delorfinde, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. I know Victor Hugo did drag out some parts, and to be honest, the first time I read it I skipped around. 🙂 The movie cuts out even more than the musical, sadly.
Thank you all for visiting my blog and sharing enthusiasm for Les Mis and reading! 🙂
On Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 11:18 AM, Toni Cross wrote:
> Delorfinde, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. I know Victor Hugo did drag > out some parts, and to be honest, the first time I read it I skipped around. > 🙂 The movie cuts out even more than the musical, sadly. > >
Have you seen the musical?
Just came across your blog via Freshly Pressed today. A lovely review. I’ve never read Les Miserables myself and never intended to (wasn’t sure it was my style), but your description my have convinced me!
First, how does it feel to be specially featured on the home page! 🙂 Funny coincidence that I just wrote a review of Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. As of this moment I think I can re-read it again and again. Its melancholic I must add but so very thought provoking
Appear to be the guardian of your writing that reading often positively affected Vicky
This is great- I read this book as a 14-year-old as well, and also fell a little in love with the friends of the ABC (although I was more attached to Courfeyrac for some reason). I don’t know how many times I went through Les Miserables, but it was a lot, and I’m proud to say that each time, I dutifully plowed through those four really thick sections. It’s been sitting on my shelf since I got married seven years ago. My husband and I love reading, but I’ve never gone through that one with him- I think I really should. Ahhh, memories.
I was going to go to the library for some books . . . I’ll pick it up!! Thanks!!!
I’ve never attempted the book, although I do adore the musical. I need to remedy that right away. My to be read stack is a little high at the moment though:) I really like your page, and am glad I saw it featured on the wordpress homepage. Congratulations!
I was about 15 or 16 when I first read Les Mis. I was obsessed with it (and drove my family crazy) for a long time! I had a huge crush on Enjolras. Loved Eponine and Gavroche. My favorite minor character who never makes it into any of the adaptations: M. Mabeuf. It’s still a favorite book.
Movie never same book.It’s feel bad.
🙂 The word Gavaroche made me click this link. Yea u r right, it’s a novel where Victor Hugo has poured out his heart and soul. So touching. I happened to see the movie when i was 9-years -old and it made me cry.Only a decade later I happened to read the book, and the last chapters was too moving that I shut the book to let my tears out. It’s all about the goodness of a man, and how the world often fail to realize it. If possible, watch the Liam Neeson version of the novel.
The Liam Neeson version IS good… however, it leaves alot out. Still a good movie, though.
what mean “les miserables” actually?
Nice review. I would like to read it though the size really intimiIdates me. I read life of pi. It was weird but unique
Les Miserables means “The Miserable”.
I read Les Miserables when I was 16 because I was infatuated by the musical. I actually taught a two week course in the book, using clips from the musical. It was so much fun. Thank you for reminding be about that book; I haven’t read it in years.
My “special book” is To Kill a Mockingbird. It took me by surprise and I didn’t expect to like it so much. Just another classic to get through in High School. But now I go back and relive it just about every year.
Cool! Believe it or not, I have never read “To Kill A Mockingbird, though I plan to soon.
I’ve seen reviews of the musical version but have not seen the movies nor read the novel.
Sounds like an interesting book to read.
I’ll have to check it out…
I LOVE LES MISERABLES.
Please read my blog on it ‘ “does celebrity obsession still count when it’s in a cultured environment?”
This is similar to the old; ‘if you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one book with you, what would it be?’ scenario.
For me, it’d probably be Troilus And Criseyde by Chaucer – all the passions, problems and poetry of life are contained within!
Your description of the library is fabulous! What I wouldn’t give to spend a few hours browsing their shelves, not to check out, but just to look and admire (ok, and drool, too).
In all honesty, it took me several years to summon the interest to read Les Miserables (for personal reasons best left unsaid). However, once I cracked the spine, I could hardly set it down. Today I proudly own a copy of my very own and occasionally reread it. I must say, you have excellent taste. 🙂
Thanks 🙂 It is one of the very coolest libraries ever!
I can still remember this book. I have read this book when I was in college during our World Literature class. Our professor let us watch this movie and we did a play. I was chosen to take the role of Jean Valjean (I am not a good actor but for the sake of good grades) but we portrayed it differently. We made it musical. It is really a good book to read and I cannot say that I am really book lover since I dont read that much but when I started to read I cant get rid of it and finish the book. It is good to know that you are fond of classic novels such as this book.
This is a book I own, but I’ve never read. I saw the play on Broadway, so I guess maybe I should crack open the book.
I have seen the movie, and probably doubt that it could equal the book, but I absolutely identify with your passion of the story.
No other movie, except maybe The Passion has struck me so deeply. I have the dvd and often re-play it to remind myself that there is still truth and virtue available in this world.
I now will have to read the book.
Thanks for your blog, it has made my day.
Sure, I’ll try it, but which english translation is the best? I don’t know how to read french 😛
I’ll definitely have to check that book out! Some great reading material are books by Mitch Albom. GREAT author. I’m reading all of Dave Pelzers books now, about his life of being abused. If you like crime, check out Michael Connelly. All great reads. Thanks for writing!
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I’ll definitely have to check that book out
Wow, you’re right, that doesn’t seem to be a book that most teenagers would be raving about, now-a-days it seems to be twilight and all that stuff. But, it sounds like a classic so I’ll put it in my ‘check out’ list to buy a copy and read.
I picked up the book and found myself skipping around quite a bit. I am absolutely in LOVE with the musical, though. If anyone out there lives in or near Virginia Beach, VA, a group will be performing the musical for two weekends with the quality of a professional cast. TheatrixProductions.com has more information if anyone is interested.
As for the book… I will have to pick it up again sometime soon and give it another try. I love a good challenge! (:
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what is this
it is amazing how plinky is making waves and enabling bloggers like you to have this bright idea of writing about the book you want to read over and over again..appreciate you sharing your favorite book and your boldness to write is enviable…kudos!
btw, 7 years to write Les Mis is really something.
I haven’t read the book but I have seen the play on youtube(in parts) though the ordeal was hankering but I liked it, can’t find a copy of it in India. 😦
My favorite part of your whole blog post was in parenthesis (besides the bible). Awesome to hear!
I LOVE the movie “Les Miserables” and after your post, I’m going to try my best to get my hands on the book.
Congrats on making it to freshly pressed! A very interesting post!
i got to take a look in to this
I, too, read it as a teen, having discovered it in the high school library. Not quite the romantic stacks you enjoyed, but I experienced the same transformation once inside the pages. I saw the musical in Chicago, but the book and reading it that first time, far exceeded what the lovely production stirred in me.
This is a true story you may enjoy.
A miracle in the life of a child who was left alone on the streets of Cape Town from the age of eleven. God takes a dyslexic child that can not read nor write out of all the millions of children off the streets. At the age of 21, he goes to a youth group at Easter time, just over 30 years ago. God works through several teenagers, and they give their lives over to God at a camp.
That was the 1st day of a new life for me. When I saw these kids for the very first time, I said in my heart; “Lord, if that’s what Christianity is all about, make me like them.” Two things I did not know or understand. I did not know that I had just prayed the most powerful prayer a man can ever pray and secondly, I did not understand how much the Holy Spirit births Himself in a person who prays the way I did. I was attracted to the youth group and went again. One Saturday evening, I went to another youth group. This evening changed my live forever and can never ever be reversed. The group discussion, revolved around the life of Jesus Christ and us. The question was directed to all. If Jesus Christ came for the first time, how would we fit in. Would we follow with the multitude or would we be one of the disciples. I had only been a Christian for two weeks, how was I to know how much the Holy Spirit had stretched me to become more than just a follower, but to become a disciple, I had to trust God. How did this all come about, so soon? I do not know. I went home to my low income, one bedroom apartment in Cape Town. I went to bed around 11pm and for about two hours I cried before God in deep repentance and was completely broken before Him, I cried myself sound asleep. Then I woke up an hour or so later by a very distinct voice in my room, calling my name. I replied, thinking, someone was outside my door. I jumped out of bed, answered the stranger and opened the door. There was nobody outside or in the corridor, I was convinced about the voice and looked out the window, I looked under the bed, in my cupboard, nothing. I realised I must have been dreaming. I was wide awake now, but decided to go back to bed. As I lay there, as if someone was standing in my room in front of me, right next to my bed, said. “KEVIN”, I froze with fear for a second and drew the blanked for protection. Nevertheless, a warm sensation and a peace came over me. An audible voice as distinct as ever, told me to leave my job and follow Jesus Christ. I jumped out of bed and ran out the room, I ran and I ran till I was exhausted, when I got back to my room, thinking whatever ghost, was there had certainly left. I went straight to bed and fell asleep again. It wasn’t long and I awoke from the very same voice. Boldly I said, if that is you God; “I promise, I will leave my work and follow You”. The voice left and I fell asleep. Although it was a grey Sunday for most, it was a beautiful day for me. I kept my experience to myself, but could not stop thinking about it. Monday was coming up, and fear was rising in me. I have no where to go, how can I leave my job, it is my only income? How do I trust a voice I do not know? My own words continue to haunt me, throughout the Sunday, till Monday finally came. I was on my way to work, then bumped into a youth group leader at the bus stop in Cape Town. I told him about my experience and he said. “Whatever you do, do not leave your job!” I was now even more confused than ever, got on the buss and went to work. This thing bugged me so much, I went to the head foreman for advice. After telling him in detail what happened, he opened the Yellow Pages to where the churches were, he placed the phone in front of me and said. “Pick for yourself a church, and tell them!” I closed my eyes, took the pen in mid air, twirled it once or twice and allowed it to land where it may. Now, the foreman said. “Phone the number, and tell them your story.” The phone rang and Pastor Norman answered it. As I spoke to him, I knew I was in God’ plane. The Pastor asked if I could see him straight away. I was then escorted to the Boss, I told my boss what had happened. In his jewish tone, he responded; “If you leave now, you resign now!” I resigned that very minute, not knowing, how this will all turn out. I found the Baptist Pastors house in Milnerton and before I could completely tell him my story, he told me that the Lord had prepare him to clean the caravan and the Lord told him that a young man will move in that very day. I was a strong willed street child and had to start a new life at the age of 21. The best 2 year discipleship course, ever, under the Pastors guidance. For more about what God did through my life, could be read in my book at “http://www.street-children.webs.com” where you see the cover, entitled “The heart of the Caterpillar”, click on it and it will automatically download itself, enjoy. It is only 1.9 mb in size. The comments can be viewed at “http://www.ilafund.co.za/index_files/Page1156.htm”
A Servant of Jesus Christ
Kevin 🙂 Rich (2 Cor. 9:11)
I hope you enjoyed my testimony from Cape Town, South Africa, it is worth sharing according to Revelation 12:11.
As an NPO Co. we are moved by the Holy Spirit, not by human “Notes”. Having said that, we know that some are gifted by God to give as part of their Ministry. To those that desire to give, go to the Tax Deductible site, at “http://www.ilafund.co.za/index_files/Page1683.htm”
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I am going to order this book from the library after I type my comment. The book sounds very interesting. Also I like to read everything I can get my hands on regarding the Laws of Attraction or The Secret. Check out this book on “More Secrets of The Law of Attraction by Daniel Roth. Here is my review:
hm, i might read the book myself!
Sounds good! and I have been looking for a new novel to read anyways!
I’ll def read it. Thanks for the suggestion.
I live in alabama and everyone luvs u dina.. if i can help anyway regarding the lady bug project… just let me know… i hait we don’t see you everyweek..lol u had to do what u had to do.. much luv from the south
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I haven’t read the book, yet. I think I will now. Nice post!
Thanks for the suggestion. I will consider reading it.
As a French educated person, I knew about Les Miserables since I was about 13 but was too intimidated to read it. Then a few years ago, when I was 18 and started an English Literature major at university, I thought it was high time for me to do so! I loved it. You’re right, you cannot but fall in love with some characters, sympathize with others and just live the journey with them all.
Concerning the abridged versions of books, I couldn’t agree more! Writers sacrifice SO much to write a novel so that we can enjoy it all to the fullest 🙂
Strange. My sister and her husband owned the hotel Dixcart, in Sark, the Channel Islands, where Victor Hugo wrote. I knew his room quite well, as I did some work in there, painting or fixing the toilet. The room had a great view of the gardens belonging to the hotel. I was a published short story writer myself, but writing in Hugo’s room was too awesome.
My Pavlovian-canine instinct to click on the Les Miserables logo brought me here. I bought an intimidatingly large hardcover book containing both Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame long ago. I have started to read both of them on occasion and have not made much of a dent in either.
If I were asked what musical I could see again and again, I could easily say Les Miz. I’ve seen it nine times. The last traveling production I saw was drained of enthusiasm and heart. I was devastated.
I’ve been writing a book that in some respects is Les-Miz-lite set in space. (Sounds awful, doesn’t it?) Maybe I should try again to read the masterwork so I understand just how blasphemous I am.
“…wonderfully spicy aged smelling stacks..” my nose instantly picked up the scent. Great post. (I’m so sorry though, you left out the car or truck’s name that sped down the winding road.)
I read Les Miserables! Started last September, ended today. (I’m a slow reader with little leisure time to boot!) Thanks for the challenge. I was inspired by your post and a trip to Paris. I read the unabridged paperback. Well worth the effort.
Good for you!
What a blessing – an opportunity to sort out the changing of the beliefs in destiny into hope for the future … thoughts of quality; thoughts of meaning, hopoe for the future.
If wordpress offers nothing else, it should be to “direct us” toward higher thinking, insight into other froms of outselves and eventually the discovery of the oneness of all life.
Thank you, wordpress.
I love this post. It is fantastic. I am a bibliophile as well, and your true passion for books excites and pleases me. I have not yet read Les Miserables, but it is on my reading list. Have you seen the musical? If so, what do you think of it? How does it compare to the book?
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Love Les Misérables too. Saw the musical (ho-hum), saw the British movie with Neeson (highly recommended), but never read the book in its entirety. Thanks for sharing your favourite book with us – you gotta have great depth to love a book like that.
One of the greatest books of all time. Hugo’s writing is so brilliant; so human. The story is classic and the characters are unforgettable. Thank you so much for reminding me how wonderful this book is.
I have never read the book, but I have seen the movie and am eager to see the Broadway musical when it gets to my town soon!!! I love the music and my husband adores that musical. What love and passion!
Hey! Great post and thanks for sharing. Love the musical and the songs in it is fantastic! You Rock!
your friends, XR VOLUME
No, that’s one I’ve never read, but I will have to investigate it now because you’ve made me curious.
Border’s has a section of hardback books that includes the classics and more. I found Dracula for $6.99 there, so you might find Les Miserables there too.
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I am also a crazy fan of Victor Hugo. It is such a pleasure to see a person love Les Misereble too when there are more and more people nowadays enjoy cheap and frivolous fiction. It is nice to be your friend! ^_^
This is wonderful… I can’t put down anais nins journals they are so beautifully written but with your advice I will def. have to make a trip to the bookstore! Thanks!
Never got round to reading it, I’ll have to give it a look. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the book I’d choose to read repeatedly, very much my style.
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I have the book. It’s in my bookshelf, it’s wide spine staring accusingly at me- why haven’t you read me yet?? I open it up, flick through the hundreds of pages and very tiny print and the thought overwhelms me. Then I put it back again. This has been our relationship for the past year. I may be ready to take it up to another level after reading your inspiring post.
Can you believe I’ve never read it!? It’s definitely added to my list, thanks!
never read this one before but now tempted to! one of my favorites these days is “outliers” by malcolm gladwell
Wow, I am impressed you read this at 14! I have the hardback which I have read about half of but never finished. You’ve inspired me to go back and try again. Thanks.
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I definitely agree, I had to read this last year for honors English but after stumbling my way through the unabridged version once, I fell in love. The ending scene with Jean’s inscription and the scene where he references the Bishop brought tears to my eyes… Definitely a classic. I’m glad that I ended up purchasing the unabridged rather than going easy with the required abridged version.
I was in the student version of the musical, it is my favorite book/musical/storyline of all time! The story of God’s love and redemption is incredible and moving!
wow..that’s admirable. I’ve always wanted to read Les Miserables but was always so intimidated by it – being so long and all. I know it’s interesting but I don’t know if I have the patience to read it. After reading your post though, I’m inspired to seriously give it a try!
There’s a copy in my house somewhere, my brother and I picked it up from a Bootfair and it’s on my ‘should read’ list along with a good chunk of other books. If I start on it I hope I do better than my brother with ‘War and Peace’ he’s 27 and has been reading it on and off since the age of 18 and it’s what he calls his ‘long journey’ book so it gets left a lot.
For me a ‘book I can come back to’ is ‘Treasure Island’ I first read it a the age of about 10 years old or maybe a bit younger, I fell in love with it right there and then and even as an 18 year old it’s still a book I’d pick up and read, if I could remember where my worn out paperback is hiding. Same goes for Black Beauty, read it once and loved it but I haven’t read it for a good long time.
Its hard to pick one book, but for me its ‘Pride & Prejudice’
It never loses its charm. The England Austen describes is small and isolated; their world is contained in the few characters which we read about; there is no contamination; its pure English country-life.
And I never tire to get pleasure from that opening scene of the book, with Mrs. Bennett saying, ‘My dear Mr. Bennett! How can you be so tiresome!”
I whole-heartedly agree with you that ‘Pride and Prejudice’ never loses its charm! I have been repeatedly reading this book whenever I got a chance, sometimes even on-line and I could never put this book down without finishing it.It is very addictive! I had first read the abridged version when I was around 11 years old and I was taken in by all the description about the old English mannerisms and the beautiful English country-side, especially ‘Pemberley’ & ‘Rosings’. Each time I re-read, the description of the behavioural patterns of the various characters teach me something new and the entire book takes on a new dimension. I own a copy of the original version of this book now and I have got many of my friends to read and like this too…
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good article, i will back to read other post.
Great to hear from someone else who has found so much wisdom in Victor Hugo’s classic novel. I enjoyed your post and wish you well. I invite you to take a look at my blog: “The Wisdom of Les Miserables: In Search of Practical Wisdom for Daily Living.”
I found you quite by surfing accident. I’m glad I did.
Alfred J. Garrotto
The Wisdom of Les Miserables: Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean
Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing on your rss feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!
Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s
new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be
book-marking and checking back often!
Thanks! Now, I just have to start writing again…
Your entire blog post, “That Special Book in My Life |
The Wisdom of Gavroche” was indeed definitely worth
commenting on! Simply needed to admit you truly did a very good
work. Thanks for the post ,Claude
Thanks for finally writing about >That Special Book in My Life | The
Wisdom of Gavroche <Loved it!
I need to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it.
I’ve got you bookmarked to look at new things you post…