A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Les Misérables is one of those defining social/protest novels that deserves to be read (and listened to) in its entirety. It is easily on par with the great social novels of the 19th century: Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Hard Times.
I remember the first time I read the unabridged version in high school, I was stunned that Hugo could engage me with such force. I practically read it straight through. Listening to Rose's relatively new translation and Guidall's audio version, I was transported back to the emotions and engagement I felt 20 years ago. All those memories and I was again anchored to my pro-unabridged novel bias. If you are going to attempt this work, please go the unabridged route, you will NOT regret it. There are few books I've read twice, but Les Misérables defintely makes the cut.
When you begin this novel it DOES looks like a beast (1376 pgs or 60.5 hours), but when you finish it you realize you have sat down to a feast with a master novelist and social gospel writer. Dollar per page or dollar per minute, you can't get much better for its price, unless you steal it.
I am a ravenous reader. I consume books (audio, electronic, and paper) by the pound and byte. I RARELY go back and reread a novel I've read before. It just seems a waste of time, a waste of an opportunity for another book, another story. The Great Gatsby, however, is one of those handful of books, those rare literary jewels, where this rule of thumb is consistently bent and re-broken. For readers of good literature, this novel is like scripture. IT is something you read to enjoy the page, the paragraphs, the sentences, the words. It draws you back. It haunts future books you read. It invades you.
For American Literature, The Great Gatsby stands with 'Moby-Dick' and 'Huckleberry Finn' as a monument of not just literature but the uniquely American experience. It captures the excess, the energy, and the decadence of the 'Lost Generation'. Other Fitzgerald books are amazing, but Gatsby is one of those novels that seems to have surprised everyone, even Fitzgerald.
Finding the right narrator for any book is an art form (often misunderstood, almost always ignored). Certain books require a certain type of reader. Gyllenhaal was an inspired pick for the Great Gatsby. He has the range to subtly capture the different characters, but the charisma and the energy to embody the dialogue of Gatsby and the easygoing narrator Nick.
'David Copperfield' contains more saints per capita than any beatified book by Butler. Dickens is amazing in his ability to be both grand and personal. 'David Copperfield' is sprawling, with dozens of threads that weave around David Copperfield's youth and adulthood. IT is amazing not only how he can transform a character through time, but also show that our perceptions of those same characters are drawn often from imperfect information and overly simple assumptions. Yes, there are parts of 'David Copperfield' that float between the melodramatic and the grotesque, but one doesn't read Dickens for the unmoving, normal or embellished. There are a handful of novels that I would consider to be the literary equivalent of scripture: 'Les Miserables', 'the Idiot', 'Anna Karenina', and for sure 'David Copperfield'.
There are several moments in 'David Copperfield' when, as a reader, you recognize you will never be half the writer Dickens was (on deadline). He might just be second to Shakespeare in my book, or at least be among a small cadre of writers that belong on the silver pedestal below the Bard.
This isn't as technically perfect as 'Great Expectations', but it is top tier Dickens for sure. A massive novel that floats with the weight of a beach read half its size. If you are going to read a Dickens, this might not be your first stop, but it shouldn't be far from your second.
I love literary fiction and I occasionally delve into non-fiction. I love books that are suspenseful and am really into well-told stories.
I got this download from Audible.com and it is brilliantly read by James Lee. I was completely captivated and transported to the world of Edmund Dantes and 17th century France. I did consult spark notes every 5 or 10 chapters, because when listening to a book of this magnitude where aristocrats are changing their names (and sometimes needing aliases) and getting titles, it could be easy to get lost and hard to keep track of who is who. But I never felt lost or dragged down by this story that must be the blueprint for every romantic, adventure or character study novel that came afterwards. The novel is rich with sumptuous prose and unforgettable characters and is on par with other masterpieces like Lord of the Rings. It has everything and feels surprisingly contemporary. The language is not stilted at all and I found it to be extremely witty at some points. With Monte Cristo the first superhero is created by Dumas as he seems (to characters in the book) to posses superhuman strength, wealth beyond imagination and can always see 10 moves ahead in this very intriguing game of revenge chess he is playing with the people who falsely imprisoned him. James Lee is an amazing reader, so if audible books is your thing, go for it. I was never bored and was sad when it all, finally ended. It could have even been longer for me. I can't imagine being satisfied with an abridgment of this novel...it is too rich, and why let someone edit it for you when you can have the whole, glorious tale. And if you prefer print books, then I really don't see how you could go wrong. The Count of Monte Cristo is a hell of a good ride and deserves every single recommendation it gets. This is one of those once-in-a-decade books that deserves a whole constellation of stars instead of just five. Fantastic! Bravo!