Hugo's sympathy with the oppressed; the grand scope of the novel; Hugo's gift for fine metaphors and aphorisms; some of the dramatic scenes; the sensitive narration.
Absurdly long, detailed tedious digressive essays on things like the battle of Waterloo, the history of convents, the history and geography of the Parisian sewers; hard-to-believe characters who act in unbelievable ways; corny melodrama and sentimentality; excessively long and repetitious accounts of almost everything due, it seems, to Hugo's sheer delight in showing off his poetic inventiveness.
I have great tolerance for long 19th century novels. But so often I found myself thinking: come on Victor, you've said everything you've got to say abou this event, character, situation, action, motivation, relationship, dilemma. All you're doing now is just repeating yourself using alternative metaphors. Let's get moving! I also found the plot pretty silly in places; a lot depends on coincidence and people acting in unbelievable ways.
Hugo's philosophical reflections, which abound throughout, are sometimes interesting; but he's too much in love with paradox and coupling unexpected antitheses--a tendency which has bedeviled French writing ever since.
The narration is good. I liked the translation: it employs up-to-date language which makes the novel less stodgy than it might otherwsie be.
This novel is a gem. Well written and beautifully constructed, with human, pathos and drama all thrown in.
Very worthwhile. The book is all these things: funny, satirical, poignant, tragic, philosophical, profound, repetitious, and sometimes a bit tedious. The narrator is good, especially the way he does Sancho Panza, although there's not too much variation in the other voices. The obsession with women keeping their virginity, and the way moors (who are muslim) are sometimes discussed, can be tedious. But the whole book is rich in observations and reflections.