I know a lot of people like the translation because it keeps the book from getting too "stuffy", but this is a literary masterpiece. I like formal wording for formal passages.
Having enjoyed the musical, the Movie with Liam Neesan, and the Movie-Musical, it was time to go for the real thing! Wow! Hugo's book has the narrative story I was familiar with, but I think he intended to communicate much more than that. He loves France, and puts a good spin on both it's revolution and it's riots. He loves battle history, and politics, and even sewage systems, apparently --for he wrote about them all at great length, caring not how long it took! In all this, I don't see how I could have stayed engaged except for the translation --From French to English is hard enough, the translator must also communicate the flavor of the prose and the personality of the author. And then, she must update very old colloquial language. And then she must add the colloquialisms that a modern English reader would understand. She does all, brilliantly.
[if you have never seen the movie nor the musical, the following might contain spoilers for you. Like wise, if you have seen the movie or the musical, you might find it takes the fun from the book if you read below about some of the differences in the book. Read at your own risk]. Hugo loves irony, and no character is more ironic than Thenardieau (spelling?). He is consistently self-centered, wicked, and opportunistic. Yet, it is he who saves the life Marius, Marius' father, and Jen Valjen, without intending to do anything but enrich himself, in every case.
The irony of Javer's suicide comes alive in the book --in a way neither the movie nor the musical adequately explained. Javer came to a point where he chose to do the "right thing" but it was "against the law." He could not live with two "right" ways, the way of the law and the way of a higher morality than the law. He could not receive grace, if you will. He lost his identity. He has alway existed believing that the law was the highest light and the only guide for life. Now, he found that he had violated and believed he had done right. He would rather die than seek to live without the law. He "resigned" from the service of God by killing himself. Irony within Irony.
Likewise, the death of Eponine, which, portrayed in the movie, was seen as a selfless matter, was not that in the book. She wanted to die for Marius, yes, but only because she knew he loved another. And, she wanted him to die also, and had even arranged for it, or so she thought. She did die, but he did not. She wanted to get rid of his ability to live with Cossette, but only insured it.
I could go on, but there is so much irony, that you will have to hear it for yourself.
The narrator was up to the challenge of a very, long book. He voiced all parts himself, including women, children, old and young. He did a terrific job, especially with changing Valjen's voice from bold and strong, when he was young, to desperate and feeble, when he was old. He handled prose, poetry, monologue, and dialogue with equal prowess.
Of course, the gem of the book is Valjen, who goes from criminal to Christ figure, and doesn't seem to notice the depth of his own transformation, even at the very end. He is grace personified, putting all others before himself.
Finally, one of the greatest treasures of this unabridged version of the story is the narrative regarding the old priest who first showed grace to Jen Valjen. His story could be a movie of its own.
I tried to read Les Mis three times before but kept getting stuck on "french" words that would make my reading choppy and then I gave up. I used a credit to purchase this unabridged version and was blown away. It did take me a month to finish this book because it is sooo long, but now I can finally say I have finished it.
I've loved the musical and various on-screen adaptations since I was young. I still loved this book, but it was just too long for me. The unabridged version (which this is) has too much in the way of descriptions of the French revolution, wars, and sewer systems for my liking. Others may love that, though! The reading was really quite good, and the story is timeless.
I really appreciated the narration of George Guidall. He was an excellent choice of actor to record this important work. He has great character voices, inflections, masterful skill in being the "one man show" of Les Miserable. (I hope he received some kind of award or recognition!) The reason why many start Les Miserables but never finish is that between Hugo's verbose language and the complicated and continuous (to modern eyes) French language references make it a very dense read. Yet, if you approach this book as if you were sitting in a big leather armchair before a fire with someone such as George Guidall reading it to you, with all the phrasing and correct pronunciations in context, Hugo's pageant opens up to you. Not only is it a great work of literature, it is profoundly deep, entertaining, sentimental and moving. If the musical/operetta version (excellent in it's own genre) Les Miserables is a six-inch ruler, the book is a yard-stick!
So many - off the top, where Jean Val Jean finds Cossette in the forest when she is getting water, later when Marius falls in love with her in the Luxembourg Gardens; the characterization of Marius' grandfather, the description of the Battle of Waterloo. The night Jean Val Jean agonizes over whether or not he should turn himself in when a man of mistaken identity may be condemned in his place. All fantastic.
Of the many memorable scenes, my favorite is where the three orphaned boys take shelter in the Elephant of the Bastille during a thunderstorm. It was months ago that I originally read it, yet it continues to haunt me. It was touchingly adorable, funny and horrifying all at once.
As a joke - You haven't cried so much since Bambi's Mother died! Seriously - the story that asks and answers our universal questions about life - with one word.
Well worth the value if you get it as a single purchase or on a membership. It took me a year to complete the audio version and that was with being able to listen to it at extended periods at a time. And what was the first thing I did after wiping away my last tear on the last page? (so to speak) Hit the download button again to listen to the first part. I didn't want to leave and there is so much more to be gained again and again. I'm so glad this version of this book exists in this world. It truly has been a blessing in my life. If you can, please do invest the time. I hope you will find it equally moving.
Awesome human story
The rescue of Colette
The forgiveness shown Valjean by the Bishop over the candlesticks theft
Listening to the dulcet tones of George Guidall convey Les Miserables made this audio book stellar. His perfect language skills; his emotion; his incredible character-capturing tones. . . they all lend the most compelling ambiance to this book. And to hear the entire story is something no one should miss. Tho' the screenwriters did a perfect job of condensing the basic story to the movie, to know all the background and the human story Hugo was telling is what makes Les Miserables a book for all. Besides, you get a pretty good history of Napoleonic wars. I would've had a hard time READING those parts, Guidall made it a joy. I listen while I do through-hole soldering (my job), and it made work something I couldn't wait to do.
Yes, It exceeded my expectations. A classic tale using contemporary American phraseology but not noticeably modern.
Jean val Jean, The evolution of this character embodies everything Hugo is trying to illustrate about his views of how man and the society should evolve.
No but I definitely would select his work again. An excellent narration, perfect transitions between scenes and characters. Very well done!
No, too long to even consider that
I read the print version years ago and figured it would be easier to listen, than try to read it again and I was correct. Had the narration been less than excellent I may not have made it through. This is really several books in one. The story of Jean val Jean, Cozette, Javier, etc., A history of the French revolutions 1789-1833, A political commentary on the evolution of French politics from King Louis through Bonaparte, through the restoration and fall, and lastly a social commentary of Paris during that era. Hugo has an extremely loquacious writing style so be prepared to endure all of these digressions. Nevertheless, the plot of the book and the development of the characters is superb. A skilled editor could remove half the text and nothing important would be lost.
Yes! This is my first audible book. I feel that I have entered a new & wonderful world.
Everything was spectacular about this book.
George Guidall is a great reader. A good reader is crucial to the book's enjoyment.
Les Mis is a classic, but there's no doubt there are parts that can drag. Having George Guidall's amazing voice helps those parts fly by painlessly.