Hugo describes early 19th-century France with a sweeping power that gives his novel epic stature. Among the most famous chapters are the account of the battle of Waterloo and Valjean's flight through the Paris sewers.
(P)1996 Blackstone Audiobooks
I picked this particular version of Les Mis because it was unabridged and, inspite of all the digressions, it was worth it. However, I am getting the abridged version for a friend whom I know is more interested in the story than in the full flavor of the period. I enjoyed the reader with his French pronunciation and his failed attempts to sing. This is a reminder why I love the classics.
The affected snobbishness of the narrator makes this book very difficult to listen to. Little expression in his voice does not help. I went off previous reviews and feel I wasted my money on this one... Make sure you listen to a sample. If you like the narrator, you will like the book. Comes in 3 parts... You are not buying the full novel = expensive.
I've read the full, unabridged version of this novel before and loved it. However, I didn't want to devote so much time to reading such a lengthy book again.
I chose this version of the audiobook unwisely. The narrator's voice is so affected and pretentious that it completely detaches from the story. Listen to the sample and then imagine listening to that for more than 55 hours. I couldn't do it for more than 15 minutes. I'm going to purchase the other version since the narrator's accent is more how I would imagine and like the narrator of such a great book to be.
Hugo tells an INCREDIBLE story. It was a beautiful mix of romance, action, and familial love. It's a story I'd love to hear over and over again. I was truly enraptured with the characters and the plot. However, I think he was absent the day they taught economy of writing. All authors have tangents and some add to the depth of the story but in this case, they became monotonous and had little bearing on the plot. Over an hour describing the minutia of the Battle of Waterloo, another hour on the practices of the nuns, 45 minutes on the construction, cleaning and reconstruction of the sewers in Paris and another 45 minutes on his personal philosophy of revolution. It was a bit much and those are just one ones I remember off the top of my head. I would love to hear and abridged version since these distracted me so much from the lives of the charming and delightful characters he spent so much time developing.
The narrator on the other hand was TERRIBLE! He slurps and smacks all the way through it. I could hear his breathing and it was incredibly distracting. His accent was snobby and I must agree with other reviews who said if an accent was to be used it should have been a French accent not an English one. His singing was cringe worthy: like fingernails on a chalkboard! It's a good thing the book was so good or I'd have given up on it based on the narrator.
One other thing I found to be of interest, not positive or negative: the words "sepulcher" or "sepulchral" were used at least 31 times in this book. I started counting around the 5th or 6th occurrence because it is a word not often heard in our language today so it caught my ear. It was kind of a game I played, listening for them.
I do recommend the book but an abridged version my keep it going a little better.
I never get the abridged version thinking that if I do I'm missing out on the author's intent, important color and details, or simply because I'm not getting my credits worth. I would make a big exception for this book. V. Hugo apparently didn't benefit from having an editor who would've marked out hours upon hours of needless, tedious prose on so many completely tangential topics. Not just a little bit; HOURS UPON HOURS. I dangerously advanced my IPOD in 10 minute increments while driving because I just couldn't take the insanely obscure and repetitive references (unless you lived in 19th Cent. France) or loosely associated and completely unimportant historical trivia. No kidding, 2 hours on the historical development of European and Paris sewer systems so that Jean Valjean could escape through it. To be fair, I didn't listen to the abridged version to compare, but I wish I had heeded the warnings of others to do so.
Also the narrator constantly made me think of the word "Supercilious" which was a distraction throughout.
CONCLUSION: Don’t bother.
TECHNICAL: Poor sound quality.
NARRATION: Horrendous. This man should be shot for attempting to sing. Thick accent makes it hard to understand. I don’t speak French, I don’t want to speak French. Its an English language version; why were parts left un-translated?
AUTHORCRAFT: The story of Jean Valjean is compelling. But the vast proliferation of self-aggrandizing, pontification intermixed into the storyline makes this not worth your (or at least my) listening time.
"Epic journey through life."
This audiobook is very long - but not at all tedious!
The narratrive is fast paced, well read and a pleasure to listen to.
This epic page turner really did have me enthralled and rooting for the antihero of this classic tale.
"A slog but well worth it."
So I finally finished Les Miserables. It took me five months to listen to the whole thing, a 60-hour audio book. There were several points where I nearly gave up, and one where I actually announced on Facebook that I had given up. But I went back to it and I'm ever so glad that I did.
Let me start by saying that this is a fantastic book. There were times when I was slogging through some of the digressions that I wondered just how this could possibly have been considered a classic. But now I know.
At first, I sensed a similarity with Crime & Punishment, which just happens to have been published in the same decade as Les Miserables, as indeed was War & Peace, which I have also read. The part where Jean Valjean, as Monsieur Madeleine, is fighting with his conscience about going to rescue the man who has been arrested as Jean Valjean and then his journey there, fraught with difficulty.
It's been interesting to read some of the reviews on Goodreads after finishing the book. They are almost all five stars and there are a few instances where readers have read the abridged version and then gone back to read the unabridged and enjoyed it ever so much more. As I was listening to it, there were many occasions when I wished I had downloaded the abridged version instead. I mean come on, pages and pages of description about the Paris sewers? The whole Waterloo bit? I honestly struggled through these parts. I wonder if it would have been easier to read than to listen to.
Anyway, I listened to the last 8 hours or so in a couple of days, at first because I just wanted it finished and out of the way, but then because it was just so good that I didn't want to stop. I had guessed how the novel would end, but that didn't spoil the ending at all. It was so well written that I was left with a feeling of elation that has lasted through to the following day as I write this.
Suffice it to say that I am very glad that I persevered with this and got to the end. I actually would quite
"Wait for a better narrator"
Magnificent as a work of literature - the language, detail and scope are breath-taking - but made a real test of listening endurance by the narration.
I constantly marvelled at Hugo's breadth and depth of knowledge. I know some listeners have complained about the "asides" lasting an hour, and I confess my own heart sank at times when I realised Hugo was going off at a tangent, but I couldn't help but be amazed at how much he KNOWS about everything and the way in which he covers his subjects from every angle. What an incredible mind. I was fascinated by the data on the French sewer system! I should also say that I am a professional translator and I was constantly stunned by the quality of this translation - so poetic and flowing and such a wealth of rich vocabulary.
Yes, it's a marathon and of course I respect him for his staying power, but the narrator at times drove me mad. He reads with a cynical or (as others have commented) bored tone, and has an irritating habit of letting his voice go UP at the end of a sentence so it sounds like a question ("Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo?"). I really recommend other listeners to wait until a better reading is released. It's only because the book is so good that I stuck with it. I will definitely avoid all other readings by this narrator.
I am giving this this 2 stars overall purely because of the narrator.
"It's what your ears have been waiting for....."
At over 66 hours of listening, this is a lot of book for one credit. I was taking my 80 year old father to see the live show in London and wanted to get a handle on the story before we went - I was blown away by it - a huge story of an immense character, of love, loss, sacrifice, intrigue - you name it this book has it. I wasn't sure of the narrator at first, but soon grew to love his voice and it suited the story so well. I can't rate this book highly enough - but be prepared to have to put your life on hold while you immerse yourself in this truly astonishing novel.
"What a very pleasant surprise..."
I admit I was sceptical about Frederick Davidson's voice and style. In fact, I only bought this book because it was the only available unabridged version, and I am so glad I did. The book itself, this timeless masterpiece, hardly needs recommendation or introduction. The wonderful surprise, for me, was the delightful, intelligent, vivid and character-faithful narration of Davidson. Thanks Audible!
If they had the time to listen. And listen you must. Hugo's pathological attention to detail means that huge chunks of this book are dedicated to long meandering foundation stories. However, they give the book a depth that I feel is second to none. You do not merely observe the epochs; you are invited to feel, smell, see, and hear them in all their detail.
Obviously there is the story we all know and love. Jean Valjean pinches some bread and... well, the rest is history. However, the rest really is history. Hugo uses various historical events as more than just a backdrop; as an atmosphere, in which our characters traverse with varying levels of success.
With regular reference to Dante and Homer, Hugo states clearly his lofty ambitions as a great epic writer and succeeds. Each character (so far as I can see) has their own historical / literary allegory. Valjean's journey of discovery of faith and commitment, Cossette's rise from distinct adversity (see St. Euphrasia of Constantinople, is that her namesake? possibly) and so on.
With various accents and tone, Davidson manages to differentiate between them. There was a certain degree of ham to the acting but all is forgiven for what must have been a marathon effort
Not that pillock Russell Crowe as Javert for sure!
If you haver the time... do listen. It will make the film and the musical make much more sense.
"Couldn't get on with the reader - a great shame"
I'm sure there are better readings and adaptations of this book for audio - the novel is huge, sprawling and endlessly detailed, and requires a storyteller of real talent to bring it to life. The performer reading this version veers between sounding bored or like a grotesque pastiche. Utterly ruins the narrative and made me lose any sympathy or empathy with the characters featured.
I've read this book and hoped that hearing a reading would add to my understanding. I don't think that it did. What I like about the story is the way that it immerses you completely in what France was like at the time - this reading, however, jolts you out of any such escapism with a lacklustre approach and bizarre delivery.
The story was just badly told. It sounded bored at points, at others like he was giving a very self serving performance that bordered on pastiche. It was distracting and made me cringe.
Oh sweetie, there's already been quite a few adaptations of this story. It's been a musical for years.
Find another performer to do this story justice. Tempted to ask for my money back.
"Misleading audio sample"
I didn't like the audio sample but it was the only unabridged version and lots of reviews said they didn't like the audio sample but enjoyed the book. I have to say I agree. It's a wonderful book and wonderfully read. I'm going to miss it when I finish it!
66 hours sounded like a long listen, but this was a book I just looked forward to listening to day after day, never getting bored. A stonking good story, beautifully narrated. I was transfixed and missed it terribly once I'd finished it.
"Great story but a delivery that makes me miserable"
Victor Hugo remains one of the greatest masters of European literature. Unfortunately, I really struggled to get through Davidson's awful style of delivery.
The character of Javert and Valjean, and the way they circle each other over the decades, is as compelling as ever.
Davidson wheezes and rasps – every inhalation is picked up. He has a habit of finishing sentences as if he is only pausing, full stops replaced by commas,
When he continues at a different scene, it's quite, quite jarring and very annoying.
It's absolutely worth sticking with for the story. But you'll want to inflict every form of physical violence imaginable on the narrator.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.