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
Whew. Be careful what you wish for . . . I'd had this in my wish list for a while and was running low on credits so I decided to pick a long book. (57 hours I think?)
Having just gotten back from living for two months in the Marais, I really enjoyed the book, and I can definitely see why it's a classic, and something everyone should read. (like Moby Dick) But wow . . . it's a long haul. I'm glad I got the unabridged version, but there were moments that for the first time in my life I considered the value of an abridged version.
Give it a try when you know you're going to have some long drives or commutes!
Try it, but know what you're getting yourself in for! (Btw, if I could I would have rated 4.5 stars.)
This audio book is well worth the listening time. It is fast-moving, exciting and philosophical. I especially loved the way the author described the spiritual struggle of the main character.
This is an amazing story told with such love for human beings with all of their frailties and faults. Just the description of Bishop Myriel is amazing, a character that will stay with me always. The sidebars (that can be quite long) are interesting and made me learn more about French history. [Wikipedia was a helpful companion to listening to this book.] The ending is redemtive and tragic. In the end I was just so sad to have to say farewell to the characters that I cared so much about.
I really liked the narrator's style, his different voices, his singing and of course the drollness of his upper crust English accent.
A marvelous "read".
Milarepa & Electra
This is a superb reading in every respect. Davidson brings to full life the myriad voices and social textures of the novel with aplomb and creativity. Engaging and entertaining throughout.
I absolutely adore the book, but this audiobook is helplessly out of date. The narrator is not neutral, but almost a character in himself. He speaks everything with the air of a stereotypical arrogant man from a period movie, his narration is nasal and oddly drawn out. There is also not a lot of variation for voices of characters. Additionally, you often hear him turn the pages (which is not that bad, but does not speak well of the production value).
I am sure that there are much better versions out there, I cannot recommend this one.
"Les Miserables" is a book full of life, sadness, sublime joy, wretchedness, heart-wrenching despair, and love. And not a few long essays on the Revolution, Waterloo, insurrection, and justice. The unabridged version can at times be tedious -- apparently 19th-Century readers didn't mind so much a 100 page discourse on the maneuvers of Napoleon -- but it's the only edition to tackle. Mr. Davidson is a splendid reader, equally at home with English and French, and his voice is aristocratic (rather than pretentious, as some reviewers have claimed). This book alone would have made my Audible subscription worthwhile.
I'm sorry; I really tried to listen, and I will try again sometime, but the narration of this audio-book is irritating. The reader sounds bored to me, perhaps it is just his stuffy sounding British accent. [I'm a big BBC fan, so I don't really have anything against British accents.] His inhalations are very audible as well, and they don't contribute to the story.
I was ready to purchase another version and I looked for another on Aubible.com. I wanted an unabridged, and this is the only one. The longest abridged version also has a fairly unexciting reader, so I guess I may just read this book or wait until I'm feeling really tolerant before I try again.
I figured I was long over due to tackle this tome. I'm glad I chose audio as the format and that I chose this edition. Now and then I referred to the text, for discussion purposes with friends. I found that this translation, by Charles Weber, to be superior to the translation of the ebook print version I had (by Isabel Florence Hapgood). When reading/listening to novels originally written in another language, the translation can make or break the experience. Comparing this translation to the Hapgood translation illustrates that point. I much prefer this translation. I also found the style and accent of narrator Frederick Davidson to be a very good fit. There are times that this older recording has some background noises, sometimes odd ones (once I could hear birds - yes, I double-checked to confirm they were in the recording). Those noises didn't bother me or detract from my enjoyment, but others might feel differently about them.
I don't think I need to say anything about the novel itself - it's all been said and, unlike Hugo, I'm not one to belabor the point. ;) I'll just say this: if you think you know the story because you've seen the musical or various movies, you've done the equivalent of a 2 day tour of a continent. There is more, much more, to be experienced.
The story is deeply moving - even weeks after finishing the book, I find myself walking or driving, think of a scene and growing happy or melancholy. Not many stories haunt me like this.
However, it is not as good as Dickens. Dickens (of the same era) tells a story which paints an image in your mind of life back in the 1800's. In contrast, Hugo tells a story, then frequently stops and directly explains what you should have understood from the story - as if the reader is too stupid to understand without a professor's detailed dissection and explanation. This rehashing gets tedious very fast.
So I'd say:
- one third of the book is the wonderful story.
- one third of the book is interesting historical detail and context.
- one third of the book should have been edited out.
Yes, it is a wonderful story, just be prepared for some boring, pointless parts.
The ability to listen when I drive :) I do like the emotion.
There are so many places in which I smiled to cried.
I think the section about Cosette carrying the water and with the dolls is perhaps the most moving (first the lead-sword in a rag, then the purloined doll, then her own doll).
As I frequently listen to good stories 3 or even 4 times, I'd love to find an abridged version which cuts out the 1/3 of content which shouldn't be there.
OK - when a book hits 50hrs+ you have to hope that its a goody. It is.
My only experience of this work before this was as the title of a musical. I don't like musicals.
But the book is brilliant. Like so many of the big beasts in literature there is quite a lot of peripheral philosophising but never so much that it gets tedious. The sweep of the story is amazing and the feeling as the story progresses of different threads being spun and woven is masterful. I ended up extending listening sessions in order to get to the finale quicker Definitely worth the effort to get all the way through.
Frederick Davidson is an ever reliable narrator making this a real must listen.
"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.
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