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I absolutely adore the book, but this audiobook is helplessly out of date.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.
"Think you know the story? Think again."
Yes, it is long. Yes, you know the basic plot. Yes, you've seen it on stage and on screen. But there is so much more to the book than to the musical! The stage production is great, but it only scratches the surface. There is so much thinking behind each character. Their reflections and actions are so rich, complex and profound. You can always take something different if you listen again. I have lost count of how many times I have listened to Jean Valjan arguing with himself whether or not to turn himself in. It is a fantastic story which manages to belong and represent its time so well without ever ceasing to be relevant. Victor Hugo's preface about why books like this are needed says it all. For as long as there is injustice and miserable lives, it will be worth listening, reading or watching this mastere piece again.
I remember reading this book many years ago and thoroughly enjoying at the time and had always intended revisiting. Having long journeys to work I thought it would be a quick win to listen to. I am so disappointed as I find the narration so boring despite restarting several times. Have decided to give it a miss for now.
I notice there are several versions of this available and if anyone can recommend a good narrator it would be much appreciated.
"Phenomenal story but a test of endurance at times"
The narrator has a very laid-back style which I initially found distracting but quickly settled to. He has a great ability to distinctly voice so many of the characters.
It's a monumental story, filled with a continual stream of regular digressions which do rather go on (I imagine the book would be considerably shorter but for these).
Quite a few to choose from - Valjean and the bishop, Cosette's rescue from the Tennardiers, Javert's pursuit of Valjean, the Paris uprising, the list goes on. The last few chapters are very emotive and should be listened to in one sitting if possible.
60h in one sitting? No thanks!
Can feel like a test of endurance at times, but it's well worth persisting with.
"Shame about the Narrator"
I will not try any more audiobooks narrated by Frederick Davidson if there are significant quantities of French involved. I speak French fluently having lived in France for 4 years, but I cannot understand more than one word out of three of his attempts at French. It's like listening to someone chewing tobacco while delivering a speech in Latin. He does fine for the most, the English language far outweighs the French in this production, but his French is abominable.
"A true great"
A classic read that is well presented. I was recommended this book 20 years ago. i knew i would never get round to reading it myself. To get the chance of someone read it to you so well while you drive the car is good.
My only criticism of the work (and it is a minor niggle) was that it goes off on rambling tangents that can last for an hour or more. An example is his description of the (entire) battle of Waterloo. this is to add background to one minor character and one scene. That said my knowledge of the battle is now enhanced and I did enjoy this tangent! The descriptive prose lends well to these ramblings and holds the interest.
Ignore what is said in comments about the narrator's reading (in this and other books he narrates), he puts a great effort and all the characters come alive with his take on them. all are distinct and easy to follow. I'm going on to F. Davidson's version of War and Peace next.
A marvellous audiobook - enjoy
"Avoid This Narrator"
I found I was unable to listen to it because of the narrator's voice. There was a total lack of feeling and an air of condescension in his delivery.
When I decided I'd had enough and gave up on it.
Only if my life depended upon it.
Need you ask?
I am a lover of 19th century French fiction and admire Hugo greatly, it's such a shame that his work has been let down by the narrator.
The story is great, a true epic, but the book would have benefited from a decent editor. The narration was not for me - to be honest I can't stand FD's voice so have a listen before you buy.
"tedious, drawling delivery"
Hugo - yes
Davidson - no. what a tedious, drawling, monotonous delivery
This was the first Hugo i have read/listened to, though i am familiar with many other French classics eg Balzac. The story line was good, though padded out with history & political opinion. i have yet to be able to judge if this is typical of Hugo. These deviations were interesting, but the mode of delivery made the whole thing a complete chore to finish. I wish i had returned it!
"The clue is in the title"
The relentless dreariness.
Thank goodness that's over!
A bit more characterisation
Go for the abridged version, this one went on far too long
The complexity of the story and the detailed side strands eg. Battle of Waterloo. The reading which gave it a comforting storytelling style took you into a French world.
This book hooked me but if it doesn't I suspect you would actually dislike it.
Dickens maybe. War and Peace? but nothing really compares with the immense scope and intricate detail of this book and the simplicity of the core story.
Correct use of the French names, etc but no attempt to 'sound French'
I liked the consistent level of reading regardless of the situations being read.
Impossible due to the length. I have often listened to as much as I could at one sitting but it can be overwhelming so I've also listened to a much lighter work during the same weeks. It has taken me weeks not days to finish! Now I miss it....
Listened to after seeing the show then more recently the film and while it hasn't detracted from their quality it is an astounding written work.
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