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Publisher's Summary

Set in the Parisian underworld and plotted like a detective story, Les Miserables follows Jean Valjean, originally an honest peasant, who has been imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving family. A hardened criminal upon his release, he eventually reforms, becoming a successful industrialist and town mayor. Despite this, he is haunted by an impulsive former crime and is pursued relentlessly by the police inspector Javert.

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

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Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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A Tour de Force

Les Mis', now know for the wonderful musical, remains a masterpiece of drama as this production makes clear. The story is so cleverly constructed it makes one think that Hugo came forward in time and wrote parallel plots, cut and pasted them and, then, returned in time with the finished manuscript. There are lfew more memorable heroes than Jean Valjean or more sympathetic villains than Javert. Even today, many years after I first read the novel in print, it is hard to resist the feeling that Marius does not deserve their sacrifice, albeit made for Cosette by Valjean and for Valjean by Javert, and not for him.

As for the performance, it suffers from the understandable production issues inherent in older audio books. There is a fair amount of Fredrick Davidson's breathing caught on the audio and there are some odd pauses and strange background noise (once sounding like a tap running). Notwithstanding this (and having been spoilt by current production standards, it takes a bit of getting used to) Davidson's range is so vast and his continuity so sustained, one can't help but be impressed overall with his performance.

Like all epic works, parts of the narrative need to be persevered with. It is no different to reading the text in that regard. However, I realized with the audio that I actually took more in because I suspect I did not read the long descriptive bits before. For example, the history of the nun's order came as a surprise to me, no matter the previous readings, as did the famous detail of the Battle of Waterloo. I enjoyed both much more in audio than when reading the novel.

A full listening for me was broken into three sittings, interspersed with other audio books; again, as I might go about reading an epic novel. It worked well splitting the Parts, 1 - 3, 4 - 7 and 8 - 10. I'm confident that other combinations would be equally successful. Although I don't think I could have downed the whole 10 Parts in one sitting, a complete listen over about two months worked for me and was very rewarding overall.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lance Eck
  • Billings, MT, United States
  • 07-27-11

Tres Miserables

A favorite book but the narrator is so unpleasant to listen to that I began to gnaw my own leg off to get away.

Davidson ruins the story with his haughty-sounding intonation. I had to give-up after about 20 minutes.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Sparks
  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States
  • 05-15-11

I will re-read (re-play) this book for years.

After hearing Ayn Rand praise Victor Hugo in numerous essays, I felt it was finally time to see what the big fuss was about. Oh yes, the musical I've never seen "le miz" was based on this book? I read some wiki articles on Hugo and the books, and picked this: The Big One. After I few chapters, I could see why it is referred to as the greatest book of the 19th century. I realized that there was this giant gaping hole in my experience and education called "Victor Hugo" and I am filling it in as rapidly as I can. This is massive detailed, witty, soaring true epic, with all things human nature, good and evil, fate, justice, danger, thrills, cliff hangers, society, politics, historical ways of thinking of France, the young and the old... It is silly of me to even begin to list, whatever I write is not enough to summarize.

The reader is one of the best I have encountered. A true actor the breathes meaning and emotion into every sentence. This makes the book much easier to understand emotionally, amd in pure meaning.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Greatest of Books, Worst of Narrators

This is the first time I'm "reading" Les Miserables. With one very large and one other (small) qualification, I'm enjoying this undoubted work of great genius. I wish I could read French but, even in translation, I'm entertained, enlightened and transfigured by the depth and width of the philosophy, the brilliance of observation and the beauty of language. This is ART! On a par with Rembrandt, Beethoven--the equal of any of the best works of literature I've read.
The minor qualification is that, occasionally, like many of the 19th century writers (Dickens, Trollope, et. al.), Hugo will deliver and long lecture on any subject he chooses-- The Church, History of the building of Paris, etc. etc.
You just hold through these chapters. Some can be brilliant and funny. Some are just plain boring.
The HUGE qualification is the reader. Frederick Davison (AKA David Case, et. al) is, perhaps, the worst reader in the history of recorded books. He has recorded some the best books every written and manages to almost destroy every one. He is smarmy, effete, and tone-deaf; you feel like you are listening to a bored, castrated frog.
He is almost entirely devoid of drama-- sounds like a character in one of Dickens's or Trollope's books-- Lord Percy Squash-bottom or some similar type.
Davidson comes to the end of a dramatic sentence at the end of an emotional or dramatic interlude and just stops, like a telegram. When his voice should go up, it goes down--when it should be vibrating with excitement, it sounds like it's dripping with ennui.
I believe Davidson died a few years ago so nil nisi bonum and all that; but be advised: Unless you are forced to do so at gunpoint, do not ever buy a book narrated by Frederick Davidson.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Siri
  • Tromsø, Norway
  • 06-30-13

Help.

This is one of the longest books I have ever heard, or read for that matter. This book is a bit hard to get through, Victor Hugo writs very meticulous on some subjekts whiled not saying enough on other subjekts. The book is really brilliant and good for the soul. But I personally can't stand Marius, and want to smash his head in after a few chapters.

Then we com to the Narrater and I do not really like him, he sound som what condescending. I will not recommend the Narrater if you can fine another Narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 03-27-13

Marathon listen

Wow! This is the first review I have written for some time, because Les Miserables was 57 hours long. I chose it because I knew nothing at all of the story, except for what I'd seen on posters about the musical, which hinted at French revolutions and poverty as being key themes.

I found it very enjoyable, mostly. The storyline is punctuated by a number of long descriptive, philosophical passages about Paris, the battle of Waterloo, the sewerage system, etc. Sometimes, I have to admit, I got a bit bored during these and wanted to return to the storyline. The plot itself is really good and definitely held my interest, although it stretched my credulity just a tad at times.

At the very end I was surprised that Hugo finished with a succinct passage reflecting on the final event of the book, I was expecting another long piece of philosophising to cap it off.

As this book has been described as one of the best ever written, I am sure there are many subtle themes and undercurrents which I missed. I haven't read any reviews of the book (I will do now - I didn't want to spoil the book beforehand). No doubt these reviews will reveal to me some of the book's deeper meanings.

The narrator was excellent and, overall, I'm glad I chose and persevered with this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing but long read

I had seen the broadway play and wanted to learn more about the story. It is a long, sometimes tedious read but worth the effort. The frequent diversions are what sometimes go on to long but the reader makes the prose almost poetic and he is able to keep your interest even during these periods. His singing voice does get annoying but his ability to read this long story and make these characters so real makes up for that. I am glad I devoted the time to this book and definitely recommend it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Too Many Words

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would like to recommend this book. Its obviously a classic for a reason. The problems is that as you are reading it, it's pretty clear that Victor Hugo was being paid by the word. No one is ever just happy. They are always "happy and joyful". Similarly, no one is sad, but instead "sad and miserable". Despite that, I was loving the book. And then I wasn't. The problem was the Hugo sometimes stops the action of the story to add in some digression that is - at best - peripherally related to the story.For example, there are two hundred pages on the Battle of Bordino that are completely unrelated to the story. Finally, after 196 pages of French history, the character of Th??nardier is introduced. I got through about three quarters of the book, but after the third or fourth very very long digression, I just gave up.I love a long novel (The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite), but this book needs a lot of trimming.

If you???ve listened to books by Victor Hugo before, how does this one compare?

About the same. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame contains long pointless descriptions of Parisian architecture that do nothing but pad the book's word count.

What about Frederick Davidson???s performance did you like?

Mr Davidson is fantastic as always.

Was Les Miserables worth the listening time?

Not really. This might actually be better listened to in abridged form.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Don't waste your time

Would you listen to Les Miserables again? Why?

No. Frederick Davidson is a pretentious narrator. His voice will drive you to turn it off. I loved reading the book and had high hopes of hearing my favorite characters come to life. Frederick Davidson ruined it.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Frederick Davidson?

Anyone else. Seriously. John Lee would have been the perfect fit for this book.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The book is fantastic, please read it. Don't listen to it. You'll be disappointed.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Drinker
  • Glenwood Springs, CO, United States
  • 06-20-11

Wow...

There are sections I re-visited 3 times. Hugo is a master and this is an epic novel you will want to read with friends, because it is huge in every sense of the word, and the allegorical implications of each character would keep a book club busy for months. DO NOT be intimidated by the length... you will learn history, philosophy, war strategy, the French way of thinking (in the 1800s anyway) as well as experiencing a brilliant narrative, which is true to what Hugo himself would have spoken had the world been able to provide him with the means to do so... I was sad to hear it end... truly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-13-14

The clue is in the title

What disappointed you about Les Miserables?

The relentless dreariness.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Thank goodness that's over!

How could the performance have been better?

A bit more characterisation

Any additional comments?

Go for the abridged version, this one went on far too long

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  • Anna
  • 06-06-14

Addictive

What made the experience of listening to Les Miserables the most enjoyable?

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.<br/>This book hooked me but if it doesn't I suspect you would actually dislike it.

What other book might you compare Les Miserables to, and why?

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.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Correct use of the French names, etc but no attempt to 'sound French' <br/>I liked the consistent level of reading regardless of the situations being read.<br/>No dislikes.<br/><br/>

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

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....

Any additional comments?

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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  • P
  • 05-11-14

A test of endurance

I did persevere and listened almost to the long awaited conclusion (I fell asleep just before the end). The story line itself was reasonable, but oh, I wish I had purchased an abridged version. I normally like to listen to an unabridged version no matter how long, but this book seemed to have been padded out with lengthy, unnecessary and boring chapters. I shan't be listening to anything else written by Victor Hugo!
On the plus side, the narration by Frederick Davidson was good.

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  • N. D. Holt
  • 02-04-14

Beyond a marathon!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

No.<br/><br/>I did enjoy the book, but I'd recommend the abridged version. This is a classic, and rightly so but Victor Hugo's divergences from the story to demonstrate is vast knowledge on so many areas dragged the story out, and in the end detracted from whole.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jean Valjean. It's his story and as a character he is so wonderfully portrayed.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

At times both

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  • Melissa
  • 01-03-14

Struggling

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone with a lot of time!

Has Les Miserables put you off other books in this genre?

No, I'm familiar with French lit of this period and have enjoyed other novels in this genre.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Frederick Davidson?

His narration has put me off this story I'm sorry to say. Someone who could give more light and shade to the narration. Maybe Robert Lindsay.

What character would you cut from Les Miserables?

I've not got far enough to say.

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  • Stephanie Paul
  • 11-26-13

Dear Frederick Davidson do not give up the day job

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I was inspire to read Les Mis as I am living and working in Paris and thought it would be nice to have a "historical" view of the city. This had been championed to me as being one of the greatest pieces of French literature ever written so after that I thought it would be best to give it a go. After the first couple of sections I was getting a bit lost with all the shifting in time and the multitude of characters whose lives seemed to justify jumping out of the developing story and dedicating a few chapters to. To the honest one of the most mystifying bits was almost two hours where Hugo gives us a blow by blow account of the Battle of Waterloo, which is all very interesting from a historical point of view, but did add to my total confusion when we suddenly jump back into the main plot, leaving me wondering what I had just been doing with the time. Then even stranger to me was an hours description of the, even then nearly extinct, lives on nuns in Paris. Once again fascinating, but it didn't really move the story on at all, and I began to find myself getting annoyed with these constant interruptions in the narrative. That said I am a fan of long audio books, the longer the better in my opinion but this could have done with a good editor. Maybe this is one of the times I will have to go for an abridged option.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator is just awful. In the past I have avoided other examples of Frederick Davidson's work because I have an inexplicable repugnance to his voice but sadly this time it was simply the only option I was even contemplating listening too. However thanks to this audio-book I have come to the definitive decision that I just cannot bare his voice, it is monotonous, limpid and frankly intolerable. The problem with trying to listen to his voice for 60 hours is that after a couple I simply cannot bare to listen to it any longer and then I have to leave the book and come back to it when I am feeling a little bit mentally stronger and more prepared to deal with the tediousness of it.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-26-13

brilliant story but for the accent

What did you like most about Les Miserables?

Victor Hugo's story transports us to post revolutionary France. The translation is fluent and faithful. I was able to lose myself in Valjean and Fantine's world.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Les Miserables?

the moment which makes the rest possible: the most memorable moment is when Monseigneur Bienvenue tells the police that he had given Valjean the silver and gives him more, setting him free but stirring his sense of morality. A literary example of how goodness can make a man.

How could the performance have been better?

The performance would have been much easier and more pleasant if the actor had more than schoolboy French as he massacres the French words left in

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I don't think anyone could . it's a book for a long journey.

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  • Curates egg
  • 09-09-13

Apt

Since I have listened to every minute of the 57 hours of this book, I will make the following review the antithesis of the work itself:
'The most aptly named book in history, Hugo outdoes many great writers .....he is more prolix than Tolstoy and more didactic than Rousseau.
Fredrick Davidson's narration (with what sounds like excellent French) is annoyingly superior, which suits the subject matter perfectly'

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  • Phil
  • 08-05-13

It's so hard to follow

What did you like best about Les Miserables? What did you like least?

I disliked listening for 2 hours talking about a building or a person that in the next chapter. Is either dead of the building has been walked though. I had to keep fast forwarding to continue with the story.

What was most disappointing about Victor Hugo’s story?

Just so much going into details about things that are just not needed. Nearly an 2 hours was wasted talking about the battle of Waterloo. It had nothing to do with the the story. I bet the story could have been half a long if he left out all the extra details and just kept to the story.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The story teller was hard to start with but soon got use to him. Shame that after a while I was blaming him for going on and on about things that where not necessary . Even though he was just reading the book.

Could you see Les Miserables being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

It already has

Any additional comments?

If you like books that go into A LOT of details this is for you. If not don't buy. I can take so much but in the end I gave up about half way.

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  • Michele
  • 07-21-13

Rather stilted reading style, and long & drawn out

Would you try another book written by Victor Hugo or narrated by Frederick Davidson?

Might do

What did you like best about this story?

It's clearly based on the historical events and brings them to life with great clarity

What didn’t you like about Frederick Davidson’s performance?

It was mostly in the syntax his voice would lift at the end of sentences which ended up being annoying. It was as if he was reading it for the first time, not a particularly good performance.

Could you see Les Miserables being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

It has been and I wanted to 'read' it before seeing the movie.

Any additional comments?

It is a huge commitment of time but worth it in the end.