Amber’s Goodreads review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables: FantineLes Misérables: Fantine by Victor Hugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally finished! This was a huge book, but totally worth the read. Yes, even the parts where Hugo seems to go off on a historical recount or a philosophical tear. Everything comes back to the story no matter how “off topic” it seems. Everything colors the scene. Sure, there are a lot of names the average reader (even the well-educated one) may not know, but the main story is the important part. Skip the non-plot parts if you want, even though you may miss a few things because of it. The important thing is to read it.

Why? Because the issues within are still relevant today. People still fall through the cracks of society and are unable to crawl back out no matter how hard they try. People are still persecuted for the rest of their lives for one mistake. People are still driven to desperation by impossible situations and reviled for where they end up. Women and children still fail to be protected by society. There’s a great quote at the end, from Victor Hugo to the publisher of the Italian translation, which goes: “Let us subject your social order to examination, let us take it where it stands and as it stands, let us view its flagrant offences, show me the woman and the child. It is by the amount of protection with which these two feeble creatures are surrounded that the degree of civilization is to be measured.” As I write this, we still have to battle for a woman’s right to health and choice and sovereignty over her own body. We have politicians and citizens calling for the tearing down of social safety nets because where some see Gavroche, others only see a Thenardier. That is to say, they see a parasite instead of a victim of circumstance, sometimes a victim of birth. We turn around again and again to see that the only shield against injustice is money, and lots of it, pressed into the right hand, and to hell with those without.

Over a century and a half after this novel was written, things aren’t much better. This is why this book is relevant, and why it needs to be read. Read it, please. If you aren’t in tears at the end, you have a harder heart than I.

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~ by Amber on July 1, 2013.

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