I give this book 5 stars for the story. It is so rich, and deep, and wide, and lovely. The characters are all people that I feel SOMETHING about. Love, hate, pity, sympathy, annoyance, disgust – all these emotions evoked in me, and more. Even the very minor characters, that are left out of the various movies and musical adaptations. Those little characters that are tucked into nooks and crannies, barely visible, have an impact on the heart.
I cried at the end. It is, truly, one of my favorite stories of all time.
If I ever read it again, however, I am getting the ABRIDGED version. Why, oh why, Mr. Hugo, did I need to understand why Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo (as well as the intimate ins and outs of his strategies, the topography of the land, and the colors of the various uniforms), just so I could catch a glimpse of Thenardier’s true character, and his connection to Marius? That could have been told in two pages, instead of a billion or so. A history on the sewers of Paris? The history of Paris slang? Those rabbit trails read like a well-written textbook, and while I waded diligently through the Waterloo aside, struggling all the way, I don’t think I could do it again. Not unless I had a Bachelor’s degree in French History.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s a big stinking deal if you pick it up.
This book took me a full year to get through, until I finally gave myself permission at about 3/4’s of the way through to skip the parenthetical chapters. Hundreds of pages of parenthetical asides!!!
Still, I have nothing truly negative to say about this book. It’s just exhaustingly brilliant, and I’m sure I’m just not quite intellectual enough to appreciate his political/historical commentaries.
I don’t think I’ll be tackling “War & Peace” any time soon. That’s for sure. What’s the toughest book you’ve ever read?
Grace & Peace,