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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

This is the first time I can remember reading a book with a soundtrack playing along in my head. The musical is wonderful, so as I got to distinct events, the music was in my head. Quite interesting. Jean Valjean goes to prison as a young man for trying to steal a loaf of bread for his sister and her numerous children. He stays longer because of escape attempts, and when he finally gets out nobody will receive him because of his criminal's passport. A bishop takes him in for a meal and a night's sleep, but Valjean steals something valuable, is caught, and taken back to the bishop who says he forgot the silver. He 'buys his soul' for God, and after that Jean Valjean is a changed man who seeks to care for those around him, live honestly and make up for past evil.

Over and over, Valjean is shown to be a man who is strong beyond reason. He gets under a horse cart which has trapped a man and lifts it up by himself. He climbs a high wall by pushing himself up the corner where it meets another wall. He saved men in the quarries by various acts of strength. He saves Marius' life by carrying him through horrible conditions in the sewer for a great distance. And yet .. more than his physical strength .. the reader sees his character. This is, of course, shown most strongly in his care of Cosette, the daughter of Fantine, who he rescues and raises as his own with great affection and care. A man who was consistently treated as less than human in the quarries returns grace and mercy. Humanly speaking, that is not possible. This man exemplifies what a transformed life can be .. a second chance, used to the fullest, for the good of all those around him. Javert is another very intrigue character. He is a policeman and very just. For him all things fall easily into categories. One of which is that all criminals are evil and cannot be good. Throughout Jean Valjean's life, Javert continues to search for him to send him back to prison. When Valjean does something extraordinary, Javert can no longer fit him into the 'evil' box .. and something inside Javert crumbles. Valjean is the criminal turned benefactor, and Javert is the upright man who can no longer comprehend the world. What striking juxtaposition. A book worth reading again!

Title:Les Miserables (abridged)
Author: Victor Hugo
Date published:1961
Genre: Fiction
Number of pages: 321
Notes: repeat reading


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