Les Miserables is a powerful novel. It is the story of Good and Evil and the quest to learn the difference. It takes place in a post-Napoleonic France. Victor Hugo portrays the realistic barbaric personality of the Paris people in this era.
The story begins by introducing the main character, Jean Valjean. Valjean was just released from a 19 year sentence in a brutal, inhumane prison. He was sent there for stealing bread to feed his sister’s starving family. Upon release from prison, all ex-convicts were to show their yellow papers labeling them as criminals. Valjean, like most ex-convicts experienced many slammed doors in his face as a result of his past. When a bishop takes him in and trusts him unconditionally, Valjean takes on a completely new outlook on life. He sets out to help others as the bishop has helped him. With the bishop’s help, Valjean changes his name and begins a new life. He opens a large factory employing hundreds of poor citizens. He becomes so respected in society, he is appointed Mayor. Things are going well for Valjean until he finds out that another man has been mistaken for him and taken away to be sent to prison. He must decide whether his freedom is worth this innocent man’s life.
A few side plots are going on during this wonderful saga. Valjean makes a promise to one of his former employees on her deathbed that he would raise her little girl, Cosette. He vows to keep her safe while at the same time he is constantly on the run from his past. Cosette turns into a young woman and meets a young man who is involved with the French Revolution.
There is so much more to Les Miserables than I could possibly reveal on one page. This was such a magnificent experience, I could never get enough. Not only did I read the novel several times, but I saw the musical and bought the soundtrack. Everyone must know the story of Les Miserables. It is a lifetime in itself.