Summary: One of the great classics on grace and the law.
Last spring my wife and I went to go see a student production of Les Mis that her cousin’s daughter was in. It was a very good student adaptation. Then last fall again my wife and I and some friends went to a traveling Broadway production of Les Mis.
It had clearly been updated from the earlier versions that I saw in Chicago. The set and use of video and lights really did make it seems like a new production even though I think it was my third time to see the traveling Broadway show.
Then this Christmas we went to go see the new movie (with the cousin, husband and their daughter that had been in the student version). In spite of some of the problems of the movie (I didn’t like Russel Crowe, but I did like the closeups), I thought it was one of the best presentations of the Christian meaning of grace that I have seen in the theater in a long time; maybe ever.
So I decided to listen to this abridged version of Les Miserables that I picked up at some point free from Audible. I am in general, not a fan of abridged books. No matter how good the abridgment there is always something that is missing.
This books clearly has some abridgment problems. Fantine is almost completely absent from this book. It has been around 20 years since I originally read Les Miserables (probably after the first time I saw the musical). But on the whole, I was glad I picked up the book. There are differences between the musical and the book and some of them are significant.
With one real exception, I think the book’s version of the story holds together better. It makes more sense that Cosette was raised by nuns and that Valjean is hidden as their gardener for the majority of Cosette’s childhood. It makes more sense that Marius and Cosette have watched one another over time instead of a chance one time meeting on the street and then they decide to run away together. In the musical Valjean immediately turns from his life of crime once the bishop gives him the candlesticks. In the book he runs away again and then steals from a child. It is that theft of a small amount of money, when Valjean already had all of the Bishop’s silver that forces him to confront his own depravity.
There are lots of other small differences. I probably should re-read the whole book in print. But it is SO long. And there really are parts that would be better abridged because the modern reader just does not get them. (For instance, I think the whole end of the book, after Marius and Cosette are married, does not really make sense to a modern reader. The original sense of honor and class status just do not translate all that well.)
It is a book worth reading (even as an abridged version) if you like the musical and/or movie and have not read the original source book.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: Purchase Links: Free Kindle Version Unabridged, Audible.com 2 hour Abridge Audiobook ($4.95), Unabridged 58 hour Audible.com Audiobook ($5.95), Reviewed 12 hour Audiobook ($12.23)