This April, my TBR Jar Challenge was to read a book and then watch an adaption of said book. I had a number of options, as I seemed to have developed a trend of reading books and watching the adaption. However, my choice for this challenge was primarily based on the sense of achievement.
This month, I read ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo.
I picked ‘Les Miserables’ out because I loved the stage show and I enjoyed the film, but I had never read the book. I had bought the book, but it had long remained on my shelf, completely unread. This April, I had also set myself the theme of reading classic novels, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to break out the book.
I have to say, for all its length and tiny font, I actually quite liked the book. It was divided into five sections, each section roughly 300 pages which made reading it a lot easier – I aimed for the end of the section rather than the end of the book. The amount of detail in the novel was phenomenal and the characters were all fleshed-out and detailed.
There were two things that did grate with me in the book. The first was Victor Hugo’s penchant for going off on a tangent. The first 100 pages focused on a Bishop who barely featured in the the rest of the novel, although I did understand why this was included given that this Bishop was the guiding force for Jean Valjean on his quest for redemption. The segment on this history of the Parisian sewers was not so appreciate. That being said, learning about the history was quite interesting, especially since it helped the understanding of the actual story.
The second thing that I had issues with was the relationship with Marius and Cossette. In the stage-show, the film and summaries of the book, it is described as an epic romance. Reading it, I found it creepy. While it is heavily implied in the start that Cossette returned Marius’s feelings, he basically stalks her, follows her home, and breaks into her house. Once married, he seeks to possess her, making her care and follow only him, going so far as to interfere with her meetings with Jean Valjean and trying to prevent him from seeing her. This latter point does come after Marius learns of Valjean’s true identity as a criminal, which is understandable, but the way Hugo writes it describes a far darker intention which made me just dislike the relationship.
The film does the relationship more justice and, while making them seem to fall in love instantly without the build-up in the book, it sweetens the relationship, making it more equal and making Marius far more likable. Watching the film with the knowledge of the book behind me made for an interesting viewing. I had the extra knowledge and depth of the book behind me, and so the relationships and actions of the characters had a lot more meaning. As the book was so long, the adaption had to cut out a lot, but even so, it was remarkably true to the story and I found I enjoyed it more than I had the first time I had seen it.
If you do have the time and perseverance, I would definitely recommend reading ‘Les Miserables.’ There is so much to learn from it and it is actually very good and very well written. I actually found myself hooked, only being drawn out from the novel when one of Hugo’s tangents went on a little too long. It certainly improves the viewing of the film and, undoubtedly, the show as well.
My TBR Jar Challenge for May is: Read an Award-Winning Novel