hugoPoet, novelist and dramatist Victor Marie Hugo is a giant among French Romantic writers. In France he is best known for his poetry, but elsewhere he is famous for his novels Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831, commonly known as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and 1862’s Les Misérables, which tops today’s Buffet and is regarded as Hugo’s masterpiece.

It’s one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, and remains a classic. In English, the title means The Miserables, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims. The story, culminating in the June Rebellion in Paris, follows the lives of several characters, including convict Jean Valjean, who steals a loaf of bread to help feed his sister’s hungry children, and his ultimate redemption.

The novel explores the history of France, the urban design of Paris, politics, justice, morals, religion, and romantic and familial love. If you can make it through the first 100 pages of this book, you’ll be richly rewarded. The book includes what has been cited many times (incorrectly) as the longest sentence in a published novel. Hugo fills many pages with his thoughts on religion, politics, and society, including several lengthy digressions, such as a discussion on enclosed religious orders, the Paris sewers, and his retelling of the Battle of Waterloo.

Fear not, the countless threads combine for a single effect.

Without doubt, Hugo is one of the most gifted and influential authors of all time. He promoted the virtues of liberty, individualism, spirit and nature in rebellion of the conservative political and religious establishments of Imperial France. Everyone was miserable — the rich looked down upon the poor, and the poor looked down upon convicts, and the convicts viewed the rich with contempt — for treating them like dirt.

The story endures in popular culture through countless adaptations for stage, television, and film, including a musical first produced in the late 1980s, and a 2012 film version of that musical. The movie has received mixed reviews, but won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor (Hugh Jackman) and Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (Anne Hathaway).

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Les Misérables (English language)

Classic Fiction
Author: Victor Hugo
Les Misérables (English language)

In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean — a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert — Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.

Trying to forget his past and live an honest life, Valjean risks his freedom to take care of a motherless young girl during a period of political unrest in Paris.

The story is historical fiction because it contains factual and historic events. Contrary to what some believe, it does not use the French Revolution as a backdrop. The French Revolution took place in the eighteenth century; Les Miserables takes place in the nineteenth century. The only “revolution” depicted is the June Rebellion, a student uprising.

Les Misérables contains many plots, but the main thread is the story of Valjean (known by his prison number, 24601), who becomes a force for good in the world, but cannot escape his dark past.

As usual, each book listed here has gone FREE within the past 24 hours (except for the “Kindle Daily Deals” on page 3). Warning: Kindle book promotions can end without notice, so before downloading click the link “See Kindle price at Amazon” to verify that the book is still free. (Prices and availability may differ outside USA.)