Very likely, you fit into one of two categories: Someone who loves Les Misérables, or someone who’s never heard of it. The chances you fall in between are slim to none. If you are the latter, then you have been missing out on one of the greatest works of the millennium.
What is Les Mis? It is a riveting tale of 19th century France written by Victor Hugo. It is a chronicle of society. If there is one word I could use to outline it, it would be redemption. Without completely expounding upon the plot, it is the story of a wretched convict named Jean Valjean whose life is completely transformed by an act of pure mercy.
The title, Misérables, is a French word that cannot be fully described in a single English term. Some example translations might be The Miserable, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims. It refers to, obviously, the downcast and low class of folk that populate the story. The emphasis on the horrible condition of these people is a central topic throughout.
Now that the simplest possible form of the narrative has been laid, some more detail can be discussed. First off, there is a misconception that this work is about the French Revolution. It is not, but rather set around fifty years after, and it chronicles the June Rebellion, a relatively small but unsuccessful uprising comprised chiefly of students.
Hugo’s themes are beautifully woven within the writing, such as Mercy, Justice, Injustice, Redemption, Love, Compassion, and of course it’s title, Misérables. Although the book is amazing, it is also incredibly dense. It requires a lot of effort to work through it, but in the end, as always in this echelon of novel, it is worth it.
The musical is truly astonishing. It manages to convey all of the book’s themes and the majority of the plot over into a form which may seem odd for this type of story. If you have not listened to it yet, then I strongly urge you to look into it. A movie of the musical is at the time of writing in production, and it is definitely going to be spectacular.
Les Mis Trailer:
The movie based upon the book (not to be confused with the movie based on the musical) is also worth seeing, as it it portrays the main story arc between Valjean and Javert extremely well. It does a great job of condensing a 1400 page book into a 2 hour movie, as impossible as that seems.
In the end, I can only hope this long-winded post will either turn interested ears towards a truly mind-blowing experience, or provide fans with a look back at it. Characters like Jean Valjean and all that they stand for shall go down in history as the individuals who we should take note of and look up to.
“Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!”