I've decided to make a second try of reading Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables. The nickname of the novel is "the brick" because the size of it is quite close to an actual brick, my edition has 983 pages. I've already reached page 137, so I will have to make a recap of the first parts but then I will try to post here as I read. First though some background on why I'm doing it. I love the story of Les Misérables. I first got to know it through Bille August's film Les Misérables from 1998, then I saw the French-American mini-series from 2000. This is where I bought the book and tried to read it for the first time. My edition is in two volumes and I finished the first volume, but never started on the second. Since then I've also discovered the musical and come to love it. The novel is (in)famous for Hugo's deviations from the plot itself, and that was my problem the first time I tried to read it. Now being prepared for that, and I've also gotten more interested in the characters outside the two protagonists Valjean and Javert, I feel it's time for a new try. Also I'm actually not a big fiction reader. I prefer simple, plot driven stories when I'm reading fiction, so don't expect any literary analyses from me, I would love to get some input though when it comes to literary criticism of the novel. I might give references to the different adaptions and the Les Mis fandom though. Well after the introduction. let's start with the novel itself. It's divided in several parts, and each part is divided in several books. Part 1 - Fantine Book 1 - An Upright Man The first forty pages is a presentation of the Bishop of Digne, who's basically a perfect Christian and Saint. He does everything in order to help the poor, and has basically no faults at all. Despite this Hugo makes him an interesting character. Normally a flawless person could be boring, but in describing his character and his work, Hugo also managed to create a vivid picture of the world we are entering. Of course the world we see through the bishop's actions is quite rosy, there is suffering but the less fortunate ones can always get a helping hand. The one exception, and the part that I felt made the biggest emotional impact was his meeting with a dying man, who had also been part of the parliament during the French Revolution. He was shunned by everyone, who saw him as a regicide, and yet he didn't complain but simply lived his life in solitude. This also gives a bit of background to the political climate during the time. Book 2 - The Fall Finally on page 41 we are introduced to the main character, Jean Valjean. It will take some more pages before he is named though. This book describes at first how Valjean is refused work and lodgings in Digne, due to him being an ex-convict. It then goes on to tell his story, how used to be a poor laborer, who in desperation stole some bread to feed his sister's family. Then the legal system ground shaped him into a monster by chaining him up for 19 years. The whole background part of the story twisted my heart, I got emotional enough that I actually cried when reading about it. The bishop of Digne is the only one who sees Valjean as a fellow humand and treats him as a guest. Still Valjean steals the bishop's silver and flees in the night, but is caught. The bishop saves Valjean by telling the police that the silver was a gift, and in a final act of kindness he gives Valjean two silver chandeliers, only asking that he should use the silver to become an honest man. Here comes a part that's omitted from the musical, and I haven't seen thait in many other adaptations either. Valjean doesn't change his mindset all at once, he is utterly confused by the kindness shown to him, but he actually steals some money from a young boy on the road. It's that theft that shatters his world, when he realizes how he has repaid the bishop's kindness and faith in him. I actually think that Valjean's change of heart is one of the best conversions from the novel to the musical. The same confusion that Hugo describes in three pages, is turned into a three minutes of great music. In fact some of the lyrics of the song can definitely be found in Hugo's own words, at least in my translation of it. It's quite understandable that most adaptions cut a lot in these two books. The bishop is an important character, if you want to save screen time for other things you don't need a full portrait of him and the people he cares about though, and the theft of the silver is a more dramatic thing than stealing a coin from a boy. If I had read the novel for the first time, without any prior knowledge of the plot I would definitely have thought that the bishop would continue to be an important character, and that this Valjean person was just another of his acts of kindness. None of them will show up in the two coming books though, so I'm stopping this first post here.