Think? The nerve!
I am reading the un-abridged version and I will admit that I know why they abridge the book. You see, Victor Hugo, in my opinion, did not decide whether he was writing a book of essays or a novel. Indeed, if you summed up all his dissertations on Waterloo, Napoleon, Convents, Bishops, the Parisian gamin, young love, beauty, guilt, prison, poverty, and everything else, you would find that bit far heavier in page-weight than the actual plot.
This, of course, got me to thinking--if Les Miserables was intended to be a social commentary (as I can only assume it was) what possessed Victor Hugo to write a novel? Okay. Let me first explain myself. I am a Dickens-girl. Every one of Charles Dickens' books are loaded with political, social, and occasionally spiritual commentaries and parallels. They can only be classified as Social Commentaries. So what is the difference between Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens?
|Hugo--what a comely old bird!|
|Dickens--hair brilliantly askew. ;)|
The difference is this:
Victor Hugo made a salad, Charles Dickens made a brew.
Victor chopped his words up coarsely, Charles stirred and stirred his stew.
Flavors sep'rate, flavors mingled; both a mighty turn of phrase,
But the stew will go down quicker--Hugo puts me in a daze.
Ahem. Forgive the lapse into poetry. :P That little ditty is the definition of these two authors in my opinion. Victor Hugo, while an amazing author, bewilders me with his constant division. He carries the plot for a few pages, then casts it aside while he lectures. You almost begin to wonder if his characters serve only as lackeys to carry his social-dissertations. I like his lectures. I like his plot. But in my opinion, he did rather a careless, clumsy job of mingling the two.
Charles Dickens, on the other hand, took his social ideas, his morals, his lectures, and mixed them into his plot and characters so seamlessly that, to speak childishly, "You can't find the pill amongst the jam." I have seldom felt the weariness in reading Dickens that I feel in finding myself at the brink of yet another 30-page ramble through a random history with Victor Hugo for an overly-zealous guide.
Now, please understand that I am not hacking on Les Miserables--I am actually enjoying the book and I will do a review once I am finished. I am merely commenting on Victor Hugo's style and the way he executed all the brilliant things kerbobbling around his mind.
I suppose you just have to decide on a given day whether you'd rather have a salad or a bowl of soup. :)