Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book 99: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (Audiobook)

BE WARNED: There are several audio versions of this book. One narrator has a voice like fingernails on a chalkboard and another has a soft, warm voice. If you start the audio CD and it bothers you straight away, return it and get the other version.

The problem is, the narrator with the irritating voice reads the unabridged version while the narrator with the pleasant voice reads the abridged version. The end result was I listened to about 1/3 of the unabridged version before I had to shut it off for reasons of self-preservation; then I picked up with the abridged version, and I felt like I was missing large chunks of the story. (The abridged version cuts out a lot of the dialogue.) Whatever. By then, I was so frustrated that I didn't care. I just listened to the rest of the abridged version.

Okay - back to poor old Victor Hugo - the author. He wrote an awesome story. Set in the years prior to the French Revolution, Les Miserables is the story of a convict (Jean Valjean) who is given a second chance at life and chooses to use it for good. I love the character of Jean Valjean because he is imperfect and yet because of his struggles, he becomes perfect. "A saint" according to the young Marius, who courts Valjean's daughter Cosette.

If you felt that the movie or Broadway versions of Les Miserable were a little bit puzzling, it's because they're missing key pieces of Victor's story. For one, I never could figure out how in the world a convict could become a mayor of a town in just a few short years. Well, Hugo's book explains it.

Many of us are so brainwashed by the Cameron Mackintosh Broadway version that we don't think about the intrinsic value of the original text. For me, it was a great idea to begin again to better understand why Cameron Mackintosh chose to build an entire cult phenomenon from this book.

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