I'm currently just under half-way through the beast that is Les Miserables, so I thought it would be a good time to check-in with my initial impressions. On the whole, I am enjoying it and it's definitely an immersive experience. The novel is sprawling and massively detailed, which means it's a panoramic view of French society at the time.
Sometimes I get bogged down in all the detail and it makes it hard for me to push through and keep on reading. Every now and again, Hugo inserts these random sections that have nothing whatsoever to do with the main plot - Napoleon at Waterloo, or the history of a convent in Paris. I've found these have jarred my reading momentum and they make the book feel over-long. Even in the main story there is such a thing as too much detail, and Hugo is dangerously close to crossing that line at the moment!
What I like so far is that the story is so much grittier than the stage and film versions. For example, Cosette really is mistreated by the people who are looking after her and Fantine's decline is a lot more grim. Valjean isn't as perfect as he is in the film. All this is very good, even if I'm not sure about the many not so subtle religious messages in the book.
Les Miserables has been perfect for the winter so far. There's something so lovely about snuggling up with a big hefty book under a blanket and revisiting familiar characters night after night. I'm going to be taking a short break from it to read A Christmas Carol with Riv, and to read Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson for some lighter relief. I also have a wonderful non-fiction book on the go, My Promised Land, which is a history of Israel written with biographical elements. It's really very good, and I can't wait to finish it. At the moment, finishing any book will feel like an achievement!
Will I finish Les Miserables by the December 31st deadline? I'm going to try, but I'm promising nothing!