Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Hard Act to Follow

The first time I watched Le Miserables was about 20 years ago in New York City. My Long Island friends decided to treat me to a night in the city to see the Broadway play Le Miserables of which I knew nothing except that it was a very long running play. I was completely blown away by the story and the astounding performance. Since that pivotal night I've seen the play twice: a travelling Broadway performance in Portland, and a youth performance put on by Christian Youth Theater in Vancouver, Washington.

I had seen the play exactly twice and had watched the Liam Neeson movie once when I introduced the idea of reading Le Miserables to my book club. I'd done a bit of research and decided we should read the Lee Fahnestock/Norman MacAfee translation, unabridged and published by Signet Classics. It was a bit of a hard sell to my book club since it is so long, some 1400 and some-odd pages. We did agree to  read it, some more reluctantly than others and most of us finished in two months or so. There is so much more in the book than in the play or movie. When I finished it I felt as though I'd been on a long arduous, yet beautiful journey and I didn't want it to end. I felt so full and so empty all at the same time. Most of us agreed that Les Miserables was going to be a very hard act to follow....and it has been. Someday I'll read it again.



  1. My memories of Les Miserables are mixed, oddly enough, with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I saw the play and the premiere of the movie in the same week during a trip to London. Both took my breath away. I'm amazed you got your book club to read Hugo's complete work. What a treat, though. It is heartbreaking and sublime.

  2. Some of the book club members skipped over the "boring historical" stuff. I think a person loses the whole essence of the book when they choose to do that. However, I am a purist when it comes to book reading...I read a book from front cover to back cover, literally, not skipping anything...including the fly leaf notes, title page, table of contents, forward, introduction...everything!