Amid the essays and political pronouncements, the book follows the lives of several people. With few exceptions, I didn't like them. Jean Valjean is an interesting character, but let's face it: He's an idiot. Sort of Like McTeague, he's not very smart but tries to do the right thing... and doesn't always. Javert doesn't ring true. Thénardier was too convenient as a deus ex machina. To talk more would involve spoilers, so you'll have to let me be general.
I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Didn't like Les Miserables. Ah well. I've added the most recent movie to my Netflix queue.
-- There were good parts, and I agreed with much of his basic take on society. Some quotes I pulled (and put on FB):
"Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than material improvement. To know is a sacrament, to think is the prime necessity, truth is nourishment as well as gain. A reason which fasts from science and wisdom grows thin. Let us enter equal complain against stomachs and minds which to not eat. If there is anything more heart-breaking than a body perishing for lack of bread, it is a soul which is dying from hunger for the light." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
"Mud can never enjoy a good fame." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
"Where are your free and compulsory schools? Does every one know how to read in the land of Dante and of Michael Angelo? Have you made public schools of your barracks? Have you not, like ourselves, an opulent war-budget and a paltry budget of education? Have not you also that passive obedience which is so easily converted into soldierly obedience? military establishment which pushes the regulations to the extreme of firing upon Garibaldi; that is to say, upon the living honor of Italy? Let us subject your social order to examination, let us take it where it stands and as it stands, let us view its flagrant offences, show me the woman and the child. It is by the amount of protection with which these two feeble creatures are surrounded that the degree of civilization is to be measured." -- Victor Hugo, Letter to M. Daelli, Publisher of the Italian translation of Les Miserables, 1862
-- If you've gotten e-mail from me, you might have encountered these in my sigfile:
"The invention of printing was the greatest event in history. It was the parent revolution; it was the fundamental change in mankind's mode of expression, it was human thought doffing one garment to clothe itself in another; it was the complete and definitive sloughing off of the skin of a serpent, which, since the time of Adam, has symbolized intelligence." -- Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
"If we try to form a collective picture of the combines results of printing down to modern times, does not this total picture seem to use like an immense structure, having the whole world for its foundation, a building upon which humanity has worked without cease and whose monstrous head is lost in the impenetrable mist of the future? This printed tower is the swarming ant-hill of the intelligences. It is the beehive where all the imaginations, those golden bees, arrive with their honey. The building has a thousand stories." -- Victor Hugo (predicting blogs, perhaps), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)