While understanding the structure of Les Misérables’ length is important, it is paramount to know its worth. And, trust me, it is worth it. Les Misérables is gripping. Its 530,982 words will not bore you. Hugo’s digressions are offset by a beating narrative that chronicles the life of Jean Valjean, a character written with supreme depth and clarity. I feel that I know Valjean. His life, thoughts, and actions are inspiring, so much so that I asked my wife if I might tattoo, “I am Jean Valjean” on my chest. Surprisingly, she said, “No.” But, here too, all of Hugo’s characters are absorbing: Javert, Thénardier, Bishop Myriel, to name a few. Each, in his or her own right, are studies in characterization—they breathe, they eat, they sleep, they live. In my mind’s eye, I know them and I see them. While Les Misérables is lengthy, it is neither monotonous nor dull. It is a masterpiece—lesser mortals can only hope to mimic its long-cast shadow.
I hope to finish Les Misérables soon, so that I can watch its latest iteration in the theater. But, if it should slip through and I should miss it, I’m not sure that I'll be losing anything. For Les Misérables, the novel, is a divine incarnation—living and moving, instructing and guiding—available and accessible to all.