Les Misérables

Victor Hugo with Lee Fahnestock, Norman MacAfee

fiction classics historical
challenging reflective slow-paced

1463 pages | first published 1862

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time.

In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds.

Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

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emotional 82%
challenging 65%
sad 61%
reflective 57%
dark 35%
hopeful 35%
inspiring 28%
adventurous 22%
informative 20%
tense 15%
funny 5%
mysterious 2%


slow 90%
medium 9%

Plot- or character-driven?

A mix: 56% | Character: 28% | Plot: 16%

Strong character development?

Yes: 78% | It's complicated: 14% | No: 7%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 59% | It's complicated: 33% | No: 6%

Diverse cast of characters?

No: 61% | Yes: 25% | It's complicated: 12%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 81% | It's complicated: 14% | No: 4%

Average rating