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Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo (1862)

Translated from the original French version by Isabel F Hapgood, Les Misérables is one of the most well known 19th century novels.


Cosette in the Thénardiers' inn,
depicted by Émile Bayard (1837-1891)

Brief plot synopsis

Jean Valjean is imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He breaks his parole and becomes a respectable citizen and mayor, but he is ruthlessly hunted by Inspector Javert

Fantine works in Valjean's factory but loses her job after having an an illegitimate child. She falls into prostitution to raise money for her daughter, Cosette, who is looked after by unscrupulous innkeepers Monsieur and Madame Thénardier at Montfermeil.

Valjean discovers Fantine dying and takes Cosette away from the Thénardiers. Nine years later she falls in love with Marius a student fighting in the 1832 Paris uprising. But Eponine, the Thenardiers' daughter is also in love with him.

Marius and the other students erect barricades. Eponine is killed saving Marius's life. The students are defeated - Valjean rescues an injured Marius and drags him through the sewers. They are confronted by Javert who lets Valjean carry Marius to safety. Torn between his civic and moral duties, Javert kills himself.

Marius recovers and marries Cosette. Valjean meanwhile flees and dies in a convent. The spirits of all the fallen characters are seen at the barricade.

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