50. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo (100 book challenge)

Fifty books! I am now officially halfway through my 100 book challenge, where in July 2014 I set myself the goal of reading the top 100 classic books that BBC determined I must read before I die. No one said it would be easy (it hasn’t been), but now that I’ve made it this far I actually believe that I will achieve my goal.

For my 50th book I wanted a challenge, and Les Mis was absolutely the right book for that…

This is the longest book I’ve ever read. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed at how long it took me to finish it, or proud that I was able to stick it out. Les Mis, the 1194-page tome that was both the size and weight of a house brick, took my a total of 409 days to read (insert shock-face emoji here).

When you read a book over the period of a year, it becomes part of your life. Every key event over the past year has been enhanced by a page or two of Les Mis. Jean Valjean’s troubled life, little Cosette’s good fortune, Gavroche’s cunning yet kind heart, and Marius’ involvement in the barricades of 1832 – I began to feel that by day I was living normal family life in 2022-23, and by night I was right there on the streets of Paris.

I had a love-hate relationship with Les Mis. At times I was extremely bored and furious with myself for taking it on. Other times I couldn’t put the book down and would read it through the night, cursing the next day with how tired I was.

The book was heavy. It’s not easy to fit 545,925 words into a paperback, and about a third of the way and almost a year through I was over it. In my despair at how long it was taking me to read I got a box cutter knife and cut the book completely in half down the spine. This, although a little crazy and worthy of something you’d see in the 19th century on the streets of Paris, was an ingenious move. The book was lighter, it allowed me to read for longer, and suddenly I was away.

Although I had laboured through the early chapters, I sped through the action-packed chapters in the middle and savoured every word of the last few chapters wishing it wasn’t going to end.

But it did come to an end, both sadly and thankfully. And now I have two halves of a book to put back on the bookshelf, and a big decision of what to read for book number 51.


In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.


Filed under 100 book challenge

4 responses to “50. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo (100 book challenge)

  1. Pingback: 100 book challenge: my running tally | Jessie Ansons

  2. Your perseverance is something to be admired, Jessie and it sounds as though it was well rewarded in the end. Les Miserable is a passionate story that’s well worth reading.

  3. Pingback: 51. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (100 book challenge) | Jessie Ansons

  4. Pingback: 53. On the Road – Jack Kerouac (100 book challenge) | Jessie Ansons

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