Les Miserables

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Set in the Parisian underworld and plotted like a detective story, Les Miserables follows Jean Valjean, originally an honest peasant, who has been imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving family. A hardened criminal upon his release, he eventually reforms, becoming a successful industrialist and town mayor. Despite this, he is haunted by an impulsive former crime and is pursued relentlessly by the police inspector Javert.

Hugo describes early 19th-century France with a sweeping power that gives his novel epic stature. Among the most famous chapters are the account of the battle of Waterloo and Valjean's flight through the Paris sewers.

(P)1996 Blackstone Audiobooks

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