Set in the Parisian underworld and plotted like a detective story,
Les Misérables follows the adventures of 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, Valjean 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 an account of the battle of Waterloo and a description of Valjean's flight through the Paris sewers.
Translated by Charles E. Curtis.
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