What do you do when one of France’s, if not the world’s, most famous authors places his first novel in your country (Norway)? I don’t think there is one solution that fits everyone, but I chose to read and review it.
I must admit I haven’t read any of Victor’s other works. I know of it, and I have both Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame on my TBR. On the other hand, having heard what people praise and critic about his books, I will say that this is very much his product. In a way, it seems a mix of the two stories, the horrid miserable masses meeting the monster, and then trying to turn it into The Three Musketeers. (Okay, is it good or bad when you keep describing a book by mentioning other books?).
The problem with trying to say what it is about, is that it’s about so much, it has royalty in prison, the knight falling in love with a servant, ancient grudge, a man living as a monster, a monster being a legend, betrayal, death and of course revolution. It does drag a few places, getting lost in the details (a critique I’ve heard about his other works), on the other hand the story is a modern epic (a praise I’ve heard of several of his works). The story is so big that it doesn’t just hint to the aspects of mass suggestion (the phenomenon of being swept away by the emotions of the masses) it shows it. It shows how the different stories tie together. One action never stands isolated, but are always connected with other actions and reactions.
It’s also an interesting take on the whole nature vs. nurture. Are you a monster because of your genes? Are you only enemies because you’ve been raised to think of one another as enemies?
This is not the best book I’ve read, nor probably the best book Victor ever wrote. Yet, I sat there reading the book in awe of seeing someone being able to keep this huge narrative in order, for the duration of the story. I can also see why Victor was loved by the French Romantic scene. This is a loving tribute to the individual and the irrational.