Victor Hugo's tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early 19th-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.
She had never been pretty. Her life, which had been wholly occupied with good works, had endowed her with a kind of pallor and luminosity, and as she grew older she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness. What had been skinniness in her youth had become, as she matured, a quality of transparency through which her saintly nature could be seen to shine. She was a spirit more than she was a virgin.
From Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, translated by Norman Denny ©1976. Published by Penguin.