What can I write about this book that has not already been written by countless readers before me? What possible insight could I have that some academic has not already built up and then deconstructed (because that's what academics do, ammiright?) in a much finer and more eloquent manner than I could possibly even attempt?
The rich characters, the vibrant story-telling, the various themes and underlying philosophies - they've all been written up already. Some people like to retell the entire story in their review, but I always end up sounding like a five year old describing his favourite cartoon.
"And then Jean Valjean, he was a mayor, but before that, like, at the beginning, he was a prisoner - or convict, right? And then Inspector Javert, he's this inspector, okay? And he's after Jean Valjean, but Jean Valjean stole some candlesticks. But the priest, uuhh, oh yeah and Jean Valjean has a daughter, Cosette, but she's not his daughter and she's not in the story yet and then . . ."
See? That's just not copacetic.
I could complain about Hugo's overzealous descriptions of every goshdarn piece of architecture that even remotely figures in the story, but I won't. I'm not afraid to admit that I skipped a lot of that. Yeah, whut? I'm pretty much a gangster when I read the classics, skippin' irrelevant words like a badass. What you gonna do about it?
I briefly considered critiquing the translation, but that would either involve advancing beyond Beginner's French or pretending that I had advanced beyond Beginner's French. Not going to happen. Also, I really don't know which translation I read.
Then I remembered that one review I had read somewhere focused almost exclusively on the book's bindings. Yes! I can do this. I remember the book I read was a blue hardcover with gold lettering on it. And let me tell you, that binding was 100 per cent awesome. Not only did the pages stay in the book throughout my entire reading experience, but absolutely none of them were ripped, folded or torn in any way.
Big deal, right? Actually, it is. That book was a library book that had been in circulation since the late seventies - so nearly twenty years of the great unwashed masses pawing at every page of the book. And those pages were still turning like it was the first day that the binding had been cracked. Cracked, not split, you dig? Anyway, you could lay that book flat and turn the pages and they would stay open without you having to rest your fingers on them - that's how good the binding was.
Okay, I do remember some of the corners of the pages had been bent by some lazy fart who couldn't be bothered to get a bookmark (I mean, seriously, you can make your own bookmark in about two seconds - fifty seconds if you have arthritis or something).
Of course, it is not the fault of the binding that some lazy bloke (it was probably a man) had folded the corners on certain pages. And, of course, folded pages don't affect the binding at all. All this to say that the binding held up for twenty years quite well. That's a five star binding, baby.