Les Miserables

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"The classic story of the triumph of grace and redemption, adapted for today's readers" by Jim Reimann
Many years ago my mother received in the mail, every month or so, a volume of the "Readers' Digest Condensed Books" series. Each volume contained abridgments of recent books. I never quite grasped, back then, the reasoning by which one might justify reading a shortened version of a longer work. Jim Reimann's adaptation of Victor Hugo's monumental Les Misérables fails to put to rest those childhood doubts that I have carried into adulthood.
In a brief introduction, Reimann offers something of a rationale for his adaptation. In his view, Hugo's novel is one that should be read by many people, but "due to its great length and to language that has become increasingly difficult to understand over time, few people in our current generation have endeavored to read it." A moment later, though, Reimann asserts that Les Misérables is a "masterpiece" with a "writing style virtually unmatched by today's writers." Despite its beauty, he goes on, "much of the main storyline gets lost among its many tedious portions." Tedium, for Reimann, includes Hugo's entire detailed introduction of the Bishop of Digne, significant development of characters such as Fantine, his fascinating digressions, such as that on the Paris sewer system (which adds inestimable import to Jean Valjean's flight through the sewers), and many other elements that make Les Misérables a panorama of France in the early 1800s.
Reimann then implies that Hugo was long-winded for the sake of money: "Many of the classical writers of Hugo's day were paid by the word, which often made them more verbose than they might otherwise have been." While it is true that Hugo was handsomely