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My husband and I went to see Les Miserables at the theatre for our first wedding anniversary. That added to my well know love of audio books meant it wasn't too surprising when I received Tantor Media's audio book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo read by David Case as a Christmas gift.
The story comes in a standard black plastic DVD like case. I believe the case also had the standard plastic wrapping. The front is predominantly dark red-brown with the title and author listed in white and a picture of a small, dirty child holding a large broom in the center. There is a picture of a white ipod that informs us that the CDs are MP3 format and iPod Ready. There is a yellow strip in the top right corner stating that there is an eBook included. The back contains a brief paragraph about Victor Hugo's motivations for writing Les Mis as well as a few lines about Hugo and the reader, David Case. It also has format information for both the eBook and the audio book as well as informing us that there are 2 MP3 CD's with 12.5 hours (ABRIDGED).
Les Miserables is compelling classic of injustice and love by Frenchman Victor Hugo written in 1862. The story begins in 1815 with Jean Valjean ( prisoner 24601) being released from prison and follows the struggles he has to be accepted back into society after serving 19 years for stealing bread to feed his sister's family (added time for numerous escape attempts). Along the way Valjean meets a number of people that influence his life. The Bishop Myriel sets Valjean on the path to redemption through his incredible kindness. The town's police inspector, Javert, makes life hard because he sees justice as black and white with no room for gray. There is the poor young woman, Fantine, who works in the factory and tries so hard to provide for her (illegitimate) child, Cosette. The unscrupulous Thénardiers who (fail to) care for Cosette and later sink into crime. Later there is Marius, a student and revolutionary who catches Cosette's eye.
=The Audio book=
First and foremost, this story is heavily "abridged." The 1642 page book has been reduced to just 12.5 hours of spoken word. I have read and enjoyed abridged versions of this story in the past, but this version leaves much to be desired. Massive portions of the story have been left out entirely, including some very critical to the development of the characters and storyline. For example, there is nothing on how Jean Valjean met Fantine. We are given no reason why he should feel any responsibility toward her daughter Cosette. Valjean's rescue of Cosette from the Thénardiers is given but one line. I am familiar with the story, but these and other omissions would likely make it feel patchy and unmotivated for those new to Les Mis. To make matters worse, there are many times in the story where characters reference events or conversations from scenes that have been cut out in a way that expects the readers to recall what happened in that scene. Several times I assumed that I had somehow skipped tracks while listening to the story, but when I went back to check I discovered that it was just poor abridgement.
The story is read by David Case. I know this is a French story, but I find the nasal, French accent very irritating. It is not pleasant to listen to Case read. Some of his character voices are quite good, but others do not seem to fit.
The audio book is encoded in MP3 format and will only work on CD and DVD players that can play MP3 formatted discs (I used my computer to put it on my iPod, it might not work on older CD players).
I do not like reading books on the computer. I have no interest in the included eBook, but for the sake of this review I took a look at it. I was surprised to discover that the eBook is "unabridged." It therefore does NOT match the text of the audio book. You could not listen to the story and follow along with the eBook. I find this odd as they market this product as "Perfect for ESL and reluctant readers" on the Tantor Media website. I do not understand this claim as having an eBook with entirely different text from the accompanying audio would be very confusing. If you are able to find the text to accompany a particular part of the audio book the words still do not match. It is like reading two different versions of the Bible- they say the same thing, but using different words and sentence structure.
The eBook comes in PDF format. There are 1642 pages, all of which are printable and keyword navigation and search capable.
=Price and Availability=
I have reviewed the MP3 format (which includes the eBook). It is available on Amazon for £11.49 (free shipping). For £16.49 you can get it as 10 regular CDs. WARNING: Amazon lists this item as unabridged. This is incorrect, but despite contacting Amazon multiple times the page has not been changed. Tantor Media do not have an unabridged audio book of Les Miserables.
I love the story of Les Miserables. I have read and loved the book (abridged and unabridged), watched at least two film adaptations, and seen at least 2 versions of the musical (one recorded, one live). This is the first version to seriously disappoint me. It is abridged extremely poorly. The audio book/ eBook mismatch makes no sense. And the reader's voice is irritating beyond measure. I am not sure I will even donate my copy to the library or charity because I would hate to ruin this fantastic story for someone by subjecting them to this horrible adaptation.
I will also be posting this review in full on ciao under the same name and in part on amazon.