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Les Miserables This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   You sit in your favorite reading chair and feel theweight of the book in your lap. This is going to be a long 1,200 pages. A littleintimidated, you turn to the first page. The title of the chapter makes sense(sort of), but after three sentences there is a word that is completely foreignto you. Don't take the book back to the library yet. There are five simple rulesthat can make reading Les Miserables enjoyable, if not a breeze.

#5 - Keeptwo dictionaries handy. Unless you are a master of the English language, therewill be some words that completely blow your mind. Don't be intimidated. Bykeeping a dictionary nearby, you'll get through it. You'll find that the mysteryword will be repeated, and you'll actually learn it. Every now and then you mightalso have the delight of using one of those thousand-dollar words inconversation.

The second dictionary you'll need is French to English. Inmost versions, there are a few words that don't get translated. If you look themup, what you're reading will make much more sense.

#4 - Don't talk toanyone about the book until you're done. People give away endings, it's a fact oflife. And people also interpret things. Don't listen to others' interpretationsuntil you form your own. It will be much more interesting, and you may getsomething completely different out of it. Also, while you're reading it's hardenough to understand what's happening. You'll understand the symbolism whenyou're done, so don't worry.

#3 - Most assumptions are safe; names meannothing. If you think they're talking about someone, they probably are. Don'tworry if you're thinking, "But that sounds like ... " If it is, you'llfeel smart, and if it's not, then you'll be surprised. Half the fun of readingthe book is figuring out who "the man in the street" or "the womanin Luxembourg" is. So, let your mind wander, and don't ever think, But hisname is ...

#2 - Re-read things. Victor Hugo weaves a beautiful butcomplicated tale. Don't feel bad if you don't get something the first time. Ifyou re-read parts you don't understand, you'll get much more from the book. WithLes Miserables, if you don't know someone's characteristics, motivations, andexperiences, then what happens next will mean nothing.

And the #1 rule forreading Les Miserables is ... sleep is a good thing. When you can't see the pageanymore, give it a rest. Also, reading while half-asleep means you probably won'tcatch the nuances. So resist the temptation to read all night, and try to sleep,all right?

Now that you know these simple rules, tackling this masterpiecewill be no sweat.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Athena19 said...
Jun. 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm
I completely agree with all of your advice! I read Les Mis over christmas break, and it's amazing!! One thing that i might add would be #6: Don't focus on individual words or characters, just let yourself get swept up in the story. It will make more sense
 
nikkigonefishin said...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm
Thanx for this advice :) I saw the musical today and now am considering reading the book (even though1200 pages does feel intimidating)
 
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