Les Misérables, my review of Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater version.
I first read Les Misérables about 40 years ago in a college French class. It was the time of the Kent State riots – students vs. National Guard, (May 1970) and the next few years would see students in Paris revolting against the educational regime, so in a sense this was ‘life imitating art’. The ‘radicals’ among you will enjoy the fight for right, for equality, and the obvious struggles against the haves and the have-nots. There are differences of opinion between the establishment which makes the rules that maintain their elitist status, and those who fight each day to provide for their basic needs often giving up on following the laws in favor of doing what they need to do to feed their families. Our socio-economic conditions in the US today bear a startling resemblance: the very rich versus the very poor.
But this is also a story of two men: Inspector Javert whose life is spent adhering to the law, and Jean Valjean, a convict (His crime? He stole some bread to feed his sister’s starving children), paroled after 19 years in prison, who experiences grace and experiences a transformation that can only come of God – and he determines to be the instrument by which others can experience the same grace. And for the rest of his life he would pay. He makes difficult choices, choices that put his life in danger, but which are required if he is finally able to truly escape his past, rather than to perpetuate the lie that he is trying to escape.
Older now, and more mature in years and in my faith, I see this story as one of redemption, of grace, of God's love and His transforming powers. I still root for the underdog, but am not as quick to champion causes which involve violence and needless bloodshed. But this story paints a picture of the human condition, a world that wants to do for ourselves what only God can do, a fact that Javert finally realizes and tragically is unable to accept.
Although I love this classic French novel, and enjoyed listening to it as I drove around from one appointment to another, I cannot give this the rave review that I would like to. I frequently found myself driving distracted: not because I was so caught up in the story, which I was, but because of the sound. Most of the time I had the volume at ‘maximum’ in order to hear the dialogue, then the musical interludes would occur between the scenes: just like television commercials that are considerable louder than the programming. As I drove I had to lower the volume frequently to avoid being blasted out of the car, and then raise it again to be able to hear the story.
The story gets 5 stars, the audio gets 3, overall rating of 4.5stars.
I received a copy of this product from Tyndale House for the purpose of this review. They did not require a favorable review, only an honest one.