There are loads of unfortunate people. There is Jean Valjean, who wants to be a good man, and repeatedly tries to be, but is constantly reminded of his past, by society. As soon as he has created a new life for himself, the past keeps catching up and destroys it. It's as if the rules of society imprison him and between the bars he can perceive freedom, but never reach it. All because he, as a former convict, has destiny written upon him. A few times he has been on his way back to darkness, but someone has showed him kindness and that's the only thing it takes to make him remain on the right path. The thing which makes this book political, is that Jean would be a saint, living a happy life, if it weren't for the rules, prejudices and judgements of society. That is the common denominator for several of the characters. The beautiful, modest character Fantine would be a happy mother if it weren't for the conventions of society. Her fatal destiny has to be one of the saddest stories ever written.
The book is heavy at times and some parts are very detailed and long. Victor Hugo introduces new characters throughout the book, which can be a little exhausting at times. In the middle of the book we meet Marius, an unfortunate young man who would have become a "cold-hearted" royalist (Hugo's political opinions can be interpreted) if it weren't for a letter from his Bonapartist father. Marius grows up and is woven into the story and his struggle for love and the void which suddenly has to be filled in his heart is extraordinary. Marius inner political struggles can in fact be based on Hugo himself, because the author had a similar adolescence.
Another thing which is heavy and worth mentioning is Hugo's digressions. You would think that the book would become easier when you're well into it, but Hugo kept leaving the story to write some forty pages about a topic he found interesting. There are hundreds of pages about things from political views and the battle of Waterloo, to the the sewers of Paris. It seems like he put whatever he fancied into the book and you can't really understand the relevance of it, until the end of the chapter, when it turns out to be very relevant. All digressions are a bit too long, but always turn out to be necessary to understand the situations of the characters. Therefore, it's important to read the unabridged version, to really comprehend the content and context, because it shows Hugo's purpose with the book. Victor Hugo was an exceptional author. He could really understand the psyche of man, he could portray a man's reflections and ethical dilemmas such as choices between saving a man's life or one's own, and struggles between saving a man's life or obeying someone's last wish, with so much emotion that it truly captures the reader.
The part where Jean meets Cosette is beautifully written. The father-daughter relationship between them is powerful and they complement each other perfectly. Without each other, they would have been at the bottom, but with each other, they become something extraordinary, able to provide a life for themselves in the shadows. The void in Jean's heart has been filled, and when Cosette is growing up into a beautiful young woman, he begins to worry about eventual suitors, partly because of her mother's destiny, and partly because of egotism. Jean Valjean is probably one of the most complex characters in the history of literature, due to his flaws, endeavoring and battle with himself. The most beautiful part of the book is doubtless the relationship between him and Cosette. Hugo had a very fine perception of paternal feelings.
Few authors ever come close to so utterly revealing descriptions of the deep, unfathomable, incomprehensible, natural fatherly love. Probably may readers get a new perspective and understanding of the father perspective. Here are a few lines that reveals Jean's feelings for Cosette:
"This man who had passed through every distress, who was still all bleeding from the lacerations of his destiny, who had been almost evil, and who had become almost holy, who, after having dragged the chain of the galleys, now the invisible but heavy chain of indefinite infamy, this man whom the law had not released, and who might be at any instant retaken, and led back from the obscurity of his virtue to the broad light of public shame, this man accepted all, excused all, pardoned all, blessed all, wished well to all, and only asked of Providence, of men, of the laws, of society, of nature, of the world, this one thing, that Cosette should love him!"
Hugo wrote in this exceptional way, as if he had been inside the characters heads and fully understood them. He had a unique ability to, very insightful and comprehensible, portray people's inner nature,
The unabridged version gives a thorough picture of a society during a critical time, about what deprives people of their freedom. Probably it would have been more difficult to understand the thoughts and motives of people such as the Thénardiers if it weren't for the really profound parts that the quantity of pages allow. The story benefits from it. It takes time and demands a lot, but then again, these parts give so much more in return! This book is one of a kind, and makes you succumb to reverie and want to be a better person.