Just finished reading '61 Everyman edition. Wow, Victor. Just - wow.
All his personal hangups are there. Feuillantines garden? Check. Self-sacrificing Gary Stu? Check. Pretty blond effeminate boy who gets compared to an archangel? Who the hell did you have this big a crush on, Victor, because damn, this time it was completely gratuitous.
Having read LM, you can pretty much tell the exact plot once all the characters have been introduced. The only type missing is Javert, pretty much. You've got a sweet, innocent, pure girl in a garden, a couple characters that divide Valjean (the loner who is more awesome than society will ever accept; the guardian who devotes his life to the pure girl in the garden), an Éponine, a deep-dyed villain who waits and watches for his moment to grasp for a big payout, and a gratuitously pretty blond guy. With a giant section in the middle that prefigures The Old Man and the Sea, only with a much younger guy.
Also, Hugo needs to quit asking dumb questions down at the pub, because the guys were feeding him all sorts of bullshit. His descriptions of the deadly stalker octopus are, frankly, hilarious. It's hard to seriously analyse the imagery when it looks like octopuses crawl out of the water, squeeze you like a python, and drink your blood through their suckers. Also, what nonsense is the whole "the octopus has no beak"? Octopuses have beaks! They do! They have a beak with which to slice open your flesh, if you want to go that route.
(It's a Common octopus
, and you know the guys at the pub were pulling his leg. I also think they were making stuff up about sailing vessels and vocabulary, because some of it just sounds wrong to this reader of Patrick O'Brian, but that isn't nearly as hilarious as the blood sucking octopus that is scary because unlike a vulture, it has no beak
There is, however, a lot more acknowledgement of sex than in LM. His main character isn't a monk like Valjean: he has actual erotic feelings. Also, we are told about the maids' sex partners, which makes me think those characters are based on women Hugo himself slept with. Still, it's a nice change, that here, love isn't on some pure spiritual plane but includes the physical aspects that are denied until marriage in LM. (since Fantine has nasty consequences for her sexuality, Marius is too embarrassed to attempt anything, and Cosette is too pure. Éponine/Parnasse is deliberately left vague. It isn't that Gilliatt actually gets laid, but that he can contemplate Déruchette taking her clothes off, which is a distinct step forward when compared to Marius.)
It's actually kind of a fascinating read, but for Hugo's hang-ups, not for plot. Plot was entirely predictable, thanks to Hugo's hangups
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard