Les Miserables by Marcia Williams

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Les Miserables by Marcia Williams

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A good way to while away half an hour in the company of a classic text, but this comic version could still be a lot better.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 64 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406353167

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An ex-convict who lapses into crime again even in the face of the greatest charity... A policeman bent on outing a man from his past, whatever the human consequences… A girl growing up under the loving eyes of a suitor while being totally unaware of her background of poverty and misfortune… Yes, meet the original and real story of Les Miserables, but presented as you've probably never seen it before – told in an all-ages comic strip version, with bright colours and much intricate detail from the pen of Marcia Williams. Bear with us and see how the new version compares to the original.

Well, for one, it helps us easily understand the classic text in a lot less time than the original would occupy, and as such is going to be a boon for many time-poor readers. All the detail is here – the discovery of Valjean through a public display of his strength, returning characters with a new beard and a new name to further the trouble and the disgusting behaviour of man towards man the French Revolution was clearly never going to solve. The book is very visually appealing – the gutters between the images all have a hand-drawn air, with many instances of pages having bordering detail and tiny beats the eye can absorb at leisure. The colour scheme is bright and yet suitable, whether we're indoors or outside in the French nature, and the claustrophobic aspect of Valjean's final escapade is conveyed very cleverly.

So it's a shame to report then that on the whole, not a lot is conveyed terribly well. The book looks a wordy comic strip, but I didn't mind that – I was expecting nothing less, really, considering how few pages this covers and what had to be excised to make this version. The problem I have with that is that when there is also dialogue, there is no way anyone could fathom in what order to read the panels – dialogue first, then caption, or the other way round. For greatest effect neither is the best solution, but this doesn't help anyone. There are several beats where the caption box covers what's gone on in its own image, but the script carries on with dialogue covering the same ground for further panels. I know a young reader will have no problem with picking up the gist of all the pages here, but he or she should mind that the words are presented in such a clumsy and off-kilter fashion, especially when the pattern of image-first or caption-first is in such a helter-skelter mess. I minded.

In the end, this book may have suffered the fact that I read a perfectly serviceable manga version of the story just a month or so previous – one that took the same time to read, looked very different again, and didn't shy away from all the grim details (I'm sure I remembered Fantine's woes as including something not mentioned here). It hardly needed more than a few explanatory captions, whereas the traditional styling of this book goes great guns to include them all and to convey the narrative in fine, literary style – yet come unstuck when also including dialogue. This is a rewrite away from being a great take on a great original, for Williams shows she can adapt and can portray a complex story in her clever crafted images – just not in the format she has adopted here.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For another classic adapted for the young reader, we can recommend The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator). Dante's Inferno by Hunt Emerson and Kevin Jackson is one instance of classic literature being adapted for graphic novel perusal; The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel) by Khaled Hosseini is a take on a much more modern one. We also enjoyed Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams.

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Buy Les Miserables by Marcia Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Les Miserables by Marcia Williams at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Les Miserables by Marcia Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Les Miserables by Marcia Williams at Amazon.com.


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