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Les Misérables | Book Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • 1804

    Monsieur Myriel becomes Monseigneur Bienvenu, servant of the poor.

    Part 1, Book 1
  • 1815

    Monseigneur Bienvenu ransoms Jean Valjean for God with his silver service and candlesticks.

    Part 1, Book 2
  • 1818

    Jean Valjean creates a new manufacturing process that makes him rich and famous.

    Part 1, Book 5
  • Early 1823

    Jean Valjean promises the dying Fantine he will rescue her child.

    Part 1, Book 5
  • A few days later

    Jean Valjean reveals his identity to save Champmathieu and is rearrested.

    Part 2, Book 2
  • Second half of 1823

    Jean Valjean escapes from Toulon and rescues Cosette from the Thénardiers.

    Part 2, Book 3
  • March 1824

    Jean Valjean and Cosette move to Paris, where they are spotted by Javert.

    Part 2, Book 5
  • A few days later

    Jean Valjean and Cosette take refuge in the convent of the Petit-Picpus.

    Part 2, Book 8
  • 1831

    Cosette and Marius fall in love in the Luxembourg Gardens.

    Part 3, Book 6
  • October 1831

    Jean Valjean separates Marius and Cosette, and both Cosette and her father become despondent.

    Part 4, Book 3
  • February 1832

    Jean Valjean escapes from Thénardier and the Patron-Minette when they try to extort money from him.

    Part 3, Book 8
  • April–May 1832

    With Eponine's help Marius tracks down Cosette and begins visiting her in the garden at Rue Plumet.

    Part 4, Book 5
  • Morning, June 5, 1832

    Enjolras and his lieutenants join the revolution by building a barricade.

    Part 4, Book 12
  • Evening, June 5, 1832

    Believing he has lost Cosette for good, Marius leaves to fight on the barricade.

    Part 4, Book 13
  • Late night, June 5, 1832

    Jean Valjean goes to the barricade to save Marius.

    Part 5, Book 1
  • Morning, June 6, 1832

    Jean Valjean saves Javert at the barricade and carries Marius into the sewer.

    Part 5, Book 1
  • Evening, June 6, 1832

    Javert helps save Marius and then commits suicide rather than take Jean Valjean into custody.

    Part 5, Book 4
  • February 1833

    Marius recovers from his wounds, and he and Cosette marry.

    Part 5, Book 6
  • Later that February

    Marius rejects Jean Valjean when he learns his history.

    Part 5, Book 7
  • Spring 1833

    Marius learns Jean Valjean saved him; the couple reconcile with Jean Valjean before he dies.

    Part 5, Book 9

Book Summaries Chart

Book Summary
Part 1, Book 1 Told in omniscient, third-person narration, Les Misérables begins in 1815 in the small, obscure town of Digne. Monseigne... Read More
Part 1, Book 2 A "stout and hardy" traveler in his late 40s passing through Digne attempts to find food and shelter after visiting the ... Read More
Part 1, Book 3 Two years later four young, middle-class Parisian men are carrying on affairs with four pretty grisettes, or young, work... Read More
Part 1, Book 4 Not far from Montfermeil is a cheap tavern called The Sergeant of Waterloo, run by the Thénardiers. Madame Thénardier, a... Read More
Part 1, Book 5 When Fantine returns to Montreuil-sur-mer in 1818, she finds a prosperous town. Toward the end of 1815, a new man arrive... Read More
Part 1, Book 6 Fantine is very ill and has been taken to Madeleine's infirmary, where he watches over her. He has written to the innkee... Read More
Part 1, Book 7 Sister Simplice is introduced as an example of an honest person who never lies. This nun who is ministering to Fantine i... Read More
Part 1, Book 8 Jean Valjean rushes back to Montreuil-sur-mer, mails a letter to his banker, and immediately goes to the infirmary (loca... Read More
Part 2, Book 1 Book 1 of Part 2 opens with the narrator's relating that the author visited, in May 1861, the site of the Battle of Wate... Read More
Part 2, Book 2 The novel now returns to Jean Valjean, who has been retaken by the authorities and sent back to Toulon. Before his arres... Read More
Part 2, Book 3 Christmas season has arrived in Montfermeil. On this evening Cosette is sitting under the kitchen table as usual, near t... Read More
Part 2, Book 4 Jean Valjean finds rooms for himself and Cosette at the Gorbeau House, a dilapidated building in an out-of-the-way, rund... Read More
Part 2, Book 5 Not for the first time the narrator begins by identifying himself as the author, this time to say he is recalling the Pa... Read More
Part 2, Book 6 The Bernardines of the Perpetual Adoration at Petit-Picpus are nuns who have no contact with the outside world; when fam... Read More
Part 2, Book 7 The narrator begins with a parenthesis, saying, "This book is a drama, whose first character is the Infinite." The "conv... Read More
Part 2, Book 8 In the morning Fauchelevent is eager to help his old mayor who saved his life, and Jean Valjean knows the cloister can k... Read More
Part 3, Book 1 Just as the forest has its sparrows, Paris has its gamins (street urchins with no families). After the narrator provides... Read More
Part 3, Book 2 Introduced in this book is an old bourgeois from the previous century, one Monsieur Gillenormand, over 90 years old in 1... Read More
Part 3, Book 3 In previous days Gillenormand, known for his wit, was the darling of Royalist salons. Accompanying him to these soirées ... Read More
Part 3, Book 4 Change is in the air in Paris, which is "in the process of moulting ... [as] Royalists became liberals, liberals became ... Read More
Part 3, Book 5 Marius begins a period of extreme poverty, in which he goes without food, warmth, and light. The young man bears his ind... Read More
Part 3, Book 6 Marius has grown into a handsome man, and he doesn't realize women find him attractive. He has been regularly walking in... Read More
Part 3, Book 7 Part 3, Book 7 provides background for the story. It begins with an extended metaphor in which social structure is said ... Read More
Part 3, Book 8 Several months go by, and Marius is still distraught over losing contact with his beloved. One day he is jostled in the ... Read More
Part 4, Book 1 The first book of Part 4 explains the political situation right before the uprising of 1832. The country is exhausted fr... Read More
Part 4, Book 2 In Part 4, Book 2, Hugo returns to the main story: Marius abruptly moves the next day, partly in horror of the scene he ... Read More
Part 4, Book 3 The narrative moves back in time: Jean Valjean is now living in the Faubourg Saint Germain, in a house on the Rue Plumet... Read More
Part 4, Book 4 During the time when they were feeling somewhat estranged, Jean Valjean and Cosette had begun making visits to the poo,r... Read More
Part 4, Book 5 Jean Valjean has a habit of going on a short trip from time to time, when the household is in need of money. During one ... Read More
Part 4, Book 6 Earlier in the novel when Monsieur Gillenormand is first introduced (Part 3, Book 2), the narrator notes he has taken re... Read More
Part 4, Book 7 Since the previous book (Part 4, Book 7) makes liberal use of argot, the author now writes a book that is a gloss on arg... Read More
Part 4, Book 8 Cosette and Marius now spend time together every day in the wild garden. Their love remains chaste, and the narrator say... Read More
Part 4, Book 9 Jean Valjean is worried about the unrest in the city, which has increased police presence, and he has seen Thénardier pr... Read More
Part 4, Book 10 Book 10 provides background information to explain the uprising of June 5, 1832. In some ways this incident was a contin... Read More
Part 4, Book 11 After he helped spring his father from jail, Gavroche goes back to the elephant to feed the children breakfast. Then he ... Read More
Part 4, Book 12 The narrator provides the history of the wine shop called The Grape of Corinth, which had been in business 300 years und... Read More
Part 4, Book 13 When Marius hears he is wanted on the barricade, he sets off gladly, since he prefers to die now that Cosette seems lost... Read More
Part 4, Book 14 Gavroche climbs over the barricade and warns Enjolras the enemy is upon them. When the fighting begins, an explosion tak... Read More
Part 4, Book 15 After receiving the ominous note from Eponine, Jean Valjean removes both Cosette and Toussaint to one of his other resid... Read More
Part 5, Book 1 This book begins with some history of two famous and enormous barricades witnessed by the author, which were thrown up d... Read More
Part 5, Book 2 The narrator glosses the chapter to follow with a meditation on the sewers of Paris, in which he points out the city is ... Read More
Part 5, Book 3 Once Jean Valjean accustoms his eyes to the gloom, he realizes he's in a cul-de-sac and there is only one way forward. A... Read More
Part 5, Book 4 For the first time in his life, Inspector Javert is not sure what to do. He owes his life to Jean Valjean and has paid t... Read More
Part 5, Book 5 Grandfather Gillenormand remains at Marius's bedside for three months and finally gets the good news from the physician ... Read More
Part 5, Book 6 Cosette and Marius marry in February of the following year. Jean Valjean leaves the wedding festivities early, while Gra... Read More
Part 5, Book 7 The next morning Jean Valjean calls on Marius, who refers to him as father and reminds him they have prepared a room for... Read More
Part 5, Book 8 Marius contrives for Jean Valjean and Cosette to meet in a parlor in the basement, which is dusty and inhospitable. Jean... Read More
Part 5, Book 9 Cosette passively accepts her husband's rejection of her father. Marius tells her he is on a trip, and when she sends a ... Read More
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