Jean Valjean has endured nineteen years in jail for stealing bread. Fantine is an unwed mother who resorted to prostitution in order to support her daughter. Marius is a young revolutionary who falls in love with Fantine's daughter, Cosette. These four characters' lives intersect in an expansive novel that explores issues of class, equality, education, and injustice in nineteenth-century France. French author Victor Hugo spent twenty years researching and writing Les Misérables; the novel reflects Hugo's political concerns and his hopes for reform. Hugo first published his historical novel in 1862. This is an unabridged version taken from the 1887 translation by Isabel F. Hapgood, featuring original illustrations by Émile Bayard.