I first read this version of the book in 7th grade, which could easily be categorized as a year that changed my life, as far as reading goes. I had one of my best English teachers of all time that year. Not only did this man change the way I looked at literature, but eleven years later, he would change the way I approached teaching literature.
I was chastised by my first principal in every single teacher evaluation for my first year of teaching about reading books aloud to my class (while they followed along). Half-way through my second year I think his comment was something like, “You know how I feel about the reading to your students thing, but something seems to be working in your classroom so I’ll just leave you alone.”
Probably, this version of this novel was way too hard for an average 7th grader. I actually ended up teaching it to one class of honors sophomores, and many of them had difficulty giving it a fair chance due to the language (so many French names) and length. But I don’t remember having a difficult time with it. I don’t remember disliking anything we did that year, because this teacher was so phenomenal. (Or because I was such a dork.) Les Mis still makes me cry every time I read it. I saw the musical on Broadway and bawled through the entire thing.
I actually think an evangelist might have an easier time using this book over the Bible to explain unconditional love to an atheist..
I think I decided to become a teacher in 2nd grade, and of course, at the time, assumed I’d teach elementary school. One summer during college, I re-read Les Mis. I changed my entire idea (though not my elementary-ed major) and decided I would teach high school English. This book, and the teacher who originally introduced me to it, had almost everything to do with my decision.