This expansive French tale of injustice and social unrest is widely considered to be writer Victor Hugo's masterpiece. While the 1862 novel features a large array of characters, it focuses primarily on the noble Jean Valjean, a man unfairly imprisoned for a minor crime of compassion. After serving a long sentence, Valjean struggles to find his place in a seemingly unforgiving society. As his fortunes change, France itself undergoes a major transformation. Hugo's sweepingly emotive story has been adapted many times, to considerable fanfare.