Very possibly one of the most amazing books/musicals to hit shelves/Broadway.
Written by Victor Hugo in 1862 (and re-written, as a musical, by Schönberg, Boublil -not to be confused with Bublé- and Kretzmer in 1980), it portrays the struggles of a number of characters in post-Revolutionary France; a time when resentment still ran high among the proletariat (the poor, the working class), and the bourgeoisie (the "new money," bankers, lawyers, etc.) were practically in control of France.
The general majority of the book itself is Hugo's own thoughts on politics, religion, the social system of the time, criminal slang, etc. However, there are plenty of moments of epic win. For example, this scene, illustrated here by the wonderfully talented deviant Cillabub, in which Marius clearly has no idea that no one likes a fanboy. Particularly one who fantards over military dictators.
The book was a huge success when it was first published, and remains one of the most acclaimed works of modern literature.
(The more complete synopsis can be found on the Les Mis Wikipedia page.) Valjean is a released convict who, due to an accident involving stealing money from a little boy, became a repeat offender, and thus is always being chased by an obsessive, anal retentive policeman named Javert. Fantine is a factory-worker-turned-whore who has an illegit. daughter, Cosette. Fantine dies. Valjean adopts Cosette, taking her away from the Thenardiers- a highly volatile innkeeper with kleptomania, his troll wife, and their spoiled brat kids (aside from Gavroche, he's cool). They move to Paris. Javert chases them. TIMECUT. Cosette is all grown up, and very pretty.
- Jean Valjean (Zhon Val-zhon) -- The protaganist of the story. An ex-convict, Valjean gives up the life of crime and gives his life to God when he is sparred from prison by the kind bishop. He was Fantine's employer, and promises her that he will adopt her daughter (Cosette) as his own, taking care of her and raising her to adulthood. Now a man of his word, he does so. He later fights at the barricade and saves Marius' life when he realizes that Marius and Cosette are in love. He dies in the end, finally knowing love and happiness. In the musical, he also has several angsty numbers of identity crisis, where he repeatedly asks himself "Who am I?!"
- (Inspector) Javert (Zhah-ver) -- A relentless police officer, bound by his dedication to the letter of the law, who pursues (so to speak; this may be the cause of many slash!fics featuring himself and) Valjean throughout the book/show for tearing up his yellow "passport" that marks him as a criminal. When he's shown mercy by Valjean, he goes into deep cognitive dissonance, knowing that the "lawful" thing to do would be wrong. His inner angst/conflict causes him to take his own life by jumping of a bridge into the River Seine, making Valjean free for the first time.
- Cosette (... I'm sure you can pronounce this one) -- The illegitimate daughter of Fantine and a man named Fèlix Tholomyès. Shortly after Tholomyès essentially dumps her, Fantine is forced to find work. Knowing that she would never be hired if people knew she was an unwed mother, she leaves little Cosette in the care of the money-hungry Thenardiers.
- Fantine (Fahn-teen) --
- Eponine Thenardier (Eh-poh-neen) --
- Marius Pontmercy (Mare-ee-us) --
- Enjolras (On-zhol-ras) --
- M'sieur (M.) Thenardier (Teh-nar-dee-ay) --
- Madame (Mme.) Thenardier (See above) -- The wife of Thenardier. She's described as a huge, scary woman with a vicious temper and a soft spot for her daughters, who she adored when they were children.
- Gavroche (Gav-rosh) -- An almost Aladdin-esque street urchin. He's adored by the people, and for good reason: he's adorable. Well, that, and he acts as their voice to the students. In the book, he is the oldest son of the Thenardiers, who ran away from home. In the musical, he's not related to them, but is familiar with them.
- Azelma Thenardier (Ah-zel-mah) -- The second daughter of the Thenardiers. She doesn't appear in the musical, with Eponine being portrayed as the Thenardiers' only child. She's a little younger than Eponine, and about two or three years younger than Cosette. She's older than Gavroche.
- Bishop of Digne -- The kind man of the cloth who allows Valjean to stay in his home for the night, despite the fact that Valjean had his yellow passport (which labeled him as a convict).
- Bamatabois (Bam-a-teh-bwah) -- Some young, rich prick who mocks prostitute-Fantine and shoves snow down her back.
- Fèlix Tholomyès (Fee-lix Tholl-oh-mees) -- Fantine's ex-beau. He and his three friends, Listolier, Fameuil and Blachevelle, were romantically involved with Fantine, and her three friends Dahlia, Zéphine and Favourite, respectively. One day, the boys decided that two years was as long as they'd let the relationships run, and broke up with the girls via letter. Dahlia, Favourite, and Zéphine took it all in good humor, laughing it off and carrying on with their lives. Fantine, however, was crushed, as she'd "been with Tholomyès as with a husband" (or something along those lines), and he was the father of her infant daughter. He is never directly mentioned in the musical, only vaguely referenced during the song "I Dreamed a Dream."
- Patron-Minette (I can't even begin to imagine how to pronounce that, or their names) -- A vicious street gang, consisting of the sexy and fashionable Montparnasse, the mysterious Clasquesous, jack-of-all-trades Babet, and the enormous, brawny, but none-too-bright Gueulemer.
- Courfeyrac, Combeferre, Jean "Jehan" Prouvaire, Feuilly, Bahorel, Laigle "Bossuet", Joly, and Graintaire '''--''' Known as "Les Amis," the Friends of the ABC. They are Enjolras and Marius' fellow revolutionaries, and all sacrifice their lives at the Paris uprising on June 5th and 6th, 1832. See here for their individual pages, which discuss personalities, and who's apparently sleeping with who.
- Two Little Boys (alright, that's not even in French, you can say that) -- The alleged youngest children of the Thenardiers
The musical numbers in the musical, and who sings them, are as follows:
- Prologue- Valjean, Chain Gang, Javert, Laborers, Bishop of Digne, Constables
- At The End Of The Day-
Hard to believe, I know. However, there is actually some pretty decent Les Miserables fanfiction out there.
Some examples are:
I Am Rose -- Courfeyrac/Cosette alternate-storyline!fic. It's one of those "what if" fanfictions: What if Cosette had run away from home on her own? What if she fell for Courfeyrac? Features not only great writing and adorable Les Amis as children, but also Courfeyrac/Cosette fluff and even a little Marius/Cosette. Definitely squee-worthy.
The Sleep of Reason -- Brilliantly written, great understanding of characters, and... whoa, what? Vampires?! Yes. Les Mis vampires. It's definitely better than you'd imagine it to be, by the way!
Feel free to add more, if you know of any!