Les Misérables (literally "The Miserable Ones"), is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a seventeen-year period in the early nineteenth century, starting in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion. The main plot thread of Les Misérables is the story of ex-convict, Jean Valjean (known by his prison number, 24601), who becomes a force for good in the world, but cannot escape his dark past. It examines the nature of law and grace, and expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. The novel is divided into five volumes, each volume divided into books, and subdivided into chapters (for a total of three hundred sixty-five chapters). Each chapter is relatively short, usually no longer than a few pages. Nevertheless, the novel as a whole is quite lengthy by modern standards, exceeding thirteen hundred pages in unabridged editions. It also contains what is considered the longest sentence in a published novel. The book was a great commercial success. The shortest correspondence in history is between Hugo and his publisher Hurst & Blackett in 1862. It is said Hugo was on vacation when Les Misérables (which is over 1200 pages) was published. He telegraphed the single-character message "?" to his publisher, who replied with a single "!". First translated into foreign languages the same year it originally appeared, it proved popular not only in France, but across Europe. It has been a popular book ever since it was published, and was a great favorite among the Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, who occasionally called themselves "Lee's Miserables" (a reference to their deteriorating conditions under General Robert E. Lee). Its popularity continues to this day, and many view it as one of the most important novels ever written.