Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean. He lost his parents very young and his older sister raised him. But when he was 25 years old his brother-in-law died. His sister was left a widow with seven children. Jean helped provide for them, but during one period of unemployment he steals some bread. This act gets him 5 years in prison. Various attempted prison breaks eventually lead to a total of 19 years before he is free.
But times in France in the early 19th century are hard and soon after his release, Jean robs a bishop of his silver. He's caught by the police, but the bishop covers for him. He makes Jean Valjean promise to use the silver to become an honest man. But before he commits to this, he steals a coin from a young boy and is identified as a repeat offender.
Years later, after changing his name, he becomes a rich factory owner. One of his employees dies, and Valjean sets out to find her child. But he has raised the suspicion of a policeman named Javert. Once Valjean finds the child, Cosette, He takes her to Paris to raise as his own.
Hugo uses Jean Valjeans life to expound on politics religion and society in general during the turbulent years following the execution of Louis XVI. He adds chapters on history as the book progresses to help set up the events to come. So, educational as well as entertaining. All in all, one of the best books I've ever read.