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Notre-Dame of Paris (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 26, 1978

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Victor Hugo (1802 - 85) was a forceful and prolific writer. He became a committed social democrat and during the Second Empire of Napoleon III was exiled from France, living in the Channel Islands. His body is now buried in the Pantheon. John Sturrock has translated many Penguin Classics, including Proust. He has written on Jorge Luis Borges and Structuralism.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (October 26, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443530
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Z. Blume on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having little knowlegde of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I failed to realize how drastically different the Disney version was from reality. The story does not focus on a loveable hunchback who finds happiness in the end, rather it is about the cathedral itself. The action and characters all feed off of Notre Dame and represent its values, but they are merely secondary aspects of the book. It is also a violent, depressing, and sometimes even erotic book, none of which of course comes through in a Disney movie.
Many things make this book an incredible read. The most obvious is the incredible prose. Hugo was a beautiful writer and his writing flows so smoothly. He also described with incredible detail the Paris of the late 15th century--the city's skyline, its culture, some of the notable people, and the issues of the day. He spent three years researching the book and he turned his noted into an historical epic. Finally, the action and characters of the book are well developed, exciting, and unique while still representing the values and controversies Hugo wanted to explore.
I originally picked this book up when I was in the 7th grade and was unable to make it more than 20 pages without giving up in frustration, but having more knowlegde of European history, a greater appreciation for literature, and more patience with a book that admittedly starts slowly, I am very glad I came back to it. I don't think this is a book that a young reader will find interesting--though the story itself is great so an abridged version would keep them reading--but any fan of great literature, beautiful prose, French history, architecture, or Victor Hugo will love this book if they give it a chance and do sit patiently while it revs up for 30-40 pages. I highly recommend it.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on May 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Victor Hugo never did anything by halves. His NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS begins as a tour of Gothic Paris and ends as a monumental and melodramatic Grand Guignol. Needless to say, all the film versions focus on the wrong character: Quasimodo is by no means the main focus of the novel, and the novel certainly is misnamed when called THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. The hero, if there is one, is the cathedral itself, brooding over Renaissance Paris like a horror from another age.

The only character who is not not overdramatized appears only once in an unforgettable vignette at the very end: Louis XI, King of France, who has been called by the historian Philippe de Commynes "The Universal Spider." Louis; his grasping barber, Olivier le Daim; and his grim hatchet man, Tristan l'Hermite are unforgettable and more sharply drawn than any other Hugo characters I can recall.

John Sturrock's translation is well done except for his occasional inclusion of an archaic term without footnote or any other comment. Most notable are two items of apparel I still cannot visualize, namely bycokets and actons. Yet every Latin phrase, and there are many spoken by Pierre Gringoire and the student Jehan Frollo, is faithfully translated.

Also useful would have been a map of Louis XI's Paris. I was frequently confused about where the action was taking place, because most if not all of the place names were later superseded by others.

I would venture to say that no one reading this novel will ever forget it. I first read it more than twenty years ago, and it still sprang into my mind as sharply-etched as before.

This edition is unabridged. Although Hugo sometimes tended to go off on tangents, I could not think of a single chapter I would axe. Even where it does not add to the plot, it adds to the atmosphere of a city in which life and love were cheap, and no infraction was ever left unpunished by the most dire means possible.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Milashka on January 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
After ignoring this book for all my life since the story is so well-known I finally read it since it is written, after all, by the great Victor Hugo. I knew that it was not about the hunchback but rather about Notre-Dame itself (as the correct translation of its original title indicates) but still this novel really took me by surprise - at times I was wondering if it was in fact the novel all the movies are based on. Although the plot develops at a fast pace from the start, there are chapters which some readers might find lengthy or oddly out-of-place, such as the very detailed description of the cathedral and the view of Paris from it, or the discourse on how books kill architecture. But it is so beautifully written that I did not mind this in the least bit. Another critizicm often is that Hugo uses too many adjectives to describe one noun, but this is exactly what makes this book so highly enjoyable - a firework display of Hugo's literary brilliance. To top this off, the book is also very witty and entertaining at times, despite its dismal subject. I found myself reading entire pages several times because I enjoyed them so much. This is a much under-appreciated book. Please do not let the fact that it has been "disney-fied" deter you from reading it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you've only seen the film adaptations of this story, for heaven's sake read this jewel of a book! Hugo's ability to see into the hearts of people, especially those in states of degradation, is unequalled. His style, even in translation, is immensely powerful. The scene between Claude and Esmeralda in the dungeon is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking bits of writing I have ever come across.
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