on March 23, 1999
The novel which is so poorly mistranslated as "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" is one which sadly few people have read. Disney has done this novel a great injustice. Hugo paints an elaborate and incredible picture of 15th-century Paris. The main character is not Quasimodo, the infamous hunchback, but rather the cathedral of Notre Dame itself. It is a complex and powerful character who shifts dramatically depending on who percieves it. Hugo is a brilliant writer; each image is beautiful, each line a poem. The book is four hundred pages of pure poetry. I highly recommend this novel for anyone who appreciates good literature.
on July 17, 2000
I still do not have the faintest idea as to why Disney could possibly make this book into a children's movie. First of all, I would rate the unabridged book itself "PG-13"...but anyway. This book, more popularly known as "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" (even though the plot circles around the Cathedral, not Quasimodo) is like a twisted "Romeo and Juliet" story sans star-crossed lovers. The real protagonist (in my opinion) is Esmarelda, the sixteen year old gypsy dancer. She falls passionatly in love with the chauvanistic stuff-shirt Captain Pheobus whotakes advatage of her love while meanwhile courting a young, rich noblewoman. Meanwhile, both Quasimodo the deaf bell-ringer and Claude Frollo the fanatical archdeacon fall madly in love with Esmerelda. So naturally things get quite chaotic when the gypsy is sentanced to death for "murdering" the captain. The action so is spectacular, especially the siege of Notre Dame, that I almost forgot I was reading it, not actually standing in Place de la Greve watching it all happen. Hopefully I don't give too much away when I say yes, there is a heck of a lot of dying going on throughout the book. This book, unfortunately, does have its long, slow, boring parts too...such as the beginning--just get through it and you'll be alright. And unless you are an ardent scholar of mideival architecture or French history, go ahead and skip the chapters titled "Notre-Dame" and "A birds eye view of Paris". P.S: my favorite part...Esmarelda's "marriage" to Pierre Gringiore, and also Gringiore's unhealthy obsession with the gypsy's goat
on October 1, 2009
Unlike a great number of the people giving this book a positive review, I was and still am a fan of Disney's movie. Yes, the movie distorted the book quite liberally--but this is to be expected of a children's film adaptation. I view the movie's existence as positive since it encourages older fans of the movie to go and seek Hugo's book to get the complete story. It is a sad fact that most people have never read the book, however, the Disney movie brought attention back to it--a victory, in my opinion.
As far as the book itself, it was marvelous! Hugo's writing style is ornate and an artistic work in itself. As far as who the main character is, I would daresay that this is up to the reader's interpretation. I agree with the fact that the British translation regarding the title is misleading, as I find Quasimodo to be a bit distant from the focus of the book.
Hugo seemed to be preoccupied with portraying both Notre Dame and 15th Century Parisian society when writing this book. From that stance, it would seem as though both Cathedral and time period were the protagonists of the story.
As far as in-context, living characters, I would again like to state that Quasimodo is not whom I would nominate as protagonist. Esmeralda is a tempting choice, however, she is not given too much detail as far as personality. I would daresay that the most developed character in the book is the antagonist, Claude Frollo. I could write volumes on this character alone, as he is my favourite. If he weren't already antagonist, I would deem him a good candidate for protagonist.
Ah, Claude Frollo. He is the main reason behind my love for the book. (To Disney fans--his story does not unfold as in the movie!) I find his constant struggles and painful past to be some of the most intriguing parts of the book. The parts which included dialogue predominantly on his part were certainly my favourite ones. Claude and his constant battle with his feelings, his devotion, his jealousy and his belief in fate colour the book like no other character could.
Ultimately, the message of the book is that appearances are deceptive. Hugo portrays this most obviously with Quasimodo. In my opinion, however, he gives the reader this message through every main character. Phoebus, for example, is at first presented as a gallant officer who rescues Esmeralda but later turns out to be a vulgar womanizer. Clopin is first encountered as a mere beggar but is in fact the king of the Gypsies, holding power within his circle of vagabonds. Quasimodo is first thought of as a monster but is given a more tender place in the reader's heart by the conclusion of the book. Esmeralda is described as beautiful and she at first shows mercy to both Gringoire and Quasimodo, but is later revealed as superficial and vulgar in her taste for men. Claude Frollo appears as a studious priest, but is in reality a passionate, tortured spirit and so much more.
To all, I encourage you to read this book! You will feel what the characters feel as your eyes follow Hugo's words. I recall with clarity reading the part where Claude observes as Phoebus attempts to manipulate Esmeralda for his own purpose and, enraged, stabs the captain with Esmeralda's dagger. I remember how my stomach turned as I read. I could feel Claude Frollo's every emotion. It was like magic. It was, in fact, magic. The magic of excellent literature!
on July 15, 2011
The story takes place in 1482 and 1483, when Paris's center was, as today, the Ile de France, surrounded by the Seine, where there emerges the marvelous Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, a work of the people, of the years, and of Gothic architecture. The book begins with the popular festival where Quasimodo is crowned as Ugly King. Quasimodo is a deformed creature: hunchback, deaf, blind in one eye, but in posession of an extraordinary physical strength. Abandoned, as a four-year-old, at the Cathedral's gate, he was adopted by Claude Frollo, the arch-deacon of the cathedral, a nobleman with a tragic story and a younger brother who, in spite of having been nurtured and loved by Claude, has betrayed him with his licentious and illegal behavior. Frollo hates women, in particular the young gypsy Esmeralda, a lovely young girl who, with her white goat, dances, sings, and divines the future, to the scandal of the good consciences, including Frollo.
This is one of the most powerful stories ever created, a masterful adventure into the depths of the late Middle Ages. Surrounding the tragic love story between Esmeralda and the Hunchback of Notre Dame is a deep reflection on the demise of Medieval times and the slow but inevitable onset of the Renaissance. Hugo inserts chapters about the Cathedral's history and the description of Medieval Paris, its different neighborhoods and urbanistic setting. Frollo explains, to his astonished listeners, how and why the invention of printed books will mean the death of Architecture, at least as an art. "The book will kill the building", he says, because the printed book "is the greatest event of humanity. It is the mother of Revolutions". Before the press, the Church was able to control thought and speech. People expresed themselves in architecture, when they participated as artisans in the construction of public buildings, true works of the people. Not anymore: the book will allow a clearer and more powerful means of expression; fluid, eternally changing, from then on literature will be the most transparent way to express oneself. We know the printed book precipitated the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaisssance and Modernity, but Frollo submerges into bitterness and his terrible sexual frustration: he hates Esmeralda because he desires her immensely.
The plot thickens with the whole crazy, tragic love story involving the pretty gypsy, the hunchback, the captain with whom Esmeralda falls in love, Frollo, his brother, the mad crowds, and king Louis XI, sending his troops to take the cathedral. Impossible literature in our days, "Our Lady of Paris" is a prodigy of imagination, of the recreation of a bygone world, of an integral work which articulates history, political and ecclesiastical power, and the whole of society, from the rich and noble, and the bourgeois, to the miserable and criminal rubbish, peopled by unique characters, yet a reflection of their time and place. In spite of being a somber and desolate story, Hugo tells it with an epic tone, not a sociological one, and therefore makes it an endearing and not a sordid story. I wonder what Dostoevsky would have made with this material!
An emblem of Western culture, it is much more than a story, because it includes a grand reflection on the age: architecture and the printing press, a changing society, urbanism and people.
on May 19, 2015
Notwithstanding its slow pace, due to the authors in depth explanations of the Paris's architectural history, prior to, and leading up to
the Renaissance period (approximately 45% - 48%); before getting into the significance, of the characters roles, and their relevance to the story,
Although, somewhat slow moving, and repetitive at times, my assigned 4 star rating was predicated on the significance and edification of the
authors vocabulary used in the book; I considered it a good read principally due to the vocabulary builder.
on March 28, 2012
Having viewed a variety of Hollywood productions of this classis story beginning with Lon Channey, I figured it was about time to read the original version. A great if not depressing tale of deadly infatuation in medieval Paris. There is no rescue of the heroine at the end, but some of the dispicable characters are served their just desserts.
on March 6, 2012
Everything in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is a fascinating juxtaposition of the grotesque and the sublime - the speech, the characters, the setting. I felt like the whole point of the story was to show that architecture was the only good thing that came from the Middle Ages so for heaven's sake, don't tear those buildings down! We could never build something like that again! This book saved the Notre Dame Cathedral by giving people a reason to care about it and showing how Gothic architecture was beautiful even though it was different (which is a theme in the novel that applies to the characters as well). Victor Hugo likes lists that are very, very long full of even longer names and I found myself falling asleep a lot in the first half of the book. Then suddenly I get hit over the head by this steamy, passionate, action-packed, gruesomely violent second half of the novel complete with forbidden love. Didn't see that coming. I found it surprisingly modern in that there are a lot elements in this story that are popular in novels, especially young adult ones, today. Though I can't help but think that the girl would have been turned on by the whole forbidden/creepy love thing if it had been written today instead of her being horrified by it. And can I just say how shocked I was when he used the word "vampire" AND talked about Nicolas Flamel? There was some great sarcastic humor in here that had me smiling. This was Hugo's first novel after writing plays and it reads like one. There are lots of action scenes and he writes an excellent mob. He almost makes me want to grab a pitchfork. I walked away from this book thinking about what beauty and love really are.
on May 26, 2013
I'm a nearly 22 year old English major writer, and I read this because I love Gothic literature and archaic terms. I didn't know what I got myself into. I have an entire review on my blog writerswasteland.blogspot, but I can't post it here. If you want to read that, you can search, because I go in to incredible detail and compare and contrast it to cinematic depictions.
Overall: It's a great book with incredibly difficult archaic and Latin phrases. It's one of (if not the) most difficult book I've read for fun. It took me a few months to get through it, because I kept stopping, but it's beautiful. If you're reading it because you think it's like the Disney movie, you couldn't be more wrong, and only one character has a happy ending. I cried the last seven pages or so because it was so terribly sad. But it's beautiful, so beautiful, and there's a reason it's considered a classic.
on November 23, 2012
If you read Victor Hugo Novel "Hunchback of Notre Dame" in school or tried to read but failed to finish it now if you are 50+ this book deserves a reread or if never read deserves a read from an adult perspective. Fate is a theme. Morality yet another. Architecture as a voice for its age. All in this big novel. Thought provoking and a good yarn.
on July 23, 2014
Again - nothing like any of the movies or cartoons. Just like Les Miserables, the playwrights have adapted the setting to tell a different story, making the evil characters, good and/or omitting them altogether. Hint - the ending is a shocker.