The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
by Victor Hugo
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook (512 pages)
In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo's sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in one of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century.
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.
Content Rating: Medium, for sensuality and violence.