Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Victor Hugo

Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months and nineteen days ago today, the people of Paris awoke to hear all the church-bells in the triple enclosure of the City, the University and the Town in full voice. 

Chances are you've heard of this story set in medieval Paris. "In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer. 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, which only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo's sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in on of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century." That's the description on the back of my copy (from Penguin Classics.)

I really enjoyed the plot of this book. I did. But parts of the book are so overwritten, with big overarching descriptions. I really DON'T CARE. Get on with the story already, Hugo. As the back of the book says, he does compare medieval Paris favorably to nineteenth century Paris. And that was sort of interesting to read. You can tell Hugo was one of those people who was born too late.

The parts of Notre-Dame de Paris where there was dialogue and action were really great and interesting. But just when the story started to pick up, there was another long descriptive chapter, which was really off-putting. Hugo does capture the atmosphere of the period well though. And as I said, the actual story is just fine. In fact, the story is great. It's just the writing style which made it hard to get through. But I'm still going to give this one 3.5 stars, because parts of were good.

Read Notre-Dame de Paris:
  • if you like Victor Hugo
  • if you like novels set in (medieval) France
  • if you are interested in medieval times
493 pages, 3.5 stars.

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