Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

Book Details
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
Paperback, 512 pages
2001, Signet Classics
ISBN: 0451527887

He was Quasimodo--the bell ringer of Notre Dame. For most of his life he has been forced to live in lonely isolation in the bell tower of the famous cathedral--hidden away like a beast, banished from sight, shunned and despised by all. For though he was gentle and kind, it was Quasimodo's crime to have been born hideously deformed. But one day his heart would prove to be a thing of rare beauty.

She was the dazzling Esmeralda. A dark-eyed gypsy girl who, the victim of a coward's jealous rage, is unjustly convicted of a crime she did not commit. Her sentence is death by hanging.

Only one man had the courage to save her: Quasimodo.

Reading The Hunchback of Norte-Dame was a nightmare for me. I don't mind trudging through a certain degree of detail, but The Hunchback contained well beyond a reasonable amount of description.

The book starts out with a play no one is watching. We return to what is going on with the play again and again which distracts from the excitement of the crowd. We are then provided with an entire chapter describing Notre-Dame. Quickly followed by a longer chapter about Paris that doesn't pertain to the story any further than its being the setting. A few more chapters of story and then another description only chapter, this time about architecture and other forms of art. The description is overkill and is so dull and tiring I could barely force myself to finish the book.

Victor Hugo addressed the reader many times, like many writers of the time did. This "breaking the fourth wall" is something I personally dislike. It reminds me that I am reading a story, thus pulling me out of totally submersion. Or at least it would have if I had been able to keep my eyes open longer than a few pages at a time. At one point, Hugo writes "Our reader must excuse us" before taking us on another descriptive tangent.

I'm sorry, Mr. Hugo, but you're not excused. Every once in a while, when he focused on the actual plot, the book was interesting. Unfortunately a large majority of the book was a cross between a guide book and a text book. Why is The Hunchback of Notre-Dame a classic? Only because it's old? I don't see the appeal.



  1. You're review is very funny, I like "I'm osrry, Mr Hugo, but you are not excused." I have not read it, but it sounds boring. I think that its just the time that it's written that makes it a classic. perhaps it has some literary value I don't know about having never studied Enlish beyong High School?

  2. I agree with Becky - your review was quite amusing. I liked it!
    If only I thought I would like the book that much. It sounds very hard to read.

  3. Great review. I recently heard the same thing about this book.

  4. Ooh ... I love a scathing review every now and then. I liked this book when I read it in high school, but the details are fuzzy now.