Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME by Victor Hugo


Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is one of my favorite books of all time.  I’ve been wanting to read his other famous work for a long time, and finally have gotten the opportunity. 

In the heart of Paris is the Notre Dame Cathedral.  In the cathedral lives the Archdeacon, Claude Frollo and his adopted son Quasimodo, who was found abandoned on the church steps as an infant because of his extreme deformities.  As an adult now, Quasimodo is the ringer of the bells, a job which has destroyed his hearing.  When a beautiful Gypsy girl, Esmeralda, comes to the square to dance and perform with her trained goat, she captivates the men who watch her.  When she meets a military officer, Phoebus, she believes herself in love with him and falls for his promises.  Phoebus is attacked and assumed dead, and Esmeralda is arrested for the crime.  As she goes to the gallows to hang for the crime, Quasimodo snatches her up and hides her in the cathedral, claiming Sanctuary.  Esmeralda is not completely safe within its confines, as Claude Frollo’s lust for her threatens them both.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is all about people not being who they appear to be.  Obviously, Quasimodo’s deformed head and body is hiding a pure and loving soul, but this duality extends to almost all of the characters throughout the novel.  Esmeralda presents as a beautiful and bewitching Gypsy girl, when in reality, she is the stolen daughter of a French nun.  Phoebus seems to be a handsome and gallant officer, yet when he finds Esmeralda going to the gallows for mistakenly being convicted of his murder, all her has to do is step forward and show himself to be alive, but he is too cold and selfish to do so.  Claude Frollo is the man of God who is driven mad by his lust for Esmeralda. 

I’ve never seen the Disney movie of this story, but I assume they must have completely bastardized it in order to make it acceptable for children.  This book is a tragedy in every sense of the term. 

Overall, I give The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 3 bookmarks (There is not one central love story, yet love/lust is one of the central themes of the book)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Andre the Giant (Quasimodo), Marion Cotillard (Esmeralda), Tom Hardy (Phoebus), Geoffrey Rusch (Claude Frollo)

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