Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

 The Hunchback of Notre Dame available on
It is interesting to note that Victor Hugo never wrote a novel called "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", this is an English translation of the original title which would better be named "Notre Dame of Paris". This title far better introduces the reader to the content of the book which focuses on a narrative around the cathedral rather than Quasimodo, the hunchback; in essence the book is driven by the location, not by the characters.

This, then, highlights the main drawback, for me, of this famous work of fiction, in that it dwells far too long upon creating the atmosphere of the cathedral and its surroundings in neglect of the plot of the book. It will have been said that this is a masterpiece of literature in the way it paints a portrait of life in this part of Paris at that point in its history but in my opinion the author takes far, far too long to get to the point and becomes very boring, a chore to read rather than a pleasure, a literary battle to even get to the point at which the Hunchback is introduced.

I have taken great pleasure in the past in novels which employ wide vocabularies and create an atmosphere through description but that was when it was done alongside a plot which, for great swathes of its pages, The Hunchback of Notre Dame lacks entirely. For those who are attracted to this book to read the story of Quasimodo, the first, lengthy section of the book will be difficult to get through.

When this book finally gets to the story of La Esmerelda and Quasimodo much of what happens seems to lack any reason and most certainly the characters are not very lovable at all. For this reader it had taken so long to get to what is a very weak plot to make a very elementary point that I was totally bored and only read to the end because I had gone so far. In keeping with other classics by French authors I found this book to ramble on for far too long and that nothing profound was imparted at all; certainly nothing enjoyable.

I would recommend this book to those who have enjoyed other classic French authors and to those who enjoy huge descriptive chapters where nothing happens other than the creation of an atmosphere of the time. As with "The Man in the Iron Mask", "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Three Musketeers" this is one of those rare cases of the movie being better than the book. For me those French classic authors really knew how to use a thousand words when one hundred would suffice.

Score: 3/10

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