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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental tragedy
Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris is usually translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, giving the impression that Quasimodo, the hunchback, is the hero of the novel. In truth, this is a story without a true hero or a true villain. The original French title is more apt because the central character is the cathedral itself, overshadowing, shaping and constraining...
Published on 11 Jun 2005 by Peter Reeve

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3.0 out of 5 stars No Real Verite
If you are looking for a book that encapsulates Paris then avoid Hunchback. The prose is very gilded and just doesn't stick in the mind. There are some touches of French entertainment - especially in Quasimodo's character - but mainly the book is a paen to Parisian architecture.

The main problem is the book's structure which fails to transport the reader...
Published on 27 Aug 2012 by Dan Smith


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental tragedy, 11 Jun 2005
By 
Peter Reeve (Thousand Oaks, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris is usually translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, giving the impression that Quasimodo, the hunchback, is the hero of the novel. In truth, this is a story without a true hero or a true villain. The original French title is more apt because the central character is the cathedral itself, overshadowing, shaping and constraining the merely human lives that are played out in and around it. If the story has a villain it is Fate; blind, merciless and unremitting. There is however a heroine, La Esmeralda, and she alone of all the characters makes us laugh and cry.
Hugo can be prolix. For what Dickens will say in a sentence, and Dostoevski in a paragraph, Hugo will employ a chapter, when the mood takes him. I hate the idea of abridgements and I would normally never recommend skipping or skimming any part of a great work, but Hugo is a possible exception. The thirty-odd pages devoted to A Bird's Eye View of Paris can be safely skipped over, unless you are a bird. Everything else is essential, or at least worthwhile. Neither does the author skimp on the use of coincidence, and the plot relies on one 'who-should-it-be-but' coincidence in particular which is so convenient and unlikely that most readers will groan when they realize what it is. The charitable interpretation is that the book is after all about Fate and its inevitability.
Despite those quibbles, the novel is a resounding 5-star must-read. It is astonishingly imaginative and includes scenes, especially those in the prison, and at the very end, that are as powerful, disturbing and memorable as anything in literature. I will say no more about them, because I hate spoilers even more than I do abridgements. Needless to say, if you think you know the story from movie versions, you don't.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shouldn't be called "the hunchback of"!, 7 April 2005
By 
Mr. B. A. Jones "bennyfongtorres" (Bath, Somerset) - See all my reviews
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I felt daunted at the prospect of this book. it looked thick and the words were all really tiny, but i took the plunge anyway and my god! first off, it has very little to do with Quasimodo; yes, he plays his role, but it is merely incidental, the real main charecter is Dom Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon. He's not a villian, he's a tragedy, he lost his parents at an early age and took to raising his younger brother alone, unfortunately, irregardless of his efforts his brother declined, and in the face of this personnal failure Frollo turned to religion and the aquisition of knowledge. He gave up his heart for knowledge and turned away from society, in return he was rendered bitter and unforgiving. Upon encountering the infant Quasimodo he sees a chance to redeem his lost loving soul of the mistakes made with his brother and strives to raise a just and caring monster. Enter La'smerelda; to his reason and religion by society's rule she is a heathen and a devil, but to his heart and loins she is his last desperate hope to live. His actions drive the book, his desire fighting against his religious dogma, he knows it would mean his chance at heaven gone if he were to be with Esmerelda, but he chooses to anyway. she, of course, does not. Only the actions of others by chance (including that of Quasimodo) set fate's course from his goal. the other suprise is that the book is hilarious, Gringoire, whom i interpreted as the personification of the author, is a bumbling chancer, a writer and a poet who chooses to live with the city's undesirables to enhanse his cultural cool, again he is incidental, but carries the entire novel along with an easy and greatly readable enjoyment. it took me five days to get through it, is that really all that long? The original edition of the book was published in france as 'Notre Dame De Paris' and that is the real focus, the church itself. it is a syphony to Notre Dame and Paris combined, in many parts a detailed and beautifully written history of the city, both informative and deviod of domp. written by someone with an obvious love for its very stones and mortar. this is truly one of the greatest and most tragic books i have ever read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 23 Sep 2007
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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In this book Victor Hugo shows the depths of his creativity. Instead of writing a long and complicated story such as 'Les Mis' he wrote this book in the style of a 'Penny Dreadful'. I admit that there are a lot of descriptions of Paris in the Middle Ages but this helps to put the story in context. The characters are believable, even though there are a lot of coincidences, but then again this is a gothic novel. There is no hero as such, the English title being a bit of a misnomer. Quasimodo or the Hunchback as we usually call him is a dumb and disformed character who may be slghtly dysfunctional but shows that he does have emotions and can act more honourably than his peers. Hugo gave us in this a twist on the Beauty and the Beast theme and has obviously influeneced countless authors since, as for instance 'The Phantom of the Opera'. What I like about this book is that Quasimodo, a person who is considered to be below everyone else shows that he is more capable of what are considered to be the highest human attributes and ultimately puts to shame his 'superiors'. It is due to this that the book hasn't aged as much as people suppose, as it is in it's way an attack on bigotry which we still have today.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just edges it over Les Miserables, 3 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Quite unbelievable piece of literature and to my mind Hugo's greatest work, with Les Miserables a close second. It tells of how life has dealt Quasimodo numerous kicks in the teeth and of his fight to protect La Esmeralda. The most harrowing scene is where Quasimodo receives a public flogging for no particular reason other than being deaf, after being prosecuted by a deaf judge. A must read for all ages.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastique, 1 May 2000
By A Customer
This book has everything that you could possibly want from a book. there are a couple of chapters that are really boring, and you just want them out of the way, but by midway, the book just encapsulates you, and takes you to another level. One can feel the passion and jealousy that eminates from the characters, and you really do start to think about Quasimodo and la Esmerelda in a different way by the half way point. The ending is one of the best that I have read, and is truely mind-blowing - a must read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 10 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Always wanted to get this book and enjoyed reading it very much on the train commute to london and back.
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3.0 out of 5 stars No Real Verite, 27 Aug 2012
By 
If you are looking for a book that encapsulates Paris then avoid Hunchback. The prose is very gilded and just doesn't stick in the mind. There are some touches of French entertainment - especially in Quasimodo's character - but mainly the book is a paen to Parisian architecture.

The main problem is the book's structure which fails to transport the reader. Admittedly there are some good scenes but three spandrel's do not make a rolo.

Death on Credit (Oneworld Classics)
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a story!, 26 Mar 2010
Let me start off by quoting one of the people who gave this triumph of a book one star:

If you are dull witted and have no patience, read something modern.

Sorry, that should have been 'if you want a book that gets straight to the point and has a "tighter" structure, you'd be better off reading something more modern'.
If you don't want a book that 'gets straight to the point' you should definitely read this novel. A good book definitely should not get straight to the point; characters and plots should ferment in their own time, allowing one to become completely immersed in the world created by the author. Thank God that Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Daniel Defoe, Balzac, and the myriad other authors who are unafraid of writing complicated works that challenge the reader did not come directly to the action; if they had, the world would be a homogenised, Dan Brown filled nightmare.
This story has an abundence of brilliant, three dimensional characters who you are interested in and will follow to the last page. It is not, however, for the faint hearted as it is certainly one of the most profoundly dark books I have ever read.
In short, don't be put off be long, seemingly never-ending sentances, plot twists and three dimensional chracters. After all, are they not what makes Literature a thing of beauty.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, 25 Oct 2007
By 
Ms. Kristel Knights (Derry, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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I have read all the reviews and even the bad ones have a point but this story is one of the best ever written. Yes some chapters are very detailed and you feel like throwing the book out the window but please keep reading and i assure you, you will not be disappointed.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I really did try, 27 Oct 2003
By A Customer
I really did try to enjoy this book. Yes I can understand its place in literature but I admit I struggled. Dont get me wrong, the plot itself is wonderful and your heart goes out to Quasimodo. You hate Frollo and his profligate brother, loathe the self centred womaniser Poebus, and adore the beautiful, innocent and naive Esmerelda, but I found myself bogged down by the author's need to impress you with his architectural and historical knowledge. Some passages I skimmed completely, reading only the first and last lines of a paragraph because the content bored me rigid.
I know I sound like a philistine but this was a hard slog, and not that rewarding. However I am still pleased I managed to make it to the end because the plot, when it's not interrupted by Hugo's digressions, was wonderful. At least I know the proper story rather than the sanitised "Disney" version.
If you can make your way through the tedious bits without giving up then the book is probably worth reading. But if you are impatient, detest elaborate descriptions of architecture and political machinations, and prefer the fast pace of modern writers', dont bother buying it. Instead ask a friend who has read it to give you the story line. You'll probably be just as content.
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