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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 27 July 2009
"...something has disappeared. That vast body is empty - it is like a skeleton - the spirit has quitted it - they see its place and that is all. It is like a skull, which still has holes for the eyes, but no longer sight."

The classics are classics for a reason - they have a place in our modern cultural consciousness - even if they've largely got there thanks to Disney. To read the originals is often a great, if tormenting pleasure, and Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is no exception.

Tormenting for what would be called today authorial indulgence on a grand scale, and whilst I am a purist in terms of reading unabridged versions, I couldn't read beyond 5 pages of Book Three, Chapter Two: A Bird's Eye View of Paris. It recounts the layout of the city in excruciating detail, and whilst it ends with a beautifully descriptive paragraph about the city as a great symphony, it will bore all but the most dedicated of readers senseless. (I say this in a whisper: "It can be completely skipped!")

A great pleasure because the story itself is rich and compelling. A wonderful cast of characters fill the streets of Paris, and the gothic "character" of Notre Dame cathedral looms in the background. Quasimodo remains a favourite - and I would argue the only character whose love for Esmeralda, and his actions in general, are even remotely pure - which makes him the hero of the novel in my eyes. Claude Frollo, the dark and dangerous priest, is another of my favourite characters, to the point where I am frustrated by Hugo's overall neglect of his background and development.

As usual, the Wordsworth Classics version comes with a "jargon-free", though rather critical introduction, from Keith Wren, and is a very cheap way to enter the world of 15th Century Paris, replete with the enduring themes of literature: love, murder, fate, revenge and redemption.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A REVIEW OF `THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME' BY VICTOR HUGO

Who is `The Hunchback of Notre Dame'? For many, the character of Quasimodo is the eerie, scratchy figure from black-and-white horror movies. For others, he is the comical character used to advertise telephones in the 1980s ("It's Esmeralda: She LOVES me!"). More recently, he is the more cuddly hero of the 1996 Disney animated film. These associations - whilst keeping the character alive in the public consciousness - do rather detract from his actual rightful place within the pages of Victor Hugo's magnificent novel. Indeed, owing to its ability to excite, horrify, amuse, surprise and move, `The Hunchback of Notre Dame' is a true `Classic'.

So revered is the book in educated literary circles, that I would not deign to offer any in-depth analysis here. Suffice to say that the story revolves primarily not around the deformed bell-ringer, but rather the beautiful gypsy dancer, La Esmeralda. Hugo himself resented the English re-naming of his novel and argued forcibly (and correctly) that the original title, `Notre Dame de Paris' was far more fitting. Therefore, accepting Quasimodo as one of many pivotal characters, the story emerges as one of many figures' love for the captivating La Esmeralda. For the most part, this is the love of men, as her boldy charms attract the attention of three would-be lovers, none of whom fit the traditional leading man role. Perhaps the most obvious suitor is the dashing Captain Pheobus. However, beneath his good looks, lurks a serial womaniser who sees La Esmeralda as merely another notch on his bed-post. There is a realism about such a self-serving, vain `hero' that offers the first indication that `The Hunchback of Notre Dame' is not your typical 19th century masterpiece. Second, comes Archdeacon Claude Frollo, whose self-defined religious piety is shredded by an all-consuming and destructive lust for the gypsy girl. Finally, there is Quasimodo, whose hideous physical appearance masks an innocent, wholseome devotion that the other two cannot begin to match. As La Esmeralda falls for Pheobus, Hugo hammers home to the reader that she has fallen for the wrong guy.

In doing so, the author introduces another key theme of the novel, namely that of misunderstandings and characters and events not being what they SEEM to be. This can be illustrated in two key scenes. Firstly, there is some delicious black comedy in the passages that see the deaf Quasimodo tried and sentenced by an equally deaf judge. Likewise, there is the later tragedy of the wild frenzy of violence in which the bell-ringer defends Notre Dame from attackers, whose actual intentions match his own.

Hugo clearly had a great deal of fun writing `The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and keeps the reader on his toes with chapter titles that regularly serve as satisfying punch lines to the events narrated within. The final two chapters achieve this brilliantly, albeit one with comic irony and the other with a truly touching and poignant image.

For such a sprawling novel, there are inevitably imperfections in `The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. Indeed, one particular mother-daughter reunion pushes the coincidence and `If only..' button with too much of a heavy hand. Nevertheless, at its best, this is a tremendous and hugely rewarding read. If there is a better single chapter in a `Classic' than `The Hearts of Three Men Made Differently' then I have yet to read it. Likewise, if there is a more witty, wry, captivating and fresh novel (a modern-day Pheobus can surely be found in every night club in the 21st century) of its age still in print, I have yet to find it. In short, if you haven't read the novel and you think that you know `The Hunchback of Notre Dame', do yourself a favour and think again.

Barty's Score: 9.5/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A REVIEW OF `THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME' BY VICTOR HUGO

Who is `The Hunchback of Notre Dame'? For many, the character of Quasimodo is the eerie, scratchy figure from black-and-white horror movies. For others, he is the comical character used to advertise telephones in the 1980s ("It's Esmeralda: She LOVES me!"). More recently, he is the more cuddly hero of the 1996 Disney animated film. These associations - whilst keeping the character alive in the public consciousness - do rather detract from his actual rightful place within the pages of Victor Hugo's magnificent novel. Indeed, owing to its ability to excite, horrify, amuse, surprise and move, `The Hunchback of Notre Dame' is a true `Classic'.

So revered is the book in educated literary circles, that I would not deign to offer any in-depth analysis here. Suffice to say that the story revolves primarily not around the deformed bell-ringer, but rather the beautiful gypsy dancer, La Esmeralda. Hugo himself resented the English re-naming of his novel and argued forcibly (and correctly) that the original title, `Notre Dame de Paris' was far more fitting. Therefore, accepting Quasimodo as one of many pivotal characters, the story emerges as one of many figures' love for the captivating La Esmeralda. For the most part, this is the love of men, as her boldy charms attract the attention of three would-be lovers, none of whom fit the traditional leading man role. Perhaps the most obvious suitor is the dashing Captain Pheobus. However, beneath his good looks, lurks a serial womaniser who sees La Esmeralda as merely another notch on his bed-post. There is a realism about such a self-serving, vain `hero' that offers the first indication that `The Hunchback of Notre Dame' is not your typical 19th century masterpiece. Second, comes Archdeacon Claude Frollo, whose self-defined religious piety is shredded by an all-consuming and destructive lust for the gypsy girl. Finally, there is Quasimodo, whose hideous physical appearance masks an innocent, wholseome devotion that the other two cannot begin to match. As La Esmeralda falls for Pheobus, Hugo hammers home to the reader that she has fallen for the wrong guy.

In doing so, the author introduces another key theme of the novel, namely that of misunderstandings and characters and events not being what they SEEM to be. This can be illustrated in two key scenes. Firstly, there is some delicious black comedy in the passages that see the deaf Quasimodo tried and sentenced by an equally deaf judge. Likewise, there is the later tragedy of the wild frenzy of violence in which the bell-ringer defends Notre Dame from attackers, whose actual intentions match his own.

Hugo clearly had a great deal of fun writing `The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and keeps the reader on his toes with chapter titles that regularly serve as satisfying punch lines to the events narrated within. The final two chapters achieve this brilliantly, albeit one with comic irony and the other with a truly touching and poignant image.

For such a sprawling novel, there are inevitably imperfections in `The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. Indeed, one particular mother-daughter reunion pushes the coincidence and `If only..' button with too much of a heavy hand. Nevertheless, at its best, this is a tremendous and hugely rewarding read. If there is a better single chapter in a `Classic' than `The Hearts of Three Men Made Differently' then I have yet to read it. Likewise, if there is a more witty, wry, captivating and fresh novel (a modern-day Pheobus can surely be found in every night club in the 21st century) of its age still in print, I have yet to find it. In short, if you haven't read the novel and you think that you know `The Hunchback of Notre Dame', do yourself a favour and think again.

Barty's Score: 9.5/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2013
Like most people born in the 1980s/1990s, my first introduction to this story was through the Disney film, which is a rather loose adaptation, let's say.

The book is very different to the Disney movie, I found. This is not a bad thing - it's not like I was expecting the book to be completely faithful to the film, and vice versa. It is Disney, after all, and I don't think they could show... SPOILERS! Quasimodo being forced to kidnap Esmeralda, Esmeralda being framed by Frollo for Phoebus' murder, and Frollo raping Esmeralda, who is 16 in the book (but looks to be in her twenties in the Disney film).

Whatever differences there are in adaptation, it's still a fantastic novel, and well worth the read. I read the Wordsworth unabridged edition, and although there were lots of paragraphs that just describe the setting, as well as, bizarrely, its relation to things such as architecture and language, it still creates a very rich setting. Hugo also has a penchant for making the more educated characters spout lots and lots of Latin, allusions to Greek mythology, etcetera, but I got used to it after a while.

Most of the characters are really sympathetic and I was really sad by the end of it all. Even the characters one isn't supposed to feel sorry for!

All in all, a brilliant novel by the master of French romantic literature, and I recommend everyone reads it some time in their life. 4/5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2013
These type of books are classified as "classics" for a reason, and that reason is the quality of the story. Unfortunately the quantity was (as usual for VH) a bit verbose. Lots of Latin I did not understand, but you soon get to know which bits to speed read and when to settle down and immerse yourself in this crackin yarn.
The book has some typos, but in general good value for money. You might want to read Les Miserables by VH. Most of the above comments apply to this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2014
I was loving this book till the copy I got 49 pages miss placed. It stopped at page 22 and jumped to page 359 it carried onto page 406 until going to page 71 and then continues the story. From reviews this seems that this is a one off and none of the other books I've bought from this company have this mistake in it. But make what you will, however it is a good edition in my opinion, despite the missing pages.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Set around the beautiful cathedral of Notre Dame the book illustrated to me the curse of both beauty and ugliness.

I loved this book, especially once I got over half-way through I couldn't put it down. However, I had to come back to it a few times at first. It's well worth persevering through the first few chapters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2013
This is a classic and it's a wonderful book and an absolutely amazing story, BUT... it's a bit long-winded. Some chapters feel like they could have served as some kind of guide book rather than literature. It is definitely worth reading of course, the story is tragic and beautiful, but be prepared that at times it's rather slow going.

The edition is fantastic however, the notes are great and the book itself is beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2011
An excellent read once you get past the rather tedious architectural history and anti-royalism. Claude Frollo is portrayed superbly as a twisted pervert completely obsessed with the beautiful and innocent Esmeralda. Very surprised at Captain Phoebus's womanizing ways. For those of you who have seen the Disney film, you are in for a shock! Victor Hugo at his finest
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on 24 June 2013
Hugo undoubtedly excellent writer but doesn't quite attain the same empathy with the characters in this novel as Les Miserables, and so the heart-ache is not so poignant. But still a worth-while attempt to explore the heights and depths the human soul can reach.
Whilst considerably shorter than Les Miserables the author is still prone to writing lengthy tangents on the history of characters and buildings that we come across.
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