14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A great, if tormenting, pleasure...,
This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
"...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.