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Great if you like essays on architecture.
on 2 April 2013
It's a classic story, filmed many times so I thought it worth reading the book. I chose a penguin edition as I trust the quality of translation and addition notes.
The translation and notes are fine, but the actual novel isn't. Hugo's prime purpose here is to talk about how great the Gothic architecture of old Paris was compared to the Paris of his day. A certain amount of this is valuable in establishing the setting of the story, but Hugo can spend a lengthy chapter or two describing, for example, the layout of Parisian streets without any reference to the plot. At times it reminds me of our Prince Charles' rants about modern architecture. He even berates the town planners of his day within the text of the story.
The plot doesn't take centre stage until around page 300 (of 500) in this edition. It's the plot we know (more or less - hollywood always makes some changes) and becomes well paced towards the end, but it's a hard slog to get to it.
Some may accuse me of being a philistine for not appreciating this book, but I'm not a student of French literature, I'm looking for an engaging and educational read, but this is for the most part a rather tedious lecture from someone you would dread to be sat next to at a dinner party.