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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars


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on 24 March 2010
One of the few versions which retains the original title of the book, not the misleading title (regarding a minor character) which Hugo detested. The protagonist in the work is the cathedral, not any of the characters, though the most important character would have to be the archdeacon of Josas, Dom Claude Frollo, a tragic young man condemned by his profession and by his love for the gypsy girl Esmeralda.

Although his writing is not as powerful as in his later work, Les Miserables (Vintage Classics), Victor Hugo still weaves a gripping tale about architecture and progress, thinly hidden underneath the plot that the book is famous for. It is important to read this unabridged: otherwise the gems of Hugo's digressions will be either abridged or missed out entirely, and they are an essential part of his writing. The plot, the secondary purpose of the story, is rather melodramatic and relies on coincidences, but is still well told.

The unabridged translation by John Sturrock is well executed and readable, especially with regard to the Greek and Latin which appears in the book, translating this in footnotes. Overall a good translation of an early work by one of the great writers, Victor Hugo.
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on 10 October 2016
This is a very good, accessible English edition of one of my all-time favourite novels. I'm only sorry that, unlike the French paperback, it doesn't include any of the 19C illustrations. 'Notre Dame de Paris' was part of the vogue for historical fiction begun by Walter Scott – and in part, was written as a riposte to Quentin Durward, which Hugo had reviewed. It was also inspired in part by anti-clerical Gothic novels such as Lewis's The Monk, but is far more complex psychologically – proto-Dostoevskian at times, especially regarding its incomparable tragic hero. And no, that isn't Quasimodo (a supporting character only)... The common English re-titling (unauthorised, invented by Shoberl) is utterly misleading.

I fell in love when I first read the novel in my mid-teens, c. 1980-81. I was the geeky girl who studied Latin, Greek and French, read Villon for fun, and was intent on studying mediæval history. He is the geeky boy who was always first into lectures and last to leave; who knew Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and studied in every Faculty of the University by 20; who had his own alchemical laboratory, and got excited talking about incunabula and theurgy. I'm now over 50, but Claude Frollo, the brilliant, doomed young Archdeacon of Josas, is still the greatest of my literary 'grandes passions': a magnificent, passionate, self-mutilating, cassock-ripping mess of intellectual genius, hopelessly bad social skills, and religious/sexual torment. I now realise that I recognised a fellow-Aspie/high-functioning autist, described in literature long before scientific recognition.

The demands of compulsory celibacy, the innate difficulties of his condition/temperament, and the intellectual tensions between his traditional mediæval education and the new Renaissance learning that obsesses him – the revival of Neo-Platonism, theurgy and Hermeticism coming in from Italy, thanks to Marsilio Ficino & co – create a 'perfect storm' in Claude's inner life. Racked by conflict, he implodes, destroying all he loves and himself. The catalyst is a shallow, pretty dancing-girl. An Abelard who needs an Héloïse, all he finds is La Esméralda: not the incarnation of the Tabula Smaragdina, not a real emerald, but a cheap green glass bauble; not even a real gypsy. His trajectory is devastating, tearing down his whole world around him. It is impossible to read without wanting to barge in to the rescue, to knock heads together, to put things right.

But, while Claude's terrifying, heart-wrenching tragedy is at the heart of the narrative, there is so much else to enjoy. The whole mediæval Parisian world is vividly realised, from the airy heights of the Cathedral to an anchoress's cell and the Villon-esque Court of Miracles, where the loveable poet and playwright Pierre Gringoire nearly comes to grief. It is a magnificent and moving book, also very funny in parts. Read it, visit Paris – Notre Dame, Musée de Cluny, Quartier Latin – then read it again.
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on 7 April 2016
Always wanted to read it and I wasn't disappointed; the book is a great illustration of 19th Century Paris with its crowds and fires and streets and markets. If you enjoy intricate plots which are slightly outlandish than this is the book for you.
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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 deformed character who may be slightly 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 influenced 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 its way an attack on bigotry which we still have today.
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on 21 March 2017
A must read. a reminder of whyg classics ARE classics.
the writing is beyond compare Dickens is brutal at times but Hugo is too
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on 16 July 2012
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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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.
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on 2 March 2016
A must read for those who relish quality literature. Another Victor Hugo classic. Personally am Victor Hugo fan but am being impartial here
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on 28 January 2017
Excellent book condition
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on 8 January 2016
As described
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