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on 17 October 2016
This has been one of my all-time favourite novels since my mid-teens (over 35 years ago) – but why are some editions still using the utterly misleading 'Hunchback' title invented by the early translator Frederic Shoberl? It's 'Notre Dame de Paris' !

It 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...

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 25 June 2017
I found the first 3 or 4 chapters hard to get into - but as I progressed beyond this, the genius of Hugo shines through.The plot and key characters open up - the grotesque, the beautiful, the flawed and pure souls. At points - Hugo delves into immense detail such as his description the city of Paris but no one can write the way Hugo does and can be forgiven for this.
Overall. A great read.
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on 7 April 2016
The story is good, but this version is full of typographical errors.
It looks as though the text was scanned in from a hard copy, but never checked. On most pages you'll find a mix up between 'h' and 'b' or 'i' and 'l'. Early on in the book, there's a random '58' which I assume is where they accidentally scanned in a page number. Some of the chapter headlines are confused with the opening sentences, and although this story has 11 parts, only the first 9 are listed and accessible via the contents. I guess they just gave up.
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on 21 March 2017
This is a slow burner, particularly if you are like me and get bored of endless description. Believe me though when i say that once you get past 35% you will be engrossed.
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on 20 October 2016
Had to read (skim) in English as well as French. Much too much information about cathedrals and buildings, unless you know them. Interesting personalities and plot when it emerged. But couldn't persuade myself to finish. Have no idea why it is so well known, except it is an enormously long tome.
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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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on 27 April 2017
Very interesting from beginning holds your interest right through. Can't wait to read the rest
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on 25 April 2017
It was ok
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on 1 July 2013
Loved it! Only 4 stars due to the sometimes long winded detailed descriptions of the architecture which becomes quite dull, otherwise beautiful tragic story,undoubtedly a classic.
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on 26 February 2015
Perfect version to share with my class of 9 and 10 year olds.
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