Friday, October 25, 2013

31 Days of Books: Hunchback of Notre Dame

Title:  Hunchback of Notre-Dame, or Notre-Dame de Paris

Author:  Victor Hugo

Published:  1831

Year I read it:  2005

One sentence summary:  Hugo's classic tale of love vs. list, inward vs. outward beauty, appearance vs. fact - the Hunchback of Notre-Dame tells the Gothic Romance of the detested hunchback Quasimodo, the mysterious Gypsy Esmerelda, the dark priest Claude Frolo, and of how all their lives interconnect.  

Interesting fact:

Three reasons to read it:
  • You can't beat Hugo's language - it's cadence, it's poignancy.  His words just soar. 
    Through the eyes of several different characters in search of it, Hugo's fleshes out what love is and what it looks like.
  • If you're not up for Les Miserables, try a 500-page Hugo.  No, it's not the same.  It's not as epic.  But it is still amazing!
  • Gorgeous ending!!  Another fantastic - tragic, but fantastic - ending.

One reason you maybe shouldn't: 
  • "A Bird's Eye View of Paris."  It's a chapter in the middle of the book with no characters and no dialogue - just a meticulous tour of 15th century Paris.  I hate to admit this, but this is the first and only chapter from a classic that I've completely skipped.  [désolé, Monsieur Hugo!]
Great quotes:

“Nothing makes a man so adventurous as an empty pocket."

“Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin. The inexplicable fact is that the blinder it is, the more tenacious it is. It is never stronger than when it is completely unreasonable.” 

“Spira, spera."  ["Breathe, hope."]


  1. Aw, I actually love Hugo's digression on medieval Paris! I just find it really interesting and I love the bit when he talks about how all the various noises in Paris form this giant collective symphony. Anyway, I wouldn't say that this book is on a par with Les Miserables either. That book is one of my favourites ever and I just love its characters so much. I wasn't as attached to the characters in this. I still think that this book is a powerful read and that it's truly beautifully-written though. I still really enjoyed it and I'll suspect I'll love it even more on a re-read.

    Have you ever heard of the French-Canadian musical Notre Dame de Paris? I've recently discovered that musical. The songs are gorgeous and it's mostly very faithful to the book (much more so than the Disney film which I still love). I recommend YouTubing "Tu Vas Me Detruire" and "Dechire". Those are my two favourite songs. They're just so gorgeous :)

  2. Oooh! Can't wait to check those out! I've listened to a few of the french-musical version of Les Miserables - they're "On My Own" is superb - and look forward to listening to these. Do you speak French?

    1. Un petit :) Sorry I've only just read your reply. I forgot to click on the notification.