The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Who knows, maybe I'm one of the only people in existence who enjoy good long novels about buildings. But then, there are a lot of fans of Follet's Pillars of the Earth, so maybe not.
Are people the thing? Or is it place? Or what happens when we start confusing a place with the persons within it?
Notre-Dame is a misshapen monster with a lumpy heart and a lumpy head. Or wait, is that Quasimodo? Is Esmeralda a good-natured gypsy dancer or is the spine of Paris itself?
Seen this way, the whole tragedy of Esmeralda's gross miscarriage of justice (or the BIG IDEA writ as architecture in Notre-Dame, Quasimodo) being the gross travesty of France's history, takes on a wickedly abusive satirical slant.
Or, if you prefer, a blind, deaf, and dumb legal drama so obviously obtuse as to become a farce... or is it? No. It's firmly a tragedy. Witch-killers, inquisition, hungry mobs, vagabond guilds, and blithe royalty, clergy, poets, and tradesmen... well, it's a sad, sorry tragedy where everyone gets a trowel up the flue.
Did I like?
That's hard to say. I loved the architecture rambling bits, which, I might say, might be the least favorite bits of other people. The characters themselves were sometimes amusing but always writ larger than life. I like that sometimes, and I liked it here most of the time. But there were points at which the tale seemed to get derailed and the more subtle points that Hugo WANTED to make, satire-wise, were lost in the drench of pathos.
Overall, a solid novel and it certainly doesn't fail to entertain, but I can't quite put it up there as an absolute classic.
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