The Hunchback of Notre Dame

ISBN: 1556853904
ISBN 13: 9781556853906
By: Victor Hugo

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Reader's Thoughts

Ali Sallam

من روائع الأدب الفرنسيتأخذك بشكل ساحر إلى باريس في العصور الوسطىفتحبس أنفاسك بين دوامة من مشاعر الخيانة والحب والأملبين كوازيمودو : قارع أجراس كاتدرائية نوتردام القبيحوكلود فرولو ؛ رئيس الشماسه المعذبوازميرالدا ؛ الراقصة الغجرية الفاتنةوالقائد فيبس ؛ الذي يخدع ازميرالدا ويوهمها بحبه لهامن روائع القصص العالمية

Thomas Johnson

This is quite a tome, and it requires both patience and time to get through. Hugo is prone to digressions, some of which stretch on for at least fifteen pages (I was listening to an audiobook recording, and a number of the digressions went on for at least fifteen minutes). The lengthy asides are devoted to describing in elaborate detail the architecture and geography of fifteenth-century Paris, background which imparts the novel with a deeper sense of authenticity than it would have possessed had Hugo kept his narrative focus solely on his characters. Nevertheless, this reader was left wishing Hugo had refrained from sidelining them for as many pages as he did in order to indulge in his love for what he evidently believed to be the height of Parisian artistry.Though these asides – educational as they are – can be tiresome, Hugo’s characters ultimately take precedence in the novel, and it is their struggles which impart the novel with lasting value as a story. His three main characters – Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the Archdeacon Frollo – are not always sympathetic, but are consistently intriguing because they are motivated by the primal human emotions of lust and love. Through them, Hugo effectively shows the harm which one acting on lust can bring to a person who pursues love at any cost.Quasimodo, the eponymous hunchback, is a character who pursues love at any cost – a love for Esmeralda which is especially selfless because he understands that she will always be repulsed by his deformities. Quasmodo’s devotedness to Esmeralda coupled with his inability to connect to the world around him makes him easily sympathetic, despite his occasionally violent behavior. However, it is this same isolation which make him the least engaging of the three main characters. While Esmeralda and Frollo can verbally spar and passionately express their emotions to one another, Quasimodo can barely communicate and remains in the cathedral throughout most of the story while the action continues below him. He is always compelling when he enters into the main action of the story, at which points he validates his status as the titular character by drastically altering the plot, but it is difficult to feel as strongly about his fate as though characters whom are continually at the reader’s attention.Esmeralda falls in to that category, as she is a character who elicits a strong emotional reaction from the reader, though not necessarily a positive one. Unlike Quasimodo, Esmeralda cannot accept that the person whom she loves – the captain Phoebus who is entirely driven by lust – does not love her. It is this stubbornness which enables the reader to empathize with her while also becoming incredibly frustrated by her. Her cries of “Phoebus! Oh where is my Phoebus?” can become annoying, because they indicate a desperation which is both understandable and uncomfortable to read about. Some might, perhaps rightly, accuse Hugo of sexism in his portrayal of a woman who becomes utterly dependent on a man’s approval and acceptance, but her plight also speaks truthfully to the debilitating power love can have over an person, and to the larger damage a casually cruel person like Phoebus can unknowingly inflict.Archdeacon Frollo’s cruelty, like Phoebus’s, is borne out of lust, but Frollo is more cognizant of the consequences of his choices than is Phoebus. He is arguably the most fascinating character in the novel because he, like Esmeralda, struggles with desire – in his case, a lustful desire – for a person who does not love him, but whereas she only had to fear for her temporal life, he is fully believes that pursuing his feelings will lead him to spiritual damnation. He is given the choice between selfless devotion and self-gratification, and chooses the latter in spite of the consequences to himself and everyone else. Though in this he becomes objectively despicable, the reader continues to be intrigued by and perhaps to feel a remnant of sympathy for him, because he is tormented by such an inescapable and universal emotion as lust. The complexity of his inner torment is arguably the strongest aspect of the novel, and a great example of how good writing can depict a believable villain.While the conflict between love and lust is well depicted, Hugo must also be praised for injecting his story with enough humor to keep the story from becoming melodramatic. The narrator’s occasionally wry tone and mockery of Parisian government provides the opportunity for laughter, though some of the history he references may seem obscure to the modern reader. The character of Gringoire, the pitiful philosopher who tends to value his survival over anything else, is able to provide a steady stream of sarcasm throughout much of the story, as he is free of most of the personal attachments that plague the other characters.By the end of the book, the reader may think he is wisest character of all, because Hugo does not allow those of his characters who love much happiness. In this, his depiction of love could be said to be one-sided, if not untruthful. He presents a powerful depiction of lust foiling love, without accounting for the possibility that in some cases, love might just come out the winner.

Amy

When I was in middle school, I'd watched and enjoyed the Disney animated version of the story, totally oblivious to how absolutely horribly Disney had "cleaned it up" for the children. Then one day, on the word of the day mailing list I'm subscribed to, one of the words had an example on its use pulled from the book. Just that one except was enough to totally floor me, I knew Disney really frelled with things, but I never remembered it being so extreme before. I had for some reason assumed the movie was more accurate than others because it was actually kinda dark for a Disney animation.This revelation in hand, I went and found myself an unabridged copy of the book to read. I had assumed that since Disney chopped it up so horribly and changed things so drastically, I couldn't trust anyone to edit the story down, and didn't know what I was getting in for. From the start, I was noticing tons of things that Disney either edited out all together or drastically changed. I do think that if I give it another read, I will consider picking up an abridged copy, just because all the detailed descriptions of Paris and its architecture was just a little bit more than I could happily handle. Between slogging through that, the actual storyline was good.The characters were interesting, it was easy to get frustrated with the ones you like because of the stupid mistakes they make, it's also easy to cheer with them if they manage something good. The book is dark, the ending sad, but I still highly recommend it. Don't be ashamed to grab the abridged version if you don't think you can handle chapters of nothing but geography and architecture in the city of Paris though, it was the only thing I regretted about reading the book.

Emily Polson

*Sob*It's just too beautiful for words.

Nemo

** spoiler alert ** Historian, Philosopher and PoetIf I can quote one passage from Hugo's books that best reflects the author, the focus of his passions, the style and architecture of his novels, it would be the following:"There he was, serious, motionless, absorbed - all eye, all ear, all thought. All Paris was at his feet, with the thousand spires of its buildings, and its circular horizon of gentle hills, with its river winding beneath its bridges and its people pouring through its streets, its cloud of smoke, and its mountain chain of roofs crowding close to Notre-Dame with their double slopes of mail. In this whole city the Archdeacon's eye sought just one point of the pavement, the Place du Parvis, and among the whole multitude just one figure, the Bohemian."Hugo referred to himself as a historian, philosopher and poet. He studied history, contemplated human destiny, and expressed his ideals through his writings, i.e., through the struggles and voices of his heroes, for whom he prepared the whole world and history as the grand stage.Ecce Notre-Dame, Ecce HomoThis book can be divided into four Parts, like four movements of a symphony, with mini climaxes in the second and third movement.Part I: Festival of Fools (Book I-II)Hugo introduces all the main characters in the dramatic setting of a festival in the streets of Paris in 1482. It's in the late Middle Ages, a year before the birth of Martin Luther. One of the characters is a poet, who is the thread that runs through the entire novel and at whose expense Hugo showcases his self-deprecating humor.Part II: Ecce Notre-Dame (Book III-V)The view zooms out, so to speak, and Hugo describes a bird's-eye view of Paris and its history as immortalized in its architecture, the centerpiece of which is Notre-Dame de Paris. Here is the most beautiful chapter of the book, a symphonic description of the life and architecture of Paris.To paraphrase Hugo, Notre-Dame is the expression of the world. Its architecture, a transition from Roman style with its low circular arches and heavy pillars to Gothic style with its pointed arches, is a reflection of the progress of society since ancient times, from unity and hierarchy to democracy and freedom.Hugo proclaims, "Architecture is dead". Architecture, as a means of expression for mankind, will be replaced by printing, which is cheaper and more convenient, and therefore provides more freedom of expression. If Hugo were alive today, he would perhaps predict that digital media would replace their analog counterpart, e.g. electronic books would replace printed books, and something like Wikipedia would be the new Tower of Babel.Part III: Ecce Homo (Book VI-VIII)After setting the historical stage, Hugo zooms in on the main character of the novel, i.e., the human face of Notre-Dame, the Archdeacon and the bell-ringer. To me, they are one person. The physical deformity of the latter illustrates the spiritual deformity of the former, and the residual tender loving-kindness in the former is magnified in the latter. (If I might add, a similar device is used in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.)The conflict is unrequited love. The Archdeacon's passionate but deadly lust for the Bohemian girl, the bell-ringer's tender but primitive devotion to her, and the Bohemian girl's love for her idol. In contrast, there are also exhilarating moments when love triumphs over lust, over baseness and over the condemning laws. When the ugly and pitiable becomes august and beautiful.However, there is a deeper meaning underneath the conflict of unrequited love, and that's the reason, I think, why the book was once banned by the Catholic Church.The Archdeacon represents the Church, more specifically, the religious hierarchy and laws of the Church, and the Bohemian girl, the unbeliever. The Church pursues the unbeliever, but because the religious laws bring nothing but shackles and death, the latter shrinks from him and pursues her own idol, Phoebus "the Sun god". This is made poignantly manifest when the Archdeacon claimed that only he could save the Bohemian from death and demanded her to choose between him and gallows, and she chose the latter.Part IV: The Siege of Notre-Dame (Book IX-XI)Finally, the view returns to the bigger stage, when the tension between hierarchy and freedom mingled with lawlessness becomes unbearable, there broke out the siege of the Notre-Dame, a figure of the siege of the Bastille. Ironically, the siege was instigated by the Archdeacon himself and the poet, signifying that revolts against the Church have their roots in its own corruption through lust. Alas, there was no freedom or deliverance except through death.

Sanabel Atya

لقد صدق من صنفها مع روائع الأدب العالمي....واحدة من الروايات التي تعلق أدق تفاصيلها في الذاكرة،طويلاً وربما دائماً.تعليقي العام// ما هذه العدالة التي لا يهمها تفاصيل القضية،لا يهمها مُتهم أو ضحية..بقدر ما يهمها كبش الفداء أو ذاك القُربان الذي سيُقدم للمشنقة؟! سُحقاً لها من عدالة... إنها حقاً عصور الظلام، كيف كانت أوروبا وكيف أصبحت!! ولكني أرى أن العدالة لا زالت منقوصة ولو بمقدار أنملة!وصدق فيكتور حينما قال في سطور الرواية: " وباء إرهاب المشنقة،أخطر الأوبئة لأنه لا يأتي من الله بل من الإنسان!"لطالما كان الله عادلاً عادلاً عادلاً..وكان الإنسان ظلوماً جهولاً.لفت نظري أيضاً،تلك المناطق التي كانت للحماية في تلك العصور، لحماية الناس من التشريعات البربرية،، هذا ما كان سُكان العصور الوسطى محظوظون به،،فاليوم مثلاً..لا كنيسة ولا مسجد ولاأي مكان على وجه الأرض كفيل بحماية المظلوم من التشريع البربري ضده!كما وقد أثعجبت بالتاريخ الذي احتوته الرواية...سواء فيما يتعلق بذكر الأحداث العامة -الغريبة العجيبة- في العصور الوسطى،إلى فن العمار في تلك العصور، إلى وصف جميل رائع لأحياء من مدينة باريس،وإني لمن المُعجبين جداً بوصف المُدن!لا يكون البناء كاملاً في القرون الوسطى،ما لم يكن تحت الأرض مثيل له.لهذا كان للقصر والحصن والكنيسة آنذاكجذر مضاعف،ما لم تكن هذه الأبنية مبنية فوق مجموعة من الركائز ككنيسة نوتردام.لقد كان تحت الكاتدرائيات،كاتدرائيات أخرى،منخفضة،مظلمة،عمياء،خرساء،وقد تكون في الكاتدرائية السفلى مقبرة،بينما تكون الكاتدرائية العليا مفعمة بالضياء،تتموج فيها أصداء الأجراس في اليل والنهار.أما في القصور والحصون،فتكون الطبقة السفلى محابس وسجوناً،وقد تكون مقابر،أو تكون الاثنتين معاً.وهكذا يتبين لنا أن الأبنية التي تحدثنا عنها في غير هذا الفصل،ليست ذات أسس،بل ذات جذور، تنطلق متفرعة في الأعماق، غرفاً وردهات، وسلالم،كما هو الجزء الأعلى تماماً،بحيث يصبح جسد القصور والحصون والكنائس مغروساً في الأرض حتى وسطه.فتتشابه مع الأكوام الخارجية للبناء العظيم،كأنها الغابات والجبال التي تنعكس خيالاتها في مياه بحيرة قائمة تحت هذه الجبال والغابات"أما قصة الحبّ أو قصص الحبّ في الرواية،فقد كانت راقية جداً... وكما يقولون: رضىَ المُتيمُ في الهوى بجنونه...خلّوه يُفنى عُمرهُ بفنونه !ومن الحبّ ما قتل..وما هَبَل أيضاً !!

Tyler

Amazing book! Loved the author's view on things. I really felt like I was getting glimpses of a great mind by reading this book. You might want to read it with a highlighter for good quotes. I'm reading Les Miserable right now and again I really like Victor Hugo's writing. There are times where he really goes into depth about history, or something and it is hard to read but if you can get past those parts you will thank yourself because he has some great writing.

Rebecca

The writing is brilliant, the plot is unusual. But-- perhaps like in life-- where are the good guys? Esmerelda doesn't say much other than "Oh Pheobus!" She's a very flat character, imho. The book seems to be a study in love gone wrong-- romantic love, parental love, all gone wrong. There are examples of charitable love toward Quasimoto, and in the end he performs a selfless act for Esmerelda, but overall it was a very depressing look at love vs lust, and a study in what not to do. five stars for the writing itself (lovely), but docked a point because it leaves me discouraged with everyone.

Riley

This book would be a five star one if not for the fact that Victor Hugo insists upon describing everything and everyone in tedious detail, even, and perhaps most especially, when it is entirely irrelevant. I know part of it is probably just the style from back then, so I forgave it a bit. Also having read Les Miserables, I was already prepared for a bunch of details I could just skip in the writing. And skip them I did. As for the actual story, Hugo did not fail to impress me. While it was not, perhaps, as good as Les Miserables, the plot was still good, and the characters (for the most part) very well put together. Disney totally butchered this book, by the way. I tried watching the movie while reading this, and it was like two different stories. Frollo is not the definate "bad guy". Actually, I thought he was the best character, if not a bit weird and obsessive. All the characters are ambiguous. One could easily say that anyone was the villian, and all the others victims. Personally, Pheobus seemed like the villian to me. He was just a player, for lack of a better word.It would have better if Esmeralda had loved Quasimodo, Gringoire, or even Frollo. But as always, the pretty face got chosen before heart, brains, or passion. That's probably why this book is so good. In reality, pretty girls don't typically choose men that are best for them over the ones who are good looking. Which is a shame for all of them, because the story ultimately ends in sadness for all but of course, the hot guy(who deserves to fall off the roof of Notre-Dame or get hanged more than anyone) loses nothing. A lot of people will hate this book because of it's reality and bitterness, but I enjoyed it because of the fact. I have a host of new characters to enjoy (Jehan, Claude Frollo, Gringoire), and another very good classic under my belt. One thing suprised me, I didn't like Quasimodo as much as I anticipated. He seemed like someone I'd enjoy, and I didn't particularly. All in all, a good book. Just skip some of the descriptions, or get an abriged version, and you'll be fine.

Tempo de Ler

Rico, poético, magnífico - assombrosamente soberbo - «Nossa Senhora de Paris» é uma obra absolutamente inesquecível. Com uma prosa magnífica, apurada ao extremo e manobrada com hábil controlo, Victor Hugo abre caminho por entre as histórias de Frollo, Esmeralda, Febo e Gringoire, todas convergindo para um trágico e inevitável final. A forma melodiosa e elegante com que o faz, adicionando inúmeras referências históricas, artísticas e literárias, faz valer a leitura só por si.Embora demorado, espesso e com divagações frequentes, mostrando uma extrema preocupação com a arquitectura, nomeadamente a perda de identidade dos monumentos, pintando as solenes linhas dos mesmos, o estilo de escrita de Hugo é irrepreensível. O autor mostra-nos de forma bastante cruel as lacunas e as virtudes do amor, as suas idiossincrasias, os seus caprichos. Se por um lado temos o amor doentio, obsessivo, egoísta e possessivo de Frollo, por outro lado, o lado de Quasímodo, temos o amor altruísta, caridoso e compreensível.Também a ilusão das aparências desempenha um importante papel nesta história; Febo, tão bonito por fora e tão oco por dentro, ao passo que o horrendo Quasímodo teria tanto para oferecer se lhe fosse dada essa oportunidade. Encontramos ainda uma boa dose de crítica nesta obra, mas eu prefiro pessoalmente o lado romântico e trágico de «Nossa Senhora de Paris», e fico-me por aí. Qualquer que seja o tipo de amor com que nos deparemos - doentiamente possessivo como o de Frollo, ingenuamente incondicional como o de Esmeralda ou puro e docemente eterno como o de Quasímodo - «Nossa Senhora de Paris» mostra-nos que compete a todos eles uma boa dose de loucura.

Martin

This has been on my 'to-read' list ever since I read "Les Miserables" 23 years ago. So glad I finally got around to it, but also glad I waited until I was well into adulthood so I could appreciate Hugo's lengthy descriptions of medieval Paris and his love of Gothic architecture. Living in a city (Los Angeles/Hollywood) where there has been massive building projects and urban reorganization in the last decade, I fully appreciate Hugo's lamentation about what has been lost through growth and disregard. Had I read this as a teen, I would have skipped past such chapters in order to focus strictly on the plot. However, these now thrill me as I recognize the artistry of a writer masterly describing a subject he loves (like Melville and whaling or Jeanette Winterson and the late-Industrial northern England). What to say about the plot and the characters? Phoebus and Gringoire are not as charming here as they tend to be in the film versions, but Claude Frollo is not quite as evil. He is terribly flawed and misguided, but he has had humanity in the past and nearly regains it in the end. Esmeralda is lacking, unfortunately, not quite as strong as I was accustomed to seeing in the movies. However, the plot's conclusion is incredibly disturbing and sad. I wish that Esmeralda had not been so blind (or deaf, since that is a recurring theme) to the fact that Phoebus is not a great guy. For me, it undercut her portrayal as acting with true Christian kindness and forgiveness (despite being the only non-Christian) that she continued to worship Phoebus and stayed wary of Quasimodo.I would have preferred the story to be more focused in the final third of the novel. Just as the plot is kicking into high gear, we have a long digression with Louis XI which I found frustrating. Because of this I almost gave the book 4 stars, but when I took into consideration that Hugo took me to another world which was also seen through the prism of the Catholic Reformation, the French Revolution and the July Revolution (and that I understood whichever axe he had to grind, despite the book being 183 years old), I had to give it 5 stars. I also appreciated Hugo's assertion that although most of the characters are orphans in some way, there are other forms of makeshift kinship that bond them. And I love how Quasimodo and Esmeralda end up inventing the world's first rape whistle.

Ben

First of all, forget everything you think you know about this story based on Disney films or other adaptions. This is a horrid account of death in the stylings of Shakespearean tragedy offset by brilliant and imaginitive prose.Victor Hugo craftily employs character contrast, metaphor, split narrative, etc to render "Hunchback". Without going to much into detail, I will say these are merely devices by which Hugo drafts the misunderstandings and tragedy that would ensue through the story: Esmerelda misunderstanding Phoebus' "love" and being wrongly accused for a death that did not happen, Claude Frollo misunderstanding how to express love and how to fill the void left in its absence, the parentage of several characters, the King's orders without proper information, etc.Quasimodo seems to be the only character in tune with his own quality, as ugly and mis-shapen as he is. And thusly, like the great cathedral herself, he watches this all unfold and reacts in a fairly dumb, child-like fashion. The final events of the story could have all been avoided had certain social or cultural qualities been eliminated, which is, I'm sure, Hugo's point.It is a fantastic read, but be warned - you will not put the book down feeling good about...anything.

Bill Kerwin

I recently read Victor Hugo's “Notre Dame de Paris” for the first time, and was delighted and moved by the experience. Although it lacks the depth and humanity of “Les Miserables,” it possesses a grandeur of architectonic structure and an Olympian compassion all its own. Best of all, it gives us one of literature's most loving and detailed depictions of a city, rivalled only by Joyce's Dublin in Ulysses.It is a shame that this book is so seldom referred to in English by its given name, for it is about more than the history of one hunchback, however moving that history may be be. First of all, it is about the great cathedral that dominates and defines the city, the setting for much of the novel's action and most of its crucial events. It is also about the “genius loci” of Paris, the maternal spirit that offers sanctuary and support to its most unfortunate children,many of them literally orphans (Gringoire, Quasimodo, Esmeralda, the Frollos), be they ugly or beautiful, virtuous or evil, bringing a measure of comfort to their difficult and and often tragic lives. Hugo's novel had been on my lengthy “must read” list for years, but what finally moved it to the top was my growing fascination with cities in literature. In childhood, my favorite Arabian Night's tales were the ones that took place in Baghdad, and from early adolescence I loved Sherlock Holmes' London, D'Artagnan's Paris and Philip Marlowe's L.A. I also began to appreciate more fantastic cities, such as Machen's supernatural London and Leiber's Lankhmar. Soon I fell in love with the hard boiled detective genre and—having been a childhood fan of Arthurian romances—identified with each modern knight-errant on a quest. I also realized that the individuality of each city—and the private detective's familiarity with it and his relation to it--was an essential part of the genre's charm. Even the most realistic of private eye cities—Robert B. Parker's Boston, for example—were filled with as many marvels as any Arthurian Romance: instead of a sorceress, one might meet a sexy widow; instead of a liveried dwarf, a mysterious butler; and instead of a disguised knight offering a cryptic challenge one might be offered a tailing job by a Beacon Hill Brahmin with a mask of smiles and hidden motivations. The world of the marvelous had been transported from the isolated castles, woods and meadows of England's “green and pleasant land” to the magnificent townhouses and seedy alleys of an urban environment. How had this occurred, and what were the literary antecedents?I believe that “Notre Dame de Paris” in 1831 is the point where this all begins. Hugo took shoots of the delicate gothic, already in decline, grafted them to the hearty root of the city (or--more precisely--to a Gothic cathedral in the center of a great city, where it was most likely to flourish), watered it with a touch of Arabian marvels (dangerous hunchback, guild of thieves, beautiful dancing girl), and cultivated it all with the serious historical method of Sir Walter Scott. Thus the urban romance was born.This was just the start, of course. Another decade of industrialism and population growth would make the great European cities seem even more like ancient Baghdad. Dickens would make the thieves guild central to the sinister London of “Oliver Twist” and Eugene Sue's exploration of urban vices in “The Mysteries of Paris” (1841) would soon be successfully imitated--commercially if not artistically—by England's Reynolds in “The Mysteries of London” and America's Lippard in “The Quaker City, or The Monks of Monk's Hall.” A little late the detective arrived in the gothic city (Poe's DuPont, Gaboriau's Lecoq, Conan Doyle's Holmes) and soon the marvelous and fantastic were re-introduced (Stevenson's “New Arabian Nights,” Machen's “The Three Imposters)as well, fully preparing the urban landscape for the writers of the 20th century to construct their cities of romance in the worlds of detection and fantasy.Hugo tells us that the bones of Quasimodo and Esmeralda have long ago turned to dust, but the marvelous city of crimes and dreams continues to live on.

Chelsea

ok... i'll be honest. i hated the first 150 pages and had i not been reading it for book club i would have abandoned it. about 300 pages in i started to think it was okay. around 400... i really liked it. at page 450 i couldn't put it down. i stayed up till 2am last night finishing it. so... is it worth the painful first half to get to the second half? now that i've done it... i would say so. victor hugo could have used a good editor. pages and pages of diatribes and descriptions that made me feel like pulling my hair out - but the story is chilling and wonderful. i understood after reading it why there are so many abridged versions. :) of course its a piece out of history... melodramatic and predictable... but one expects that. all in all... i felt satisfied going to bed last night having read such a great book. still... next time i read Hugo... i will be prepared for a big front end investment.

Wally

I suffered through Victor Hugo's Les Miserables in high school French, but I thought I'd take this on the airplane on my way to Paris, and I wasn't disappointed at all. The plot begins by following a somewhat minor character (who keeps popping up at crucial points and becomes something more major to the plot and theme), a poet who writes a morality play, fails utterly to perform it and get paid for it, and falls in with a crowd to thieves and vagabonds. On his descent, he encounters the innocent and beautiful Esmeralda (with her pet goat, who is even more enchanting), the pitiful and powerful Quasimodo, the shining knight Phoebus, and the conflicted archdeacon Claude Frollo: all the major characters. His story entwines with theirs as we learn their histories, their desires, and their deepening involvement with each other that can only end in tragedy. I loved how slowly the book built up the plot, revolving through each character and the occasional tangent into say, the history of medieval Paris, or a description of Notre Dame, before really taking off. The pacing is incredible: the first 300 pages are sort of set-up, and then the plot moves as the characters really encounter and react to each other, which is another 300 pages. The characters are completely indivduated, whether it's one of the main ones we see every other chapter, or a minor one, like the poet, or King Louis XI, or Frollo's younger brother, a gambler who steals church money to pay for his free-wheeling ways. The setting of medieval Paris (Hugo delayed writing the novel several times to continue his research) is so well described you might want a map to follow along when he describes a certain area of town that no longer exists (and didn't exist in 1830 when Hugo was writing).In short, a great book, highly recommended for people who like long books and have a certain kind of patience for the way novels were once written.

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