The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hmm. Where to begin. . .

I think I may have been expecting too much.

Prior to this one, Les Misérables was the only novel I had read by Victor Hugo, and it set the bar really high. Les Misérables is believed by many to be one of the greatest novels of the 19th century and, naturally, I was eager to read Hugo's second most popular work, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Now, I was going to claim being too busy in my garden to spend time blogging—and the present state of my house would certainly attest to that! However, I finished reading The Hunchback several weeks ago, and, were it a story I was eager to share with you, I'm sure I could have found thirty minutes somewhere—even out of my sleep hours, like now—to do a little blogging.

But it's not.

I found it quite appalling, really, and, while not having seen the Disney film for myself, I can only imagine what the writers must have done with it to make it even vaguely appropriate for children.

I kept reading and reading and reading (it's a big book), waiting for something good and right to happen, or at the least to come upon one of Hugo's meaty discourses on history or Christian virtue. He does stray a bit with "this will kill that," meaning "the press will kill the church" or "printing will kill architecture" or "the book will kill the edifice;" However, it doesn't go anywhere profound or even quote worthy. Apparently the original French title of the novel is Notre Dame de Paris, which is far more accurate to the dominant theme of the cathedral's architecture. Having visited Paris myself a few years back—having climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the towers, taken in the city views from that pinnacle, and admired the structure supporting the massive bell—I could at least appreciate some connection to the tale.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed on both counts, as the good and profundity which I sought absolutely escaped me.

The story itself is fascinating, for sure—its author being a master of words and imagery, to say nothing of setting, character development, and plot. I enjoyed it for all of that; nevertheless, I cannot say that this piece of literature made me better for having read it, nor would I necessarily recommend it—a story beset with tragedy, gore, perversion, and then, for good measure, more tragedy.

I'm actually glad this is a download on my e-reader rather than a hardcover on my shelf, 'cause I will most probably not be reading it again. What I am going to read is a review on Goodreads, and catch someone else's perspective. Who knows? Perhaps something worthwhile can yet be gained from the time I spent (dare I say wasted?) on this read.

That behind me, I'm going to go grab something childish and fun off my bookshelf for a weekend road trip! :)

PS I just read that Goodreads review; and one, Melissa Rudder, has saved the Hunchback, if not the day! She seems to have caught some of the good and profundity that escaped me, and I would definitely recommend reading her analysis—you can find it here.

PPS For interest sake (and possibly a good laugh), I'd also recommend reading the Goodreads review by Madeline; it's directly below Ms. Rudder's review and expounds on my own, though with slightly more, should I say, attitude.