Such a tedious beginning! Way too many secondary characters, way too many unimportant names and way to many descriptions of clothing, uniforms, buildings and architectural details. Not to mention the following excessive descriptions of the city structure of Paris. This was so confusing and the more I read, the less I was able to imagine what Paris looked like and additionally, you are completely pulled out of the plot. Not helping, Victor, not helping. You know, Čechov used to criticise the young Gorkij for using way too many adjectives in his writings. Its a good thing, Čechov never saw Victor Hugo’s mess. Man, that writing is not only overloaded with details, but also really patronising.
The overall theme of the book is perhaps best described with the word love, while also featuring a lot of racism, sexism, violence, poverty, class struggles and cruelty. What bugged me though is, that in the beginning Hugo touches on many crucial subjects like civil disturbances, power struggles, the beginning of printing and hence the churches’ loss of power over the written word, but unfortunately, he does not pursue them any further.
Character-wise, I fell in love with Pierre Gringoire, the constantly twaddling philosopher, who is the personification of the principle of comic relief. He is sweet, funny and loveable, especially in his love for Djali the goat! I absolutely agree with his attitude – save Djali, forget about Esmeralda. I wish there was more of him in the book.
Oddly enough, I kind of also liked Frollo, even though I was shocked when I found out, that he is only 35 years old and Esmeralda is just 16 (I imagined him around 50 and her somewhere in her late twenties or early thirties). But still, up to a certain degree I can understand him, I guess this is what happens if a hardcore Catholic gets a boner. He tried to fight it, but well, the (pedophiliac) urge was stronger.
Esmeralda. According to my former knowledge of the story (thanks, Disney) I expected a strong, smart, confident woman who fights for equality. But all I got from Hugo was a naive, stupid, superficial and ignorant child, madly in love with playboy Captain Phoebus. But hey, at least she has some principles. Cheers to that! I guess…
To be fair, she is also kindhearted when she saves Gringoire (which I am thankful for) and of course, a victim of getting stalked.
And Quasimodo. First of all, for a 600-page book that is called The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, there is not much of our hunchback Quasimodo in it.
I might get a lot of shit for my opinion on him, but I think, that he really is a beast. Even though he is misunderstood, gets mistreated (basically more by the Parisians and Esmeralda than by Frollo I might add) and therefore probably does not understand the basic concepts of human behaviour, he still does unspeakable things. Kind of like Frankenstein’s monster which I also deeply disliked. Do you remember all the heroic stuff the Disney version of Quasimodo did when defending the church and Esmeralda? He does most of it in the book too, but only much more violently and against the good guys (unknowingly though). Deaf or not, if you act like a beast that went apeshit crazy, you get treated like one. So it goes.