6.22.2011

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo

I don't read much. I almost put that I don't read as much as I would like to, but honestly I don't really enjoy reading. It is what I do while I am waiting for something else to happen. I would, however, love to have the information already in my brain. That's the only thing that keeps me reading anything. A strong desire to not miss out.


I've been attempting to read more of the classics for a long while. I can always find them in thrift stores and bookshops for the cheap and I figure they've been around this long for a reason. There are often references to them in pop culture as well that I often miss out on because I hadn't read the book, even if I've absorbed the gist throughout my lifetime.

Often times I struggle through classics. The language can often be a significant barrier and the style of storytelling can quickly lose my interest. Jane Austen has me nailed as an audience, Emily Bronte on the other hand was torture.

For my last two cruises I picked up an old copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo that has been on my shelf for years. I was expecting another excruciating foray into the classics but I was pleasantly surprised. My copy was unabridged which was a big mistake. I found myself self abridging entire chapters describing the layout of Paris.

Other than that, the language was so simple to understand, the characters so well drawn and the story so engaging I barely put it down. The best part of this story to me is how every character's point of view intertwines. Not one of them understand each other fully, they are prejudiced and selfish. Often times, I give up on characters like that as I did with Wuthering Heights. I believe it didn't bother me in this case because the story was woven around so many more characters I wasn't completely inundated with one or two characters rottenness (i.e. Catherine and Heathcliff).

The entire novel is a lesson in selfishness, the foolishness and rashness of unrequieted love. Characters are blinded by themselves and so focused on the ends of their own noses (as Mary Poppins would say) they cannot see the objects of their love and desire for the people that they truly are.

I don't necessarily agree with this book's moral, if it had one. It seems to tell us that passion only serves to blind us to our own actions. It justifies within us behavior we know is wrong. I can't help but believe passion can be beneficial. Passion can be what keeps us going through adversity when all hope seems lost. It can blind us for the better, even if that was not the case for any of The Hunchback's characters.

It was not uplifting, there is no happy ending, at least, for anyone who might deserve it. But it was a great read and I highly recommend it.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame can be found new and used every where. You can also find free e-reader versions for your favorite e-reader and at Project Gutenberg, my own personal favorite site for digital books. If you use Project Gutenberg, please consider donating to enable continued access to public domain classics.

2 comments:

Susan said...
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Susan said...

You brought me back with this one. I read it in French first, then English. I think it did make a lot of sense, but you are right - blind passion can be for the betterment, now always detriment.