“Hunchback of Notre Dame” Book Review

By Carrie Walls

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo has a great storyline, however it is extremely hard to read and follow the content. Having performed the musical version recently at my high school, I am already aware of the plot. Yet still, it is hard to figure out exactly what part the book is at due to the language barrier between the 19th century and present times.

The novel by Hugo is about a boy named Quasimodo, who wishes more than anything to go outside and explore the world. However, he cannot do this because of Dom Claude Frollo, his master and uncle. Quasimodo is adopted by Claude when his father, Jehan passes away. To spare himself from embarrassment, Claude keeps Quasimodo up in the bell towers of Notre Dame his whole life. Eventually, on January 6th, 1482, Quasimodo escapes the clutches of the bell towers to explore the Feast of Fools. He meets many new people such as Esmeralda, Phoebus, and Clopin, and goes on a complete journey of love, heartbreak, and friendship from there.

This Gothic fiction novel was written in the point of view of a narrator, who also takes role as the author of the book; he refers to himself multiple times as he tells the tale. Therefore one can assume the author himself, Victor Hugo, is the narrator. The point of view allows for a good in-depth display of each character, and an excellent display of the setting. There are pages upon pages of pure detail that is depicted, making the reader feel as if he/she is in 15th century France.

Hugo’s message is fairly easy to understand; however that may again be because I have participated in the musical before. His formal language is extremely hard to understand and figure out, especially as I do not know what half of the words mean. He is very in depth with his ideas and thoughts, and I’m sure if I lived in the time I would comprehend them better. Even though I struggled a bit with completely understanding the novel, I still enjoyed the characters and the plot. My favorite character is Quasimodo, because I can relate to him and some way and I feel an extreme emotion connection towards him. He just wants to explore and fit in, which I can relate to. When I first moved to Garnet Valley, all I wanted to do was fit in. However, both Quasimodo and I realized it’s better to be ourselves and not try to be someone we’re not.

Overall, I would recommend this book if people are fans of the Disney movie and/or the musical. It is difficult to understand, however, so I would recommend that you have a good understanding of 1800s literature and language before you attempt to read it. It’s a delightful tale of friendship, love, and peril. Victor Hugo incorporates a great display of detail and is certainly a wonderful writer.

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