Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Don't you just love Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Lovely Quasimodo, exotic Esmerelda and dashing Phoebus working together to defeat Frollo. Such a happy, feel-good film. I bet the book is just as joyous, right? Erm... no. If you imagine the exact opposite of the Disney film, you'll have the book. Basically, Disney wrote a nice, family storyline and then used the title and characters of a classic book. It makes no sense! It would be like re-releasing Toy Story under the new title Circles of Hell. Why, Disney? Why?

Since the real storyline is so different, allow me to summarise here. Quasimodo is indeed a hunchbacked bellringer living in Notre Dame under the care of the archdeacon Frollo. However, their relationship is complex: Quasimodo is eager to impress his guardian, who nurtured him with care, albeit on the ruffian side of life. When we first meet the hunchback, he is attempting to kidnap Esmerelda on behalf of Frollo but is caught by Phoebus and put in the stocks. The gypsy Esmerelda saves him but in a twist of fate, she is wrongly accused of attempted murder and Quasimodo devotes himself to repaying her kindness. 

Oh, man. I don't know what to say. I really really wanted to like this book. There are so many aspects of it that I loved: It's almost like a play set around Notre Dame. In fact, the original French title translates to Notre Dame in Paris. The building is a catalyst for all the events and emotion of human life that play out all around the world, captured in this small area and even smaller time frame. The different storylines weave around each other and towards the end merge together, linking characters and their backgrounds together. Hugo's writing is beautiful, especially his descriptions. 
Unfortunately, it's these descriptions that ultimately let me down. My overwhelming lasting impression of this book is how frustrated it made me. Every. Single. Thing is described, down to the most minutae of details. There is an entire chapter- and not a short one, either- dedicated to describing what Notre Dame and the surrounding areas look like from a bird's eye view, which was of no significant relevance to the plot. I found these overlong descriptions slowed down the pace and made the whole book seem a lot more dry than it really was. A real shame as the storylines were so strong.

In retrospect, I'm willing to be more generous than I probably would have done immediately after closing the book. Due to the interesting role of the cathedral, and the way the different plots mimic lives that span the whole breadth of humanity, I'll bump it up a bit to five out of ten.

I love a bit of gothic literature! For other gothic works that I found a lot easier to digest, check out Frankenstein, Dracula or The Picture of Dorian Gray

Affiliate links have been used in this post.

Bloglovin' // Twitter // Instagram

1 comment :

  1. I don't think I've even see the romanticised Disney offering so I will be giving this one a miss :) great review chick, although I did think you were going to be more generous and give it a 7!

    Dannie x


I read all comments and appreciate every single one, even if I can't always reply. If you have a question or need a reply, feel free to tweet me @BeckyBedbug- I always reply to tweets!

Blog Design by Get Polished | Copyright Becky Craggs 2017