This is a massive study of Paris and of Notre Dame set in the fifteenth century, but written from the viewpoint of the nineteenth century. Hugo gives us not only the magnificence and the horrid secrets of the great cathedral, but the boisterous city over which it stood. Quasimodo, the legendary hunchbacked bellringer of the great church, is the title character.

But the reader is also treated to a small group of individuals, including a high-ranking priest, a beautiful dancing street entertainer, a soldier of fortune, an itinerant poet, and a grieving mother whose lives are intricately woven together in the often painful plot line. The author, obviously deeply entrenched in the history of his city, gives his readers a dense, sometimes chaotic, trip through medieval Paris in all of its allure and its sordidness as his carefully crafted characters come together and gradually destroy one another and/or themselves.


There is no commentary that can do this great work of art credit. The verbal descriptions of medieval Paris--the geography and the humanity--are so alive that the attentive reader is transported. The development of three characters, the hideously physically deformed Quasimodo, the incredibly beautiful but socially unacceptable La Esmeralda, and the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo bring the cathedral and the city into human focus. The result is amazing. This work can be read on so many levels--all of which enable the reader to acquire a deeper sense of the social, religious and political pressures of the period.


First published: 1831. Translated by Walter J. Cobb.



Place Published

New York



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