(5/7/09: THIRD time reading this book... this time around is the unabridged version for book club. I'm so excited to re-enter the wo...moreMay 1992 April 2006
(5/7/09: THIRD time reading this book... this time around is the unabridged version for book club. I'm so excited to re-enter the world of Edmund Dantes. [Don't bother me right now... I'm reading!:]) (5/31/09: FINISHED.)
I love to dissect books and trace every subtlety, every symbol, every motif. But for me to do so now seems an overwhelming task. It seems the more I love a book, the less I am able to rise to this occasion - but not without desire.
Death, darkness and revenge balanced with life, light and forgiveness; it circulates in this book with every character and every relationship. The writing is impeccable and addictive and with an amount double in size from the abridged, the full account was an extended gift.
It is simultaneously adventurous, pastoral; blasphemous and scriptural. Every character is real to me. Each is loved and abhorred. In each of them I find myself.
**spoiler alert** I am swimming in self-congratulations after trudging along (8 months to get myself to read past page 49!)and FINALLY completing this...more**spoiler alert** I am swimming in self-congratulations after trudging along (8 months to get myself to read past page 49!)and FINALLY completing this book! It did pick up (It only took two days to read after I started chapter 5!), but I still take issue with the book.
The variations of The Phantom of the Opera are too well known to give the original a fair review. (The only justice to the book is that the original black and white movie was so awful, I would have preferred the book. But how can this book compare with the well-known operetta and now, the Emmy Rossum version?)
With no Hollywood competition in existence and taking the book at face value, I'm sure it was a great thriller of the day. But the writing style (at least the English translation) wasn't fluid. I wish Leroux would have incorporated all the details of Erik's (don't get me started on the stupid choice of a name!)life into the story line rather than the Epilogue. I thought Christine whiny; Raoul a pansy... and the Persian was so secondary a character from the beginning... why did he feature so prominent in the end?
As for complimentary critique: I love that Christine can show pity and love for Eric to finally touch his heart. I know many freak out in the play/movie when she kisses him... but for me that is the saving grace... true mercy and love.
I gave it three stars... but secretly I think 2 1/2 is closer. In short, the movie is better.(less)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame compares and contrasts the grotesque and the beautiful… and the variations between. As i...more Victor Hugo’s writing is sublime.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame compares and contrasts the grotesque and the beautiful… and the variations between. As is Hugo’s talent, a multitude of characters weave in and out of the story, creating a tapestry with depth and meaning.
Thanks to Mr. Disney (who has created a fairly decent, though rudimentary, replication of this book) we are aware of the comparisons of Claude Frollo and Quasimodo (“Who is the man, and who is the monster?”); the age-old cliché of not judging a book by it’s cover. But Hugo’s take is so much more complex than this. EVERY character in his book is contrasted with the figure of Quasimodo. And against Quasimodo, every figure falls short and appears deformed. (Example: Even Claude Frollo’s name is a play on his inner deformity. “Eia! Eia! Claudius cum claudo! [Hey, Claude with the cripple.]” p. ___)
Quasimodo is braver than Gringoire (but then … who ISN’T braver than Gringoire – that Spineless Chicken!). He is the savior to Esmeralda that Phoebus should have been. His beauty (or lack thereof) is compared to Esmeralda, but her beauty cannot save her from being blind to Phoebus’ shallowness, something Quasimodo can clearly see:
“On waking one morning she saw in her window two vases full of flowers. One was in a bright, handsome crystal vase but cracked; it had let all the water escape, and the flowers it contained were faded. The other vase was of earthenware, rude and common, but had kept all the water, so that its flowers remained fresh and blooming. I know not whether it was done to convey a message, but La Esmeralda took the faded flowers and wore them all day in her bosom (p. 378).”
We can even find a comparison with King Louis XI. Quasimodo was King of Fools… but perhaps a better king even so.
Hugo has taken the most abhorrent, ugly, grotesque (thing) he could imagine and compared it to every other character in his novel as if to weigh the scales … and in the end, “It” alone stood most beautiful, most holy, most true.
Layer this with the comparison of Quasimodo and the structure of Notre Dame, both pieced together in haphazard fashion, yet standing as a symbol of strength and security. “And it is certain that, between this creature and this edifice, there was a sort of mysterious and pre-existing harmony (p. 148).”
*** Some would say that Hugo has his digressions. To me, those chapters were perfection in their own right. Perhaps my favorite was “The Book will kill the Edifice” discussion.
“Printing! And make no mistake about it! Architecture is dead, irrevocably dead, killed by the printed book, killed because it is less durable, killed because it is more costly (p.186).”
“The Bible resembles the pyramids; the Illiad, the Parthenon; Homer, Phidias. Dante in the thirteenth century is the last Romanesque church; Shakespeare, in the sixteenth, the last Gothic cathedral. Thus to recapitulate briefly, the human race has two books, two registers, two testaments: architecture and printing, the stone Bible and the paper Bible… The press, that giant engine, incessantly gorging all the intellectual sap of society, incessantly vomits new material for its work. The entire human race is its scaffolding. Every mind is its mason... Every day a new tier is raised… Certainly, these too are structures, growing and piling themselves up in endless spirals; her, too, there is a confusion of languages, untiring labor, incessant activity, a furious competition of all humanity, a promised refuge for the intelligence against another deluge, against another submersion by the barbarians. It is the second Tower of Babel of the human race (pp. 187-88).”
* I also loved Book III, i the “Notre Dame” chapter! (less)
After fourteen years of German, two here and two there of Spanish, and three self-taught years of Russian in college, I came to realize that my heart...moreAfter fourteen years of German, two here and two there of Spanish, and three self-taught years of Russian in college, I came to realize that my heart wanted me to be learning French. (Don't even begin to rationalize with me about the necessity of some of these languages.)
I followed Ms. Espinasse's blog for a couple of years. Her book reads just the same: like a "Word-A-Day" calender, only filled with charming insights and experiences pertaining to each entry.
As I read and reread each new term trying to emblazon it into my memory, I found that whether or not I could recall the correct word at the needed moment, I savored the immersion into her Provençale life and experiences.
This book functions both as a vocabulary builder (for idiomatic phrases and slang as well) and a fun glimpse into French culture. There were moments when I pitied the displaced American, whose intelligence was obvious but who had to feel the inferiority of her language abilities at the hand of her own children (what mother doesn't want her children to think that she is brilliant?).
A few criticisms: It became bothersome to flip to the next page to learn the translation for some of the words (a critique also mentioned by her son in the book) and I regretted that she had not provided pronunciations for her list of vocabulary.