Tim's Reviews > Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo
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really liked it
bookshelves: classics

Somewhere in the first hundred pages I had a mini-revelation that Victor Hugo's gothic romance is also one of the pre-cursors of what we today might call "urban fantasy." The wonderful scene where Gringoire finds his way to the Court of Miracles reminded me of nothing so much as Richard Mayhew descending into "London Below" or any other of the countless protagonists who find (to their delight/terror) that the world really is stranger than they thought. Combine that with Hugo's obsessive love of urban geography and you've almost got a Neil Gaiman book.

Almost. Hugo's context, language and preoccupations are quite different, but where modern fantasists generate their atmosphere by subverting reality, Hugo goes for a similar effect by heightening it. And heighten it he does, piling on the goth melodrama -- doomed lovers making poor life choices at critical plot junctures, dungeons, alchemy, gypsies, poets, the gallows and of course the cathedral and its bell-ringer. It's all highly entertaining, but kind of a mess. It's been remade more than a dozen times for film and TV and there's a reason that they almost always rework change the plot. The central story is justifiably iconic, but Hugo clearly doesn't know what to do with the character of Quasimodo, who is almost a cameo in his own book.

That said, if you can wade through the unfocused and highly digressive first half of the book, the story really shines in the homestretch.
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Reading Progress

February 12, 2011 – Shelved
February 12, 2011 – Shelved as: classics
July 14, 2011 – Started Reading
December 10, 2011 –
page 129
March 21, 2012 – Finished Reading

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