Rating: 4 stars
Is it bad I kinda like the Disney adaptation more?
I buddy read this with Nana, though it was a reread for her.
I really don’t understand why I’m perpetually surprised when classics read like regular books. Maybe it’s simply because they’ve been lauded and put up on this pedestal, so they have to be so different. But no, they follow the same schemes of style as every other book, just with slightly more archaic language and unabashed use of the word “ejactulated” when describing someone speaking abruptly. Regardless, this was all-in-all a solid novel. It took you through many different characters and their lives in true Hugo fashion, touching on almost every aspect of society. It also, in true Hugo fashion, ends with a lot of deaths, but what was I really expecting?
Honestly, the only thing that really bothered me was those overly long interludes solely about irrelevant historical facts. They didn’t add anything to the story, and when they did (if ever) become relevant, they were simply reiterated. I understand that this novel helped encourage historical architectural preservation (and basically saved Notre Dame itself; oof Hugo must be rolling in his grave after the fire 😬) but was it really necessary to go on a tangent for 2 hours about the fashion of the era and how some building was constructed? I’m here for dramatic irony, not an education, dang it!
And, while enjoyable enough, what was up with that entire section dedicated to the King? I feel like it went on slightly too long, though it did increase my suspense nicely.
Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin. The inexplicable fact is that the blinder it is, the more tenacious it is. It is never stronger than when it is completely unreasonable.
La Esmeralda: Can this girl shut up about Phoebus????? If she wasn’t such an obsessed, naive idiot then she’d have saved everyone a whole world of hurt. I honestly don’t have a lot of sympathy for her, which surprised me, as her Disney counterpart is one of my favorite characters of all time. I understand that she’s very young, but 15/16 is old enough to know when a guy just isn’t interested. She honestly reminded me of Eponine from Les Misérables and that girl annoyed the heck out of me. I did appreciate the thing that happened at the end, as I saw it coming and it was a great moment of catharsis (especially for a Hugo novel, because you never know if these things will actually happen or just be dramatically ironic and ruin your life). But then she destroyed it as she’s wont to do.
Phoebus: This dude was a classic f-boy and I absolutely loved it. Everything about him, from his pompous arrogance to his idiocy was hilarious. Perhaps the reason I’m okay with him but not with Esmeralda’s antics is that he’s true to himself and his actions don’t necessarily put anyone in harm’s way, besides being the impetus for Frollo’s and Esmeralda’s story (but they could have stopped at any time but I digress) And that final stinger about him really gets me rolling.
Quasimodo: He was endearing and likable, but I didn’t connect to his character as much as I was hoping to. Perhaps because he was so enamored with Esmeralda even though she’s kind of the worst.
Frollo: Perhaps the most disappointing character of all. Is it a sin to say that I prefer almost every other interpretation of this character to the wimpy, whiny mess of a man I got in the original novel? He’s fascinating on a structural level, but in actuality, he kind of annoyed me more than he intrigued me. He’s honestly the crying Toby Maguire of Frollo’s and it’s kind of sad more than anything. As far as humanized villains go, though, I appreciated him for what he was.
Pierre Gringore: Hands down my favorite character, possibly ever. I absolutely love this man. He’s a total riot and his nonchalant ability to get out of any unfortunate situation by simply talking long enough really kept me going in this book. And the ongoing joke about how much he loves Djali was the best thing ever. Honestly, I’m so surprised why he doesn’t feature in a lot of adaptations, namely the Disney one. His inherent humor would have meshed really well (and maybe they could have cut those gargoyles lol)
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this book. But I did, really! The narrative voice was so engaging, Gringore so hilarious, the philosophical musing so relevant, and the setting so evocative, that I had an overall great time. I’m sure I’ll enjoy this more on a second go. For now, I’m gonna rewatch the Disney movie and wonder for the millionth time why they made Frollo more evil and NSFW when it’s a children’s movie 🤷♀️
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