The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victor Hugo
1831

The tragic love of Quasimodo, ringer of the bells at Notre Dame cathedral, for the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. Much pulling of the heart-strings, a little adventure, and a finale including two bodies intertwined in the grave, turning to dust together. Hunchback is a masterpiece of Hugo’s, a massive epic that wrote the novel as though it were grand theatre, and inspired others who are recognized as masters in their own right – Balzac, Dickens, Proust.

Hugo gave us Quasimodo and Esmeralda, one of the great love stories of literature, but Hunchback is important, too, for its impact on the development of the novel: it is perhaps the first panoramic historical novel, sweeping all of life, the greatest and the smallest, into its narrative; it brought us the first central character whose primary role is to bear silent witness to the unfolding history of the time; it made beggars and street-urchins active players, characters in their own right. And Notre Dame, the famed cathedral – this book played a large part in making it what it is, the architecture of the place playing such a significant role that it spawned a revival in the gothic style and resulted in a massive restoration of the church.

It’s a big deal in literary history, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And nothing like the Disney version.

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