A Mad Priest, a Deformed Bell Ringer, and an Enchanting Outcast

Bonjour everyone!

I am so excited to be writing about this, and this is actually a book review this time. It’s been forever since I’ve done one of these, but now I think would be the best time to do one again. Are you ready? I sure hope I am because this is going to be a really deep one compared to the previous ones I’ve done.

You know, most people tend to write book reviews and do just that only on their blogs, but I don’t find myself doing that. Perhaps I was meant to do this on my blog, but it’s not the only thing I want to do here, and when I do it, I do it when I want to.

Ever since October I’ve been reading Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and my love for Disney’s adaptation of the story inspired me to pick up the original story.

This book was hard to follow for the most part because, it began introducing things I was not familiar with, but eventually as I got into understanding what was really going on, that was when I couldn’t put it down. If you’re someone who is looking to read about a certain character, this book requires a lot of patience because you will be reading about a lot of detailed events and of characters you may not know before you get to the good stuff. I won’t say much regarding the plot because of the depth, and most of you should know it already, but let’s just say the similarities to the movie I have found while reading were that:
  • So many people are captivated by Esmeralda’s beauty, but at the same time there are people who loathe her
  • Quasimodo is publicly humiliated, but not because he tried to venture into society, but because he was charged with trying to kidnap Esmeralda
  • Claude Frollo is celibate but eventually comes to lust for Esmeralda and that drives him insane.
So basically, it’s like the entire story is more about those who are captivated by Esmeralda, and all those who fight over her end up paying the the consequences, while she is charged for murder of who she really loves; Phoebus. When I was reading all of this, I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t about Quasimodo, it was about mainly Frollo and Esmeralda and they both evolve greatly throughout the book.
In the book, Esmeralda is 16 years old and still the gypsy dancer we know and love. She goes through a lot in this novel, and even marries the poet Gringoire to save him from being hanged when he trespasses into the Court of Miracles. I found her to be a lot more timid in the book, whereas in the movie she is very independent. But, there was one thing that annoyed me about her, and that is once she fell for Phoebus, all she talked about was him. Even after Frollo visits her and rambled about why he loved her so much, all she could say “What has become of Phoebus?” over and over again. You can tell right away she’s in to him when he invites her to the home of his fiancee, until they start to make fun of her. When she’s finally alone with her precious Phoebus, it’s a shame that all he does is pretend to love her. She eventually does plead for help when her life is at stake, and when I thought that the chapters that weren’t about any of the characters I knew, I discovered they played their part in foreshadowing the events to come near the end.
The women kept talking about sister Gudule who despised the gypsies believing they stole her daughter Agnes leaving her only a little shoe to remember her by. Frollo unknowingly leaves Esmeralda with her after she rejects his advances again, as he has made a deal with Gudule previously. 

By that point I really could not put the book down when I discovered that Esmeralda in fact the long lost daughter of sister Gudule as she is in possession of the other shoe. Everything seemed to be turning out all joyful until the guards found and kill them both. So, in a sense, Frollo quells his lust for her; it’s like he wins until what comes afterward.
There is so much I want to say about Frollo since he is my favourite character in this classic story. When I read this book, I felt like the title should be related to him rather than Quasimodo instead. Like: The Archdeacon of Notre Dame. I’ve seen some book reviews where people say that!
Anyway, Frollo is such a deep and tragic character in this book. Any chapter about him I was so absorbed in. He seems highly devoted to educating himself and found a sense of compassion in him when his younger brother Jehan came into his life. At the same time, you get suspicious about what he is hiding. The Parisians know him as the archdeacon but his deep religious views and the secrets he hides from others makes you question as to whether he can be trusted or not. He has his passions but keeps them hidden as much as possible, and most of them seem to take place in that one cell within the Notre Dame, which is how the rumors are spread.
I also really liked his relationship with Quasimodo in this book, as he adopts the boy and raises him. He is kinder to the hunchback and even takes him for walks outside the cathedral. But once Esmeralda enters the picture, there is something inside of Frollo that makes him struggle with inner demons. As a priest, he is celibate, and it’s like part of him is saying “No, I have my duty, it’s too risky” and “I can’t resist her, she is so beautiful,”. In the movie we remember when he sings Hellfire we realize he has made the choice to pursue her but fears it will lead to eternal damnation which is why he pleads with the Virgin Mary before acting out on his choice.
Eventually he does come to the decision to pursue Esmeralda in the book by first having her abducted, and when that fails, he interrupts her night with Phoebus by stabbing him. You eventually begin to see how obsessive he has become when he visits Esmeralda in his cell to confess his feelings and revealed the wound he had given himself out of the inner conflict he has suffered from his inability to resist her. 
The moment when he leaves the city in rage assuming she is dead, we truly begin to understand how far he has gone, that he has allowed his lustful feelings to do this to him, to destroy him in a way. He was once a good person who cared for his brother and adopted son until his strong passion took over him. Yet, through it all, he never gave up on it such as when he tries to rape her, and then finally decides to have her turned in. The final interaction between the two before she refuses and he gives her to Gudule, and then his demonic laugh just before he meets his fate proves that he has become as malevolent as we have feared he would. Unlike in the movie, he wasn’t seen as evil from the start, he was originally someone who did good will until his lust drove him to insanity which led him to do something that could perhaps be considered evil. 
In regards to Quasimodo, I’d say there are some aspects of him that follow the movie, but like I said, the book wasn’t much about him as I thought it would. He is kindhearted but also has a hostile side, and he is also deaf due to ringing the bells. I found that he was much more attached to his home in the bell tower rather than wanted to get out into society and he is completely loyal to Frollo since the priest does not abuse or manipulate him in any way. 
Over all, like most readers would expect, this book is definitely darker than the movie, even creepier when at the end it is discovered that Quasimodo eventually lay with Esmeralda’s body and their remains were discovered together.
I’d give this book the highest rating possible, but an A+ will have to be sufficient, it’s something I will definitely find myself rereading one day.
If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend you do.

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