The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 2 | Impressions

9780451531513As I had hoped, Book 2 of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo was much more compelling than the first. While the writing remained dense and at times needlessly descriptive, Hugo began weaving a tale that gained my attention.

Book 2 is only fifty pages, just like the first. It was short and mysterious. As we know, Frollo, Esmeralda, and Quasimodo are the focus of the story. However, we saw very little of each. Book 2 followed the poet, Gringoire, following the failure of his morality play. Throughout the scenes we get one glimpse of Archdeacon Frollo, as he drools over Esmeralda’s dancing. We also see Quasimodo in his one moment of “self-love,” while he is paraded as the Pope of Fools. And, as for Esmeralda, we see her dancing in the street, being kidnapped by Quasimodo, and saving Gringoire’s life in The Court of Miracles.

The scene at the Court of Miracles is particularly intriguing. Hugo seems to have done quite a bit of research on gypsy laws in order to write about their culture. However, as far as I can tell, these wonderfully painted scenes have little to do with the actual plot. There is but one moment where Gringoire briefly wonders about the connection between Frollo, Quasimodo’s servitude, and Esmeralda’s kidnapping. However, it is mostly up to the reader to discern Gringoire’s complete thought because Hugo, for once, doesn’t explain what his exact thought was. If you don’t know the gist of the story already, it might be difficult to interpret.

So, though I’ve grown to enjoy Hugo’s narrative, I still am left wanting the beginning of the real story. Who knows? Maybe time will come to show me that all of this seemingly tangential plot is quite important. However, either way I am happy to read it, for it was an enjoyable read. Also, I can’t blame Hugo for leaving the reader in suspense for so long. Without the mystery of it all, I might not be interested at all in his tale because the writing is so opaque.

Reading this is part of a bucket list item to read 60 classic books before I turn thirty years old. To see the complete bucket list, click here.



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