The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a story of a place. There are many characters who move in and out of the place, but it seems that all play a secondary role to the place itself. The main character in the tale is not so much the hunchback as it is Notre Dame. And the novel offers a very beautiful telling of that place and how it shapes the lives of everyone who comes in contact with it.
Hugo's tale of the church at Notre Dame offers us a close-up look at the juxtaposition of beauty and the hideous that often exist in our sacred spaces. It explores the vices often to be found in organized religion, at times probing into the question of whether the sacred is worth the vices that often attach themselves to it. The church is obviously beautiful, a place to be revered, but it is also full of hideous gargoyles with hearts of cold stone. This pairing of the holy and the hideous seems to be the main interest of the novel.
Other themes are also deftly raised and explored, including notions of love, guilt, friendship, adoration, and worship. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a profound text written by a profound thinker. Its ability to provoke thought and discussion makes it a book that is worth reading and rereading.
Reviewed by Shelly Bryant 2010