The Hunchback of Notre DameThe Hunchback of Notre Dame
Year: 1831
Author: Victor Hugo
Length: 1,136 minutes / 18.93 hours

Victor Hugo is one of those classic authors who I’ve hesitated reading because his stories tend to have a lot of details that don’t necessarily add to the plot. Sure, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is no Les Miserables, but Hugo’s style made this book perhaps a little longer than it should have been. Either way, now I know a lot more about the architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral. Despite all this, the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is timeless in many ways, not the least of which centers around its titular character.

While modern stories are vying to be inclusive and diverse, Victor Hugo managed to write a story in the 1800s that not only included a disabled individual but racially diverse characters (at least for France) as well. The fact that both are sympathetic protagonists helps cement Quasimodo and Esmerelda in my mind. They’re both persecuted in their own ways; ostracized from a society that wants homogeneity more than diversity. Sound familiar? Perhaps this is why this book maintains a timeless quality. Even with the slight twist in the ending, the harassment endured by these individuals doesn’t dampen their kind spirits.

For those who might be more familiar with the Disney version of this story, the movie adaptation is more along the lines of a kid-friendly (i.e., sanitized) version of the basic plot. There is quite a bit more violence and “romance” involved in this story—not to mention the obvious absence of talking gargoyles—which I felt made it a little more convoluted than it had to be. Still, Hugo’s way with words was mesmerizing throughout, even if I know that they’ve been through the filter of a translator. If Les Miserables is daunting to you, perhaps try warming up with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, first. You won’t be disappointed.

A timeless classic full of diverse characters and exciting action, I give The Hunchback of Notre Dame 4.0 stars out of 5.

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