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Here is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by his own damnation. Shaped by a profound sense of tragic irony, it is a work that gives full play to the author's brilliant imagination.

Let's set the scene...

Although with a late start, the Gilmore girls arrive to the intimidating and historic Chilton Academy for Rory's first day.  Rory in her brand-new, neatly-pressed Chilton uniform, while Lorelai is outfitted in Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots.  Classy!

As they pull up to the front of the school, the follow conversation ensues...

Rory:  I remember it being smaller.
Lorelai:  Yeah.  And less...
Rory:  ...Off with their heads.
Lorelai:  Yeah.  [tilts her had and peers up at the building]
Rory:  What are you looking at?
Lorelai:  I'm just trying to see if there's a hunchback up in that bell tower.


My thoughts:

Although the book is titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo's story focuses mainly on the building itself rather than the fear-inducing, yet tenderhearted Quasimodo.  In fact, the original title of the book was Notre-Dame de Paris (Notre Dame of Paris), and a previous translation changed it to The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Notre Dame is truly the main character of this tale... Claude Frollo, Esmeralda, Quasimodo and Pierre Gringoire are simply present to assist the author in telling the historic cathedral's story.  Aside from Notre Dame, the author takes you through the differences in the face of Paris between the 1400s and "present day" (the 1800s)... how the architecture changed, what additions were created and therefore ruined the structures themselves, what portions of the buildings were created by which groups of people.  Although Hugo argues (for MANY pages) that the invention of print ruined architecture forever, it's obvious through his description of the history of Paris through it's buildings, that this is not entirely the case.  In fact, it could be said that print and architecture have worked together to ensure that the history of a place is never lost.  Architecture tells the story, and print ensures that that story is captured for all time.


Aside from the building itself, Hugo has written a heartbreaking tragedy of what havoc unrequited love can wreak on the people involved.  In this story, unrequited love is essentially the catalyst of a civil uprising that changes the history of Paris forever.  Once again, an author speaks to the all-encompassing, damaging, earth-shattering power of love.  In this book, love doesn't move mountains... it maims, it murders, it destroys.  There are many types of love described in this book... a forbidden, one-sided love between Frollo and Esmeralda, a fatherly love between Quasimodo and Frollo, a love of convenience between Gringoire and Esmeralda, a blind love between Esmeralda and Phoebus and a protective love between Quasimodo and Esmeralda.  The only true love in this entire tale is that between Quasimodo and the cathedral itself.  The only place he is understood is underneath that rose window, between those flying buttresses.  The bells (Marie, Thibauld and Jacqueline) and the gargoyles that protect the edifice of this majestic building are Quasimodo's true friends and family (when even his adopted father betrays him).  Notre Dame protects the hunchback during the attack by the vagabonds as it has protected him from the stares and insults from the people of Paris his entire life.  Although the title of the book misleads the reader in believing that Quasimodo's story is the central purpose for Hugo's writing... Quasimodo is still the heart of this tale.  

Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?

It was actually a little more difficult for me to make a selection for this book.  The easy way out would've been Michel (look, he's French... therefore, he must love stories about Paris), but I didn't want to come across as lazy.  And quite frankly, I couldn't see Michel reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the Stars Hollow gazebo.  He'd most likely be turned off by Quasimodo's hideous countenance and run off to cleanse his palate by staring at photos of beautiful people (Celine Dion, perhaps).  And although Luke isn't a big reader, I could see him being  interested in this particular tale.

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