Flatiron Books: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Rediscover: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

After the tragic fire Monday in Paris, sales of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame have gone through the roof. Hugo began writing the book in 1829, in large part to highlight the value of gothic architecture around Paris and in Notre Dame in particular. Many other such structures had been demolished and replaced. The cathedral was in disrepair, and suffered from unwise stewardship decisions, such as replacing several medieval stained glass panels with white glass to let in more light. These concerns show why The Hunchback of Notre-Dame includes so many lengthy descriptive passages that otherwise seem to exceed narrative necessity.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame takes place in 1482, during the reign of Louis XI. The titular hunchback, Quasimodo, lives in Notre Dame as a ward of Archdeacon Claude Frollo. When Frollo lusts after a young gypsy dancer named Esmeralda, he orders Quasimodo to capture her. He fails, but falls in love with Esmeralda when she helps him through a torturous ordeal. The ending is far more grim than Disney's 1996 animated adaptation. --Tobias Mutter