One of the most beloved gothic romances ever written, and a poignant evocation of life in medieval Paris and the grand towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Hated by the people of Paris for his deformity, bell ringer Quasimodo lives in Notre Dame Cathedral by the good graces of his guardian, Archdeacon Claude Frollo. But Frollo’s commitment to Christian charity is giving way to his obsession with a young gypsy girl named Esmerelda. Driven to win her over at any cost, Frollo turns from his faith to practice alchemy. When Quasimodo is tortured and publicly humiliated for his part in Frollo’s scheme, Esmerelda alone shows him pity. And when she is wrongly accused of a crime, only Quasimodo can provide the sanctuary she needs.
Originally published under the title Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo’s tragic story of love and persecution has been adapted into numerous films, stage plays, and other mediums. Famous for its epic depiction of Paris and people of all walks of life, this classic tale inspired the works of novelists Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Charles Dickens, among others.
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Children who have had a taste of Hugo's 18th-century epic through the animated film may find this version, with its absence of song, rather sobering. Wynne-Jones (Some of the Kinder Planets) makes no attempt to soften the harsh story of the hideously deformed, big-hearted Quasimodo, who escapes ridicule only in the sanctuary of the cathedral. Although the narrative is fluent and conversational, children may need guidance through some of the more challenging vocabulary and occasional wordy passages. The irony in Hugo's novel is preserved here, as when Wynne-Jones draws a delicious parallel between church and state: Quasimodo is deaf because "the bells of the church had made him that way"; the judge who sentences the deformed man to a flogging "is as deaf as Quasimodo. The court had made him that way." Still, the deeper implications of the story will likely be lost on children. Dramatically framing the text are Slavin's (Extra! Extra! The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Newspapers) subtly hued, skillfully composed paintings. His mastery of detail, especially in period dress and architecture, makes turbulent medieval Paris appear real--sometimes frighteningly so. This polished, thoughtful collaboration may serve as an authentic preview to Hugo's classic, but may be best appreciated with an adult standing by. Ages 5-8.