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George Guidall is the perfect choice to narrate this sad tale: he brings a gravity to the story that adds to the pathos but does not drag down the narrative.
If you're not familiar with the story, or know it only from the sanitized film versions, be forewarned: there is little here but heartbreak. Quasimodo's fate is more closely tied to Esmeralda's than you might imagine, and Phoebus and Pierre Gringoire are both unmitigated scoundrels. The famous attack on Notre Dame, beaten back by Quasimodo, is not a heroic action but the result of a tragic misunderstanding. It's not a kid's story, maybe not even one for sensitive adolescents.
The novel has some weaknesses. I've read it several times, and I still get annoyed by the long essay on Paris architecture that Hugo drops into the middle of the story. I know his digressions have fans, but I'm not one of them. If the audiobook were organized by chapters, I would suggest skipping over these, especially if this is your first time reading it; but unfortunately it's organized by CD.
All that aside, though - the digressions, the overwhelming sadness of the story - it really is a masterpiece, and in Guidall's hands it retains both its pace and its power. A drop of water and a little pity, says Quasimodo. That's what it was all about.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful
The story of the hunchback is not as well known as that of Les Miserables. There are fewer movies and no Broadway play. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is facinating and horrifying and tragic. I felt immersed in Victor Hugo's Paris of 1482, with its gallows at every crossroads and its levels of local justice. I wept at the end and even felt pity for the evil Arch Deacon. The narrator is excellent although the sound quality, converted from type 1 to type 2, is marginal. The recording should be restored/reconverted properly.
19 of 21 people found this review helpful