Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Kindle edition by Hugo, Victor ...

“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” is a story set in 15th century France with a quirky and contrasting approach. The novel exposes the hypocrisy of religion, declares the bankruptcy of asceticism, praises kindness, love and self-sacrifice of the lower working people, and reflects Hugo’s humanitarian thoughts. “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” is a tragedy in which the good innocent people were tortured and persecuted under the autocratic system. The heroine Esmeralda is a kind and pure young girl.

When the peddler poet, Granger, strayed late at night into a gathering place for vagabonds and beggars in Paris, and was about to be killed, she came forward and offered to marry him, taking him under her protection, though she did not love him. When Quasimodo was whipped in the blazing sun and cried out in pain of thirst, she was the only one who sympathized with the hideous bell-ringer who had hijacked her in the middle of the night. She thought the world was as pure as her, and she died in passionate love with the heartless Phoebus. She was steadfast in character, willing to die before Claude’s insolence. She was the darling of the vagabonds and beggars of Paris, but self-supporting and undefiled.

Hugo put such a bright image in the dark background of the Middle Ages, describing how the society ruled by despotism and rampant with the power of the church threatened her and persecuted her like a huge net, strangling her by horrible means. The religious fanaticism of Bohemian maidens, the vicious plots of church figures to satisfy their vile and animal desires, the brutality of the despotic state regime… all of these are described by Hugo in a romantic way as terrible as a nightmare.

Through this description, the author shows the darkness of the feudal autocratic society and highlights an anti-feudal theme of the work. Whether it’s Crowder or Quasimodo, they’re people of society at the end of the day. The division and conflict in their hearts reflected the division and conflict between theocracy and human rights, ignorance and knowledge seeking in their time, between the huge and heavy dark system and the struggling of vulnerable individuals, which finally led to the tragic end of all the characters.The literary value and social significance of “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” have a far-reaching influence. This novel, breaking the shackles of classicism, is a milestone in romantic works. Since its release, the novel has been adapted into numerous films, cartoons and plays.

-Coreen C.

Father Goriot by Honoré·de Balzac

Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

“Father Goriot” focuses on exposing and criticizing the naked money relationship between people in the capitalist world. The novel is set in Paris between the end of 1819 and the beginning of 1820. It mainly tells two parallel and overlapping stories. Retired flour-maker Goriot was neglected by his two daughters and died miserably in the attic of an apartment. The young Rastignac changed constantly under the corrosion of Paris society, but he still maintained justice and morality.

It’s also interspersed with stories about Madame de Beauséant and Madame Vauquer. Through the alternating main stages of shabby apartments and luxurious aristocratic salons, the writer paints a picture of the materialistic and extremely ugly society of Paris. It reveals the moral decay of the bourgeoisie under the control of the power of money and the ruthlessness between people, and reveals the inevitable destruction of the aristocracy under the attack of the bourgeoisie, which truly reflects the characteristics of the Bourbon Restoration period.

In “Father Goriot”, Balzac successfully depicts the complex relationship between class and class consciousness through the fate of Eugène de Rastignac and Goriot. This complex relationship has a historical basis. As two different classes, the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie have different economic bases, lifestyles and values, and occupy a dominant position in different historical periods. In France, in this sense, both the rise of Eugène de Rastignac and the fall of Goriot are the inevitable products of certain historical situations. The context set in the novel is 1819.

Although it was the restoration period of Bourbon, the regression was only partial, and the overall trend of historical development could not be reversed. The capitalist mode of production became increasingly stable, and the bourgeois consciousness inevitably became increasingly dominant. The gradual dominance of bourgeois consciousness not only means that the aristocracy is defeated on the whole, but also means that some individual aristocrats are incorporated by the bourgeoisie, such as Eugène de Rastignac.

This shows that the rule of the aristocracy was not only defeated from the outside, but ultimately collapsed from the inside as well. At the same time, the process eliminated members of the bourgeoisie who were not pure, such as Goriot. The bourgeoisie was consolidated from within. This shows the complexity of the historical process in which the bourgeoisie replaced the aristocracy. The struggle between the two took place not only externally, but also internally, not only in the form of revolution, but also in the form of ideological struggle.

Madame de Beauséant and Vautrin are the smartest people in the world. They had insight into a society that was respectable on the outside but dirty underneath. They were Eugène de Rastignac’s worthy mentors, and without them the young peasant would not have awakened so quickly. However, in addition to the words of these two teachers, it was also due to the example of Goriot that finally enlightened Eugène de Rastignac. We do not say this to regard Goriot as a bad man, or to say that he had done something unseemly.

Goriot died alone after his two daughters had bled him clean of his poor savings, and Eugène de Rastignac was a witness to the whole course of this tragic event. It was from here that Eugène de Rastignac saw through the world’s sordid society and was no longer under any illusion about the so-called justice, affection, friendship and so on between people. Therefore, he was determined to enter the upper class arena as a challenger. Sure enough, after some struggles, when the reader sees the young man again in one of Balzac’s other works, he has already mixed up a personal image.

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities is a piece of classic literature that many teenagers are required to read in English class. Which mean that when many people including me go into reading this book, it is in the mindset of getting it finished for class. Of course, reading for school also seems like a chore.

The book, however, is not horrible. Though, it is quite difficult to read and has a storyline that is confusing. Which makes reading this book take a long time because to truly understand what is going on, it has to be read slowly and be comprehended. But, reading books in this style of old English is a skill and does get easier over time.

This story is placed in the late 1700s and is focused on both England and France during the French revolution. Which makes it interesting for those who are into history. It gives an insight into life during the revolution and the turmoil and chaos that followed it.

The main character that the story follows is Charles Darnay, who travels between both France and England, as well as Lucy Manette and her father Dr. Manette who are the other main characters of the story. They allow the reader to have insight into the personal life of someone during the French Revolution and gives a different side to this historical event other than the typical reading from a textbook.

Throughout the story, there is a lot of drama, with long sections of suspense can be captivating but also off-putting for it seems as if there is no end in sight. There are long sections of buildup which are often partially resolved. Especially with Mr. and Mrs. Defarge who both help and betray Darnay. They also a large role in the revolution.

Overall, this story is confusing but is worth reading at least once. It gives a reader a better understanding of reading literature and of the past. It does take a while to read but, as the story goes on it become more interesting. This book is good for someone looking for a challenge.

-Ava G.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

From the author of the well-known The Three Musketeers comes The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic tale of romance, adventure, and overarching revenge.

In 1815, Edmond Dantès, a talented sailor on the cusp of marriage, finds his golden life stolen away from him when he is cruelly betrayed by his supposed comrades. Branded a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Dantès, innocent and heartbroken, has no idea the scale of the conspiracy presented against him. Of the three co-conspirators, all were considered the unfortunate man’s “friends”: M. Danglars, a fellow sailor who was desirous of supplanting Dantès as captain of their ship; M. Fernand, who loved the woman Dantès was to marry; and M. de Villefort, who ignored his duty as a man of law and sent a faultless young man to prison to protect his murderous father.

However easily they may have gotten away with their crime in round one, they certainly did not keep up their success in round two. After spending fourteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Edmond Dantès sets himself at liberty, and returns to France as the enigmatic Count of Monte Cristo, the man everyone knows yet no one does.

Receiving wealth beyond belief from a fellow inmate, the count, tenacious and patient, not only avails himself of the opportunity to exact revenge on the malicious men he blindly trusted, he also uses his immense wealth and munificence to benefit the lives of those who helped him in the past.

In the midst of all this, however, life goes on, and romantic intrigues, marriage refusals, and the like all continue on in the background of a slow-moving chess game only the Count of Monte Cristo knows is being played.

Mind racing, excitement overtaking, any reader, no matter what genre they prefer to read, will root for the vengeful Count of Monte Cristo, and condemn his enemies to their given punishments.

-Mahak M. 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

allthelightwecannotsee_anthonydoerrWhen I’m recommended a World War II book, my mind immediately thinks of shooting, and guns, and war. But this is not one of THOSE books. I could honestly say it impacted my perspective on life. Not to mention it won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Anthony Doerr’s historical fiction, All the Light We Cannot See follows the story of two individuals who could not be more different. Marie-Laure, a blind, French girl, and Werner, an orphan, German boy grow up separately. Living in Paris, Marie-Laure’s father helps her with her eyesight disability by creating a tangible model of her city. But when she is 12, Marie-Laure and her father escape Paris after it is taken over by the Nazis and flee to Saint-Malo and her uncle in France.

Werner, an extremely bright boy, grows up in a small mining town with his sister. They find a broken radio that he fixes and is soon recruited at an academy for Hitler Youth. He eventually is dispatched on the field to track radios operated by the resistance.

The book explores the hardships these children have to face as they grow up in a war zone, but with a light mood. The book beautifully explores the potential of humanity. The innocent, humbling characters find hope in places with no light to be seen. In this way, this story did not include all the cliches of war books.

From the first word to the very last, Doerr somehow painted a beautiful, poetic picture of their lives during this depressing time. Marie-Laure and Werner were children finding their own way in a corrupt world. Their motivating strength to survive was the main thing that inspired me live life and find light and hope, even in the darkest places. You may not be able to see the light, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there for you to discover.

-Megan A.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. IT can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Roseblood by A. G. Howard

Image result for rose blood

From this beloved author we were told how Lewis Carroll wrote the stories wrong: how Wonderland is actually not a child’s world, but one of twisted madness, Tim Burton like worlds, and hot guys who wear hats and vine like tattoos. Now, get to learn that we also have a beloved opera that has been written wrong.

Enter into a world based in France, where the school Rune Germain has transferred to has its own Phantom of the Opera. Rune’s life is complicated: she was almost killed by her grandma, nearly killed a boy by kissing him, and on top of all that, her voice was cursed, causing her to let out faint sounds every time she sings. Meanwhile, young Thorn lives with a man named Erik, who is the phantom of the opera and has mask covering the burnt portion of his face. Thorn must do what Erik says, even if it is wrong, for reasons kept secret. What happens when Rune and Thorn’s destined fates cross? A lot basically, and not all of it good.

I love A. G. Howard as an author, especially with her Splintered series. That was why, since I saw the book at the library, I immediately picked it up and started to read it. The cover and colored ink on the inside looked very similar. Although not the same madness like tone that the Splintered series was written in, the mystical feel suits a archaic opera like time. The plot twist is also very interesting.

However, the book disappointed me in various ways too. For example, A. G. Howard, like always, expects you to remember the mysterious boy that appears in the girl’s dreams, the one that only appeared for one sec in the beginning and was not memorable enough. Additionally, compared to the Splintered series, she tells the story really fast. This is also more of a preference, but I didn’t like the way she told the story. She told the story through both Rune and Thorn’s point of view, and while both are important to the story, I feel as though it muddles things up. However, that is more personal. All in all, it was still a very great story and I would recommend it to everyone who wants to read it cause of the author, supernatural elements, or the like.

-Megan V, 12th Grade

Roseblood by A. G. Howard is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr’s historical fiction All the Light We Cannot See brings out the tragedies and horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe. Set in France and Germany, Doerr writes about the stories of a young blind girl and orphan boy and how each adapts to survive during World War II.

Marie-Laure loses her eyesight at age six and eventually manages to learn how to cope with her disability. Her father looks after her as she attempts to memorize the streets of her home in Paris so that she can navigate the city independently. Six years later, when Germany invades France, she and her father seek help from an uncle to take refuge, where she spends the majority of the war hidden in the walled city of Saint Malo.

Werner grows up in an orphanage in Germany with his younger sister. They find a radio and fix it, only to be astounded by Werner’s talent with the device. This later grants him a schooling for the brutal Hitler Youth, and is assigned to use his intelligence with radios to track the resistance.

Doerr introduces two very opposite perspectives during the war and demonstrates both the beauty and brutality of living during such a frightening era. He constantly shows how such an obstacle such as blindness should urge one to keep fighting and overcome it. Likewise, he writes how a gift or talent can change one’s life into one of the most powerful groups in history.

On a scale of one through ten, this novel deserves an eight for its beautifully described picture it portrays of World War II. I would recommend this novel to those of 14 years or older for its maturity and historical content.

-Riley W.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Image result for the darkest hour caroline tung richmondI’m normally not a huge fan of historical fiction. Although, I am okay with reading a few alternate histories, but not constantly. Caroline Tung Richmond is also the author of The Only Thing To Fear, about the present day world under Hitler’s control. Even though this book isn’t an alternate history, it is still about World War II.

The year is 1943, in France, and Lucie Blaise is a part of Covert Ops, a group of female spies. They are willing to do anything to take down Hitler. After her older brother dies in combat, Lucie wants to avenge his death and try in any way possible to defeat Hitler. She didn’t want a boring desk job, and wanted to be an actual spy. Even with her training, she is unprepared for the real world. She almost gets caught, but luckily the Nazis barely buy her cover. Also, she didn’t remember her training exactly when she had her job to do, and she almost was fired because of it. I can’t describe what her job was, because it be too much of a spoiler.

This is a really interesting book about female spies in World War II. I felt that the scenes with Dorner could have been written differently, like maybe Lucie could have been starting to fall in love with Dorner, and the book would have been longer as a result. But nothing happened between them, there was no love story for Lucie, and I feel the book would have been more interesting if something did happen. After reading this book, I wondered if some of the events mentioned were true, and reading the Author’s Note explained it. The Operation Zerfall is fiction, but I was shocked to read that the Wunderwaffe program existed.

So if you’re into World War II, spies, or historical fiction, this book is for you! If you like this book, I strongly recommend reading Richmond’s other book, The Only Thing To Fear. This book isn’t mean for younger audiences.

-Rebecca V. 8th grade

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

ruinsoflace_irisanthonyThe Ruins of Lace is a historical fiction novel written by Iris Anthony that follows the journey of one particularly beautiful piece of lace through France. But wait! There is one catch: the possession of lace in France was forbidden. So how does the lace make its perilous journey all the way from Flanders to France, wreaking havoc on the lives of the people it encounters? The novel showcases seven unique characters, whose actions all influence each other.

The Ruins of Lace begins from the point of view of Katharina, who is a lowly lace maker in a convent. Hard labor has made her blind, and she fears what will happen when she can no longer weave her precious lace. Her sister wants to free her from her slavery, but it comes at a steep price she cannot afford. Then, the story is told from the point of view of an abused dog used to smuggle the lace that Katharina wove into France. A border guard, Denis, is supposed to prevent this, but proves he doesn’t have the heart to hurt the peasants who enter France. Then the story progresses into a new class, when the daughter of a viscount owes an unattainable amount of lace to the Count of Montreau, and can only hope to find it with the help of her cousin Alexandre Lefort. The puppet master of all these seemingly unconnected people is the Count of Montreau himself, who needs a spectacular piece of lace to appease the cardinal who, under instruction from the count’s father, will take away his title and inheritance.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because of the amazing character development that it had. In a novel, sometimes an author does not even adequately develop their protagonist. That is far from true in The Ruins of Lace, as Anthony is able to make the reader grow attached to every character, no matter how seemingly minor they may at first appear to be. Also, this book is a must read for people who not only enjoy a good adventure novel, but for people who enjoy puzzles. Each character influences the others in a profound way, regardless of whether they actually encounter each other. This gives the impression of the book being like a piece of Katharina’s lace; it is composed of many interwoven strands that come together to make a spectacular final artwork.

-Mirabella S.