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.

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Special Edition)

wonder_rjpalacioInspiration comes from everyday things. Imagine walking into a restaurant and having everybody look at you with a horrified expression. You turn around, and expect to see something terrifying . . . and then you realize that they’re looking at you. Now what if this happens every time you meet someone new? Each and every time a stranger sees your face. Each and every single time, until they get used to you.

This is what it’s like for 10-year-old Auggie Pullman. Born with severe facial differences, he’s had to live his whole life like that. So he’s gotten sort of used to it, or so he thought. Twenty strangers in a grocery store now seems like a grain of sand when Auggie’s parents tell him he’s been enrolled into an actual school for the first time. (Because of his many surgeries, Auggie had been homeschooled until now). An actual school, with actual hundreds of kids, who are worse at hiding their reactions than adults are, named Beecher Prep.

I’d be less than honest if I said this book didn’t change my point of view on people who are different from me. Even though the main characters are younger than me, this book really opened my eyes. Even my mom thought it should be required reading. It doesn’t matter who you are, we can all learn something life changing from this book. Even from the bully. Which brings me to . . .

What’s the special edition? Well, Wonder was originally written in six different points of view, but due to curiosity from the fans, the author wrote a bonus chapter, written from Julian’s (the book’s antagonist) view. The bonus chapter is actually 100 additional pages, and consists of more than one chapter, but all the same, it adds more to the primary theme of empathy – understanding those who are different, whether on the outside or inside. Empathy is necessary for each of us to grow as human beings.

This book is great for all ages because it shares so many typical events that touch our lives, from losing best friends to starting over fresh, to embracing your differences, to standing up for what you believe in. The greatest (in size and in goodness) takeaway from this book is to always choose kind. It’s a wonder that this is not always the automatic choice.

-Danielle L., 7th Grade

Wonder (Standard Edition) is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360.