Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Bells! The Bells!

I've now read about half of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, so I thought I'd better write some thoughts on it as I'm ploughing through this much quicker than I thought I would.

Hugo sets the scene with rather a lot of description with regards to the architectural history of Paris and it's surrounds, which is a bit distracting and takes from the flow of the story, rather like Moby Dick and Melville's encyclopedic descriptions, or even like reading about the list of building materials required to build the Ark in The Bible - BORING!! Though, he is rather cynical with regards to the restorations and improvements that have been made since the setting of the novel, he states that Paris of 1482 was made of stone, but Paris of the late 1800's is made of plaster.  However, his description of Quasimodo when he was crowned The Pope of Fools was excellent and I could totally visualise his one-eyed, bandy legged, hump backed ugliness. Quasimodo is about 20 at the time of reading, and has been flogged for being a bit of public nuisance - he tried to run off with Esmeralda.  The fact that he is deaf and he was tried by a deaf judge did not help his cause and his punishment was rather severe, but at the moment I don't feel too sorry for him as I'm not sure yet if he's misunderstood or is mischievous in a malicious way.

I do appreciate the English translations of the French (and Latin) quotations, though I can work out a few utilising my high school French but on the whole many authors do tend to take it for granted that you will understand what they are conveying by their use of these phrases (Maugham etc).

This is my first Victor Hugo novel, and I don't think it will put me off reading Les Miserables.  Thinking about it, his style rather reminds me a little of Thackery's Vanity Fair - it just has that touch of cynicism about it. I'm not loving this novel, but I'm not hating it either.

Last night I finished One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.  It was very good, and I watched the movie again.  It does portray the novel very well though there are differences, but it really does have an excellent cast who bring the characters to vivid life. But, I just can't really see Nurse Ratched as a villain - especially not after reading the book.  These men were mentally ill, and Nurse Ratched knows how important it is to keep routine and order.  McMurphy might be outrageous and supposedly heaps of fun, but it did result in deaths - including his own - and at the end of the novel there is a native American schizophrenic on the loose!!  The electric shock therapy and the lobotomies performed as routine are barbaric, hopefully things have improved since then - it's not something I know much about thank goodness!

So, now I'm reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which is the penultimate 1001 book for the year, I can't believe I'm actually going to make my target.  I've just got to get through The Lair of The White Worm and maybe do the last book on the Kindle - I've got plenty to chose from I've downloaded so many 

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