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Though written at the beginning of the Romantic era, this remarkable French historical romance takes place in medieval Paris at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It is there that the deformed Quasimodo has gone deaf ringing the grand church's bells for his adoptive father Dom Claude Frollo. The severe priest, though he looks after the grotesque Quasimodo, ignores the public persecution that the man suffers whenever he leaves the Cathedral, and it is at just such moment of vulnerability that the lovely young Gypsy Esmeralda shows Quasimodo an act of kindness that leads to his inner transformation. Though still hated by everyone, Quasimodo's sleeping soul awakens and grows in an extraordinary conversion to the sublime, allowing him to care for and protect Esmeralda even as those who admired her come to fear and despise her. A commanding and epic melodrama fully utilizing the extremes of passion and religion in the bygone Gothic era, Hugo's novel explores social justice through the suffering of his characters, though with a compassion and melancholy that belies the author's conviction in the impossibility of salvation in his existing world.

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