Me vs. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and unfinished books


Since 2014 I have been trying to read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and I am currently on page 217 of 501. I know it sounds appalling but to be fair I didn't pick it up at all in 2016, and I go for long periods of time not reading it at all. But I wonder if i'm not alone in doing this?

I have two main issues with this book that have put me off of reading it:

1 - There's a lot of tedious history in it. 
For example Victor Hugo will just pause mid-story to give you like 6 pages on the history of Notre Dame and I just find it unbearable. In fact for a long time I thought contextual history like this had no place in books, until I read The Ballad of The Whiskey Robber last year and thought it was done so well in that. But in this book it slows down the story, isn't remotely interesting to me, and seems to have no place in the book other than to possibly fulfil a desired word count.

(A redeeming feature of this unnecessary history was that I learnt in the past Notre Dame had steps, they no longer exist by the time the book is being written in the 19th century, but they did exist in the 15th Century. This makes sense if you have ever been to Notre Dame and wondered why the Disney movie shows Quasimodo's mother leaving him on the steps when there are no steps. However in the novel he isn't even left on the steps, he's left in the church!!)

2 - The writing is tedious in general.
I think I don't like Hugo's writing style at all. He's sort of talking to you as the reader instead of telling the story. It feels a bit odd. There is also just something I do not like about how the sentences read and I often think maybe this is a consequence of reading a translation. I don't think i've read that many books that weren't originally written in English. The immediate example that springs to mind is Anne Frank's diary, but that is incredibly well written even when reading it in English, so if I am to use that as a comparison then it's nothing to do with the translation but Hugo is just a bad writer (IMO!).

A few months ago for work I was transcribing the interviews of a dutch woman who was talking about being brought up speaking 5 languages and having no real mother tongue. She said when she wrote her PhD thesis it was in French yet her examiner told her she uses French like it's English. The style of her writing is the way one would write in English as opposed the French. This was the first time i'd heard anybody say anything like that and I think perhaps there is something to be noted in that. That certain languages are used differently and describe things differently and so perhaps this book reads a lot better in French. I'd like to think that's the case, but who knows.


As for unfinished books, I refuse to let this book defeat me. However I do often just give up reading books. I think life is too short to continue reading a book you don't enjoy, there are sooooo many books that I have abandoned mid read, and perhaps I will actually do a separate post on that too...

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