Victor Hugo, Paperback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


'One of the best biographies I have read, ever' Selina Hastings 'Mr Robb has written an enthralling book -- one of the great biographies of our time.

He contrives not to be dwarfed by his subject, which is some contrivance.

He makes of Hugo's life a story as exciting to read as it was extraordinary to have lived.

He has a matchless gift for narrative. His style is epigrammatic and compelling. His judgements seem fair -- not something Hugo was used to in life.

Every Place Victor Hugo should now have a Cafe-Bar Graham Robb.

He deserves, and will probably get, the Legion d'honneur' Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph 'Robb achieves the goal of all good literary biographies by making us long to regain, or savour for the first time, Hugo's company as a writer.

Surely no chronicler of his life or analyst of his work has ever looked this prodigy of nature so unflinchingly in the eye' Jonathan Keates, Literary Review 'Graham Robb's exuberant biography of the French writer blows the cobwebs away from a neglected hero and sets him before us in lurid and quite unforgettable shape.

Robb's jaunty, self-confident style is gloriously appropriate to his subject ...Robb's enthusiasm is hugely exhilarating and his biography is a fascinating study in the making of a celebrity' Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times, Books of the Year 'The best life of the writer available in English (and likely to remain so for some time) . ..His fascinating, totally readable Life will introduce Hugo to many readers who know him only as a name' Robin Buss, Independent on Sunday


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 704 pages, 8pp b&w illustrations
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: general
  • ISBN: 9780330371452



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This big biography was a Whitbread biography award winner in 1997. It is very well written and erudite.  It represents an honest attempt to sort out myth from fact and present a balanced picture of Hugo's background, views and actions. e.g. the fact that his mother was not really a royalist heroine as portrayed during the author's reactionary youth; and Hugo's own growing radicalism, albeit still with contradictions under the last King, Louis-Philippe.  Hugo's rage at Louis Napoleon's coup of 1851, his exile to Belgium, then Jersey and finally for many years, Guernsey; then his return during the tragedy of the Franco-Prussian war and it's bloody aftermath, the repression of the Paris Commune, are brilliantly documented, including the effect on his literary oeuvre. It is surprising perhaps that Hugo wrote only seven novels, albeit two of the greatest ever penned in Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris; but his output of poetry was phenomenal. What also comes across is the tragedy of his family, the falling out of his parents, the madness of his brother Eugene and the fact that four of his five children predeceased him, just one daughter living into the 20th century, but tragically a victim of the same madness as her uncle.This was well worth reading, albeit at times a bit too densely literary for me. It gives a superb portrait of the complexity of this frustrating genius of a writer.

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