The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

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Jacket summary: Filled with the color and theatrical spectacle of the Paris Opera House in the nineteenth century, and the ageless fascination of love transformed into murderous obsession, this classic work of mystery and suspense remains a riveting journey into the dark regions of the human heart. The tale begins as an investigation into the strange stories of an “opera ghost,” legendary for making the performers at this great Paris art emporium apprehensive when they sit alone in their dressing rooms or walk alone in the building’s labyrinthine corridors. Some even think they’ve seen the ghost in evening clothes moving in the shadows. But it isn’t until the triumphant performance of sensual Christine Daaé–and her startling disappearance–that a sense of dread begins to pervade the dim backstage areas and subterranean passages of the glorious opera house. In an ever-increasing pattern of fear and violence, the Phantom of the Opera begins to strike, but always with the beautiful young opera singer at the center of his macabre desires. A story that has captured the imagination of audiences in adaptations throughout the century, Phantom continues to thrill audiences to this day as an unparalleled work of sheer entertainment.

I was first introduced to The Phantom of the Opera when I saw the 2004 film adaption. I then got to see the musical on Broadway, and I became hooked on the music and the story. I tried to read the book when I was a freshman in high school, but I didn’t make it very far. I guess my mind wasn’t ready for more classic works yet. I’ve been on a classic horror stories kick lately, and decided to give this story another try. I was definitely ready to read it this time. I tried not to compare the book and the musical as I was reading, but that was a bit of a challenge for me. I think that my comparison with the musical really made me appreciate the book even more.

The Phantom of the Opera is a very clever story. The author, Gaston Leroux pieces together a narrative of the opera ghost from multiple accounts and documents in hopes to show the audience that the ghost was indeed real. There is a lot of mystery that would seem to be caused by the supernatural, but everything ends up having a somewhat reasonable solution. Leroux thought out every problem in the story and gave the audience a narrative that makes sense. Granted, sometimes the solutions would seem odd and there would be no further explanation (e.g. the phantom’s multiple heads), but at least there was a solution to begin with.

All of the characters were pretty interesting. I especially enjoyed seeing Christine’s personality and seeing more from the perspective of the managers, MM. Armand Moncharmin and Firmin Richard. Since most of the book follows Raoul’s side of the story, Christine’s actions and speeches are shrouded in mystery for most of the book. Her character and goodness is often called into question. She will be kind loving, and then she will snap in anger and disappear without explanation. It is only after she shares her story do we see a scared young girl who is trying to survive a horrifying situation, and also trying to hold onto a little bit of happiness too. She is in a very tight spot between a life with a monster and a life with Raoul. The managers’ are interesting to me because they seem to go back and forth with their belief in what they experience in the story. One minute, they firmly believe that everything with the opera ghost is an elaborate joke, the next they give into the ghost’s demands with fear, and then go right back to thinking it is all a joke. I suppose I might have done the same thing, had I been in their shoes. The chapters about them and the safety pin were probably my favorite in the book.

Like a lot of the classics I have read, this novel is quite wordy. The characters make very elaborate speeches just to say the simplest of things, but there were times that speech really showed the personalities of certain characters. I really sensed the madness of the phantom just through his speech alone. I could also feel his despair and loneliness. He believes himself to be a monster. He finds himself so repulsive that can’t believe that Christine lives after he kisses her forehead. The phantom is an incredible character. He is to be pitied, but he is still a mad murderer. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that his name is Erik.

I loved this story. I am so glad I read it. If you like classic literature, this is a good read for you. If you love the musical, this book will open up the story for you even more. I love the musical now even more because of the novel. If you don’t like the musical, you might still enjoy this book. Seriously, this was a very enjoyable read for me. I hope you enjoy it too.

Until next time.

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I am currently reading: The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle. I am currently on the first of the quartet, A Wrinkle in Time. I am only a few pages into the story. The jacket summary makes it look like this will be a fun and interesting fantasy work, with science mixed in. I can’t really say how I feel about it yet, but the summary shows much potential.

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