The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux – 3 stars
I recently just finished reading ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Gaston Leroux. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, because I’ve been completely enamoured with the musical for years now. It was a really exciting concept: I was envisioning the musical’s story beautifully rendered in magical, dancing prose. In my head, this book was a masterpiece, and I think that’s why I’m a bit disappointed with it.
If you’re not familiar with the story, ‘the phantom’ referred to in the title is the rumoured Opera Ghost abiding in the Paris Opera House. He asks for money, and for Box Five to be left vacant for him every showing. No one has ever seen him, until he falls in love with one of the singers. It’s a big story: dramatic and exciting, and I think it’s crafted with great flair.
It did bother me that I was reading a book so similarly written to Dracula, though. Obviously this in itself is not a bad thing, but I thought this was another class of book, you know? I was expecting poetry, and all I got was a nosy narrator joining up a series of diary entries and letters from participating characters. Again, there’s nothing bad about that; only there wasn’t really anything good about it either. I felt like the structure was a bit limp beside the grandeur of the story.
Also, ‘the phantom’ is so much creepier in the book. It makes me slightly more worried about my Meyer’s Briggs results. (if that makes no sense to you, see this post.)
The plot is – in general – beautifully and romantically creepy: I love the setting of a Parisian opera house, and there is a lot of mystery built up around the story. Kudos to Mr Leroux: it’s an amazing concept.
There’s one scene that stands out to me: when the Persian and Raoul are trapped in Erik’s torture chamber. To me, as a modern reader, it seemed so out of place, and far too James Bond for the story. It felt like an anticlimax, and I can understand why they changed it so much for the stage version. It’s not worth the effort.
Having said all of that, the book’s ending is quite perfect, and I put the book down feeling satisfied, if not blown away.
If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.