Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: The Phantom Of The Opera – Gaston Leroux

The Phantom Of The Opera – Gaston Leroux

First published in French as a serial in 1909, The Phantom of the Opera is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster.

Review: This review is for the English translation of a French book.

I knew the plot of this book before I started it, but I’ve never seen any of the Phantom movies, plays, or musicals. This book was my first real introduction to the story. I expected to like it, but I ended up struggling to finish it.

The Phantom of the Opera is about a “phantom” who takes the opera very seriously. If you value your life, don’t get between the Phantom and his opera. The Phantom develops an obsession with a singer, Christine Daaé, and will do anything to further her singing career. Eventually, he becomes so obsessed with her that he abducts her. Raoul, Christine’s lover, ventures into the bowels of the opera house to rescue her.

Even though I had a hard time finishing this book, there are a few elements of it that kept me from giving up. First, the Phantom is a complex villain. He’s a talented singer, and he just wants to have a normal life, but he can’t because of his facial deformity. I never liked him—he’s a deranged criminal—but I felt sorry for him. His childhood completely sucked. His mother forced him to wear a mask because she didn’t want to look at his deformity. That can’t be good for a kid’s self-esteem.

“If I am the phantom, it is because man's hatred has made me so.” – The Phantom of the Opera 
“He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar.” – The Phantom of the Opera

The setting of this story is strange and vividly described. The Palais Garnier is a real place, and I spent way too much time looking at photos of it on Google. It’s beautiful. I want to go to Paris and see it. The author does a great job of making the setting come to life.

I have a hard time with books that contain a lot of characters because I get them confused in my mind. This book has approximately one billion unnecessary side characters. Most of them are introduced very quickly in the first few chapters. It took a lot of concentration to remember who was who. I kept flipping back through the pages to remind myself. By the end, I could remember the important ones, but it was difficult at first.

I was trying to think of a kind way to say this, but I can’t, so I’ll just say it: The characters are all idiots. Christine and Raoul especially got on my nerves. They both make really terrible choices all the time. At one point, Raoul and the Persian are trapped in the Phantom’s torture room. The Persian is trying to find a way to escape, and Raoul lies on the floor and says, “Tell me when you find a way out.” Um, dude, you’re in the room, too. Why don’t you help find a way out instead of just derping around on the floor?

My biggest issue with the book is the melodrama. I know this is a classic, and writing styles change over time, but it’s impossible for me to take melodrama seriously. The Phantom of the Opera is stuffed with exclamation marks, dramatic declarations of love, weeping, and flailing. It’s all just way too much for me. I was laughing and rolling my eyes instead of immersing myself in the story.

“I tore off my mask so as not to lose one of her tears . . . and she did not run away! . . . and she did not die! . . . She remained alive, weeping over me, weeping with me. We cried together! I have tasted all the happiness the world can offer.” – The Phantom of the Opera

I’m glad I finally read this book because I’ve wanted to read it for years. Parts of the story are entertaining, but overall I’m not a huge fan.

1 comment:

  1. I read the book after falling in love with the musical. I definitely agree that it's melodramatic - but I think I found the melodrama amusing. I didn't think to Google the Palais Garnier. Now I also have to add it to my Paris to do list :P