Amy Reads Books

Phantom of the Opera (Penguin Popular Classics)

The Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux, Mireille Ribiere The Phantom of the Opera was published in serial in 1909-1910 by a French magazine, although nowadays the novel is probably more famous as the basis of Andrew Lloyd Webber's megamusical of the same name which has run for nearly 25 years in the West End, and over 20 on Broadway. It was the musical that led me to the novel, and so, as with Frankenstein, I thought I would know what would happen. I was a little wrong.Whilst the plot of the musical and novel are similar, a great deal of it splits. Christine Daae is a young prima donna at the Paris Opera House who is revealed to have a brilliant voice at the night of a gala performance for the retiring managers. When she sings she re-captures the heart of her childhood sweetheart Raoul, a Vicomte. However, the Opera Ghost/Angel of Music/Erik is also deeply in love, and possessive of her. Thrown into the mix are two bumbling new opera manages, a hysterical ballet corps, the Spanish diva Carlotta, box-keeper Madame Giry, Raoul's older brother Phillipe and a mysterious Persian.The novel is written in the style of a historian's report written by 'Gaston Leroux', which I think is different to Gaston Leroux, the author. It is far more chilling than the stage show, which is pretty melodramatic really. The character of Erik, or The Phantom, is also far more developed. He is frightening firstly because of his disfigurements but also because of his slightly deranged habit of murder and the fact that he has turned the underground lake into almost a torture chamber. The sequence where Raoul and the Persian are trapped in a strange mirror room was pretty frightening.As far as the characters go, as I said, Erik is certainly an interesting character about whose past we learn a lot about in the final pages of the novel and it is certainly interesting to see how his experiences as a youth have led him to become somewhat crazy. Christine's character is also different; there are times when she appears to be very brave, but also manipulative and she generally comes across as quite confused; whilst Raoul, who does have a little more backbone than he does in the musical, is still a little flat. The character I found most interesting was the Persian, absent from the musical, whose authority is hugely important in the final movement of the plot.Whilst there were some stylistic devices that were a bit weird (so many uses of '...') I thoroughly enjoyed Leroux's work, and it's a shame that is has been overshadowed by films and shows, as it is a very good, chilling book.