April 21, 2014

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Hey everybody! Cassia here! I finally have another review for you all, and I'm working on another. There's more (a lot more), but I have to re-read those before I can provide an accurate review. So, here you go! (Note: the cover below is the original edition, and I read the public domain version in English.)

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Christine Daae still thinks of her deceased father every day; his companionship, stories, and the music they made. Soon, her career takes off at the Paris Opera House when she is tutored by the mysterious Angel of Music. However, she has never seen him. Eventually she finds out that he is what the regulars of the opera refer to as the “opera ghost.” When his orders--which are made to help Christine--are dismissed as jokes, he terrorizes the opera with threats and murders to get what he wants. Christine’s love, Raoul, vows to save Christine from his grip before he can take her forever.

For those of you who don’t already know, I love musicals. One of them happens to be “The Phantom of the Opera.” So, when I found out that it was a book, and the book was in public domain on Amazon,
you can guess what happened. I loved this book, too. I was very pleased to find that there were actual quotes from the book in the musical. For example, “Hand at the level of your eyes!” While the musical followed the book very closely, it did not explain some things, and since the book does, it gives an explanation for everything: the Phantom’s past, how he pulled off his little tricks, literally everything. I loved this detail, and it was very interesting. Also, the Phantom’s real name: Erik. And even this may not be his real name, for he says himself that it is more of a nickname given to him that he kept than his real name.

As far as the actual writing goes, this book was well-written, although Leroux is not my favorite author. Leroux tells the story in a very unique way, presenting “facts” to prove to the reader that his story is true. Oh, and this is horror. Old-school horror, mind you, but at one point I was actually scared. I don’t read a lot of horror, but I was glad to read it after a couple of years, and this was a pleasant surprise. It’s the ultimate horror-romance: disfigured musical genius falls in love with a young, beautiful soprano who loves another. I quite enjoyed the plot, even though I knew what was coming because I knew the musical, but I was once again pleasantly surprised to find some things different.

The majority of those things that are different from the musical are the characters. Yes, Raoul, Christine, and the Phantom are the same, except for some minor things: Raoul has an older brother in the novel, and the Phantom does not just have a disfigured face. He wears a mask, but he describes himself as a living corpse. Imagine what you will with that. Also, in the musical, Madame Giry is the Phantom’s “mother figure.” However, she is really just the box-keeper. If the Phantom had a parental figure, it would be the Persian. The Persian is not in the musical and his role is replaced by Madame Giry. Anyway, he was a Persian police chief, or as the Phantom refers to him, a daroga. It is through him that we know all of the Phantom’s illusions and tricks, for Leroux writes the last part of the book through his point of view. The Phantom’s parents abandoned him; they were terrified of their own child. He was a genius, not just a musical genius--architecture and torture devices. Through this he came to live in Persia, where eventually he was ordered executed (not for a crime; read the book ;)), and the Persian rescued him and tried to teach him right from wrong. And this is why Leroux says, “He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar. Ah, yes, we must needs pity the Opera ghost.” Also: “He was guilty of not a few horrors, for he seemed not to know the difference between good and evil.” Of course, I love all the characters, if you can’t tell. Christine is kind-hearted and risks her own life to let Erik hear her sing once more. Raoul is just so young and innocent and will do anything to help Christine that you can’t help but like him. And Erik… “We must needs pity the Opera ghost.”

Okay, now to say a little bit about the musical (although I did that through most of the review...sorry about that). The ballad “Music of the Night” is very accurate in its description of Erik’s music. Here are a few quotes from the novel that I particularly like:

“You see, Christine, there is some music that is so terrible that it consumes all those who approach it. Fortunately, you have not come to that music yet, for you would lose all your pretty coloring and nobody would know you when you returned to Paris.” ~Erik

“Presently I heard the sound of the organ; and then I began to understand Erik’s contemptuous phrase when he spoke about Opera music. What I now heard was utterly different from what I had heard up to then. His Don Juan Triumphant (for I had not a doubt but that he had rushed to his masterpiece to forget the horror of the moment) seemed to me at first one long, awful, magnificent sob. But, little by little, it expressed every emotion, every suffering of which mankind is capable. It intoxicated me; and I opened the door that separated us.” ~Christine

This book is very...poetic. Not that it’s actually a really long poem, it’s just very meaningful and you can’t help but be struck by the meaning, and the words Leroux uses are very descriptive. Oh, just read it; that’s the point of this paragraph. ;)
Five stars!
Goodbye for now,

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