Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Summary: 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. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.  

I don't review many classics on here. Mainly because I don't read them that often. They can be more time consuming than non-classics, and the writing can be a little on the clunky side, and overall reading them can be a chore.

I say "can be" because there are exceptions. And, for me, this was one of the exceptions. It surprised me in a good way.

I mean, it definitely had its moments where it dragged because of the writing style, and there were plenty of scenes that could've been cut or edited down to improve the pace of the story without losing any of the quality...but for the most part, it was surprisingly addictive.

I read it in three sittings, but I probably would've read it cover-to-cover in one if I hadn't been tired. It was fun and funny and even though I was familiar with the story, it had me hooked.

I only really had two big issues with the book:

First of all, the representation of disfigurement/deformity. There's a trope in fiction of giving the bad guys some sort of disfigurement and there are a lot of issues with that trope (Jen Campbell explains better than I can -- about 6 minutes into the video, she discusses the topic). In saying that, the book really is a product of its time, so I can forgive its use of this literary trope because it was born of ignorance, not malice. I just wanted to acknowledge that it is an issue with the book and I'd expect better of a story written now (or of retelling's -- which I really want).

The second issue I had with the book was Raoul. He was such an immature and inconsistent character. He would be sweet and kind one minute, then he'd suddenly get really whiny and judgmental and revert to being more of a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum than a grown man. I found him quite pathetic half of the time to be honest.

Anyway, to sum up, I really did enjoy the book. I didn't have many problems with it, and when I finished it I started digging through my classics shelves because it put me in the mood to read them. 

I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.


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