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The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux

10 Dec

PhantomAs Monsieurs Richard and Moncharmin prepare to take over as acting managers of the Opera House, they discover their predecessors have bequeathed them the ‘Opera Ghost’. A separate memorandum book has been set aside for his various whims, including extravagant financial needs.  heedless of the numerous warnings to comply with these strange demands the managers shrug it off as a practical joke too far.  Then a sequence of eerie coincidences and tragic events follow, culminating in the disappearance of the beautiful prima donna Christine Daaé in mid performance.

Having seen various film adaptations, I wasn’t sure whether the book would be able to add something new to my experience of Phantom.  I am happy to report that the original source material is a great read, adding more back story and containing murder, madness, music, money, masques  – and other things beginning with ‘M’ as well as other letters – aplenty

The overwhelming best part of the book for me is the setting.  The innards of the opera house is a world in itself, with hellish fires and secret nooks hidden in the labyrinthine passages.  It is a wonderful setting for the tragedy, Dark, claustrophobic and dangerous in the cellars and dramatic, solitary and open to the heavens on the roof, this secret world has some wonderful visuals and really fires the imagination.

It is a well realised setting full of mystery (including one that is never cleared up), which always allows for new stories to be created by the imaginative reader. This wonderfully thrilling Opera House is populated by lots of secretive and half glimpsed peoples, where chance meetings can be a terror in themselves.

The tale itself is one of those that is ingrained into society’s imagination whether you have any experience of the book or not and so I need not dwell on the storyline too much, suffice to say that this doomed love triangle is only part of the whole.

The narrative is set in the style of a historian chronicling events past that are littered with accounts and letters from some of the main players, it is a style that suits the story, allowing the reader to enjoy the story of the blackmailed managers as well the internal politics of the opera singers jockeying for position, as well as the Phantom’s obsessions.

No review would be complete without a look at the mercurial madman himself, his grotesque whims and sorry history are enough to provoke sympathy with the reader, yet his uncontrolled rage and murderous impulses are abhorrent and left this reader unsure of where my sympathies lay.  If pushed there is perhaps something in all of us that resembles the Phantom and therein lies the true horror of the novel.

If anything more was needed to add to the atmosphere of tension, there is the appearance of an Enigmatic character called the Persian who adds a feeling of the exotic and keeps me pondering on the mysteries of the book that I am yet to manufacture.  That is the inherent beauty of the book, the fuelling of the imagination in such a  fantastic environment.

As with any story set in a location with a stage, the melodramatic is always present.  From the proclamations of love to the tortured souls, there is passion and feeling, that makes the characters all the more human especially the Phantom himself.  I did feel I was entering a living world as opposed to something that began and ended with my experience.

Like many of the Gothic books, this one tends to swing between horror and campness, mercifully the latter isn’t as pronounced in this story.  It’s also shorter than I expected at only 270 pages but the story does move along at a brisk pace and provides something to please all tastes and will most likely be read in a few days at most.

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46 Comments

Posted by on 10/12/2014 in Classics, Horror

 

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46 responses to “The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux

  1. Tom Gething

    10/12/2014 at 19:37

    Nice review. When was the book first published?

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    • Ste J

      10/12/2014 at 19:41

      Thanks, it was published in 1909 and apart from a little of the language being older, which you would of course, expect it hasn’t really dated much at all.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. shadowoperator

    10/12/2014 at 19:38

    All I’ve ever known is the bare backbones of the story; I had no idea it was so complex! I can see that a read is overdue. What a perfect book for a cozy winter stay-at-home evening!

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    • Ste J

      10/12/2014 at 19:44

      it is good to know about the background of the Phantom, the events in his life which led him to turn out as he does. It is a great book for winter, the wind has been howling here recently so that has made the atmosphere more dramatic. It will be a worthy addition to your book case.

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  3. Alastair Savage

    10/12/2014 at 19:54

    It’s a cracking read, this one. The use of the narrator really allows you to fool yourself into thinking that the events are real. I loved it.

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    • Ste J

      10/12/2014 at 20:01

      The narrator and the research into the Opera House as well, both make this a lot more interesting than any of these modern supposedly based on a true story films. There aren’t many books that cover so many of genres in such a short amount of words, it really makes for a strong work. Everybody should go out and buy a copy, I have just decided.

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  4. renxkyoko

    10/12/2014 at 19:57

    I haven’t read the book , but I’ve watched different movie versions of it…. and I tell you, the Phantom always has my sympathy… or is it empathy ? Well, I did applaud Carrie’s revenge, no matter how horrific it was. :/

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    • Ste J

      10/12/2014 at 20:07

      Carrie, I can agree with but the Phantom, whilst having had a tough life seems to have a sadistic streak that is just plain bad, it is rare that I will plump for a guy who kills innocent people but perhaps the Phantom in me can see his point of view. He is a complex character study and one I doubt I will ever come to a decision on. Although I am slightly biased, the book is really good and is worth a read to flesh out the characters. It is a worthy companion piece.

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      • renxkyoko

        10/12/2014 at 20:30

        Or maybe just empathy ? Carrie did kill so many innocents, including that nice guy. This is what happens when the main protagonists do bad stuff. The reader gets to read their points of view, their feelings, their emotions. I don’t want them to get caught. reminds me of this book I read in HS…. The Eye of the Needle. The main guy is a Nazi spy living in England.

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  5. gargoylebruce

    10/12/2014 at 21:33

    Think of meeeeeeee, think of me fondlyyyyyy, when we’ve said goodbyyyyyyyyeeeeee! They should probably publish a version that plays the musical soundtrack as you read. I’d buy that. Only 270 pages hey? That does sound achievable. Is the print tiny?

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    • Ste J

      11/12/2014 at 18:53

      The print is standard book size, none of that Biblical magnifying glass style fontage. The book could be like those birthday cards that play a tune when you open them but go off at the right pages, it would be really immersive, it should be done.

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    • writersideup

      12/12/2014 at 07:04

      Ah, Bruce, I see you know the music! You just made me HAVE to do this. I hope you don’t mind, Ste J!

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      • Ste J

        15/12/2014 at 15:09

        I never mind a good warble, which I think would also be a great name for a pet…or an alien child.

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        • writersideup

          15/12/2014 at 18:36

          Ste J, that’s the second word (that I can think of) that you “taught” me. Warble. 😀 The other one, which of course I can’t pull up NOW, was the brit word for a pan handler 🙂 LOVE words!

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          • Ste J

            15/12/2014 at 20:01

            I am glad to be a public service and bring you many new words, it makes me feel like Sesame Street lol.

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            • writersideup

              15/12/2014 at 23:23

              lol…well, I love Sesame Street, too! AND Sesame PLACE! I knew I’d miss it once my son outgrew going. It’s fun for the adults, too 🙂 Grandkids will be starting in a couple of years, so I figure I’ll start going back there in 4 or 5 years 😀

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      • gargoylebruce

        15/12/2014 at 20:35

        Love it!

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  6. writersideup

    11/12/2014 at 03:09

    Wow, that is high praise, Ste J 🙂 I’ve never read the book and know it through the musical version. We’re huge fans of the play, the Andrew Lloyd Weber music being a family classic here. I only got to see it on Broadway once, both my parents twice, I think, but my mother has seen at least 4 times. As with so many other things, I’m sure the book holds SO much information that could never be depicted dramatically. Great review, Ste J 😀

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    • Ste J

      11/12/2014 at 18:35

      I’m not as familiar with all the films and stage shows preferring to steer fairly clear of them because I knew there was a book but from my understanding there is a fair amount of information that fleshes out the character of the Phantom. It is worth a read even if you can quote all the dialogue off by heart and nothing beats imagining the Opera House world inside one’s head.

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      • writersideup

        12/12/2014 at 07:01

        Ste J, I can’t help but agree with you because, in my experience, except for the movie THE WIZARD OF OZ, the books ALways outshine the movies, etc.!

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        • Ste J

          15/12/2014 at 14:50

          The Wizard of Oz was indeed a strange book after being brought up on the film and I loved Return to Oz, that was a proper dark film. Have you seen Stand By Me? That is almost equal to the Stephen King short story that inspired it, it just lacked a little more information at the end but I am being picky. It is proof that books are indeed so much more immersive.

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          • writersideup

            15/12/2014 at 18:32

            Yep, saw “Stand By Me” quite a few years back, and it was really good! Never read the book, though I do wish I could find “Shawshank Redemption.” I love that movie and really love to read the book itself!

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            • Ste J

              15/12/2014 at 19:57

              Rhw Shawshank Redemption is, as luck would have it in the same collection as The Body. Different Seasons is the book you are looking for and the other two stories included are good as well!

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              • writersideup

                15/12/2014 at 23:19

                Thank you for tellling me that, Ste J, ’cause I wouldn’t have known it otherwise. The booksellers didn’t seem to know it either!

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                • Ste J

                  17/12/2014 at 16:14

                  I am just that awesome and humble about it too, lol!

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                  • writersideup

                    17/12/2014 at 22:06

                    And we will allow you this awesomeness AND humbleness, sir 😀 😉

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  7. Lyn

    11/12/2014 at 05:32

    I’ve not read the book, but after reading your review, I just might do so. The 2004 film version did quite a good job of letting you see the labyrinthine workings of the Opera House. So many places you could kill someone and hide their body.

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    • Ste J

      11/12/2014 at 18:42

      Thinking like a true mad man, I respect that, but I would if you are looking at where to hide the bodies! It won’t take you long to read the book and I may have to rewatch the film, perhaps all of them in one crazy weekend.

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  8. Al

    11/12/2014 at 13:01

    The book has never really interested me, but I really enjoyed the film

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    • Ste J

      11/12/2014 at 18:26

      I enjoyed the film as well, I was a little worried the book wouldn’t really do much more than the film but it really does make it more magical. It was nice to see that gobby lass from Brookside doing proper acting as well.

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      • Al

        12/12/2014 at 01:00

        yeah it is good to see some of them can

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  9. vsvevg

    11/12/2014 at 20:48

    Ok, I just downloaded it. I love me some good goth, Dracula, Wuthering Heights, don’t know how many times I’ve read’em. Never thought to read this though(saw the musical 😛 ) I also have A Christmas Carol, but I’m going to wait until a little closer to Christmas to read it. Thanks for the suggestions!

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    • Ste J

      15/12/2014 at 15:01

      Have you come across The Castle of Otranto? That is a decent Goth story, in fact it is the one that is reputed to have started the genre. I have reviewed it elsewhere on this site and that has a nice mix of genres and imagery. A Christmas Carol is such a treat, I may have to join you in the reading.

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      • vsvevg

        17/12/2014 at 17:25

        No I haven’t will look for it today, thanks Ste J. I just started a Carol last night and I am already slowing down to make it last longer.

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        • Ste J

          19/12/2014 at 20:34

          I know what you mean, it is so wonderful it is a shame to rush it, savouring it is the only option.

          Liked by 1 person

           
      • vsvevg

        18/12/2014 at 17:12

        Okey doke, just got it. Not sure when I’ll get to it, in January likely. I really have been a book hoar(that’s like between a whore and a hoarder) lately, I’ve discovered a store that I can trade my books for new(used) books, this is unheard of in Mexico, and of course the free(and super cheap) books online. I’m somewhere between giddy and guilty, it just doesn’t seem right to have such a stash.

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  10. Christy Birmingham

    12/12/2014 at 18:33

    It sounds as though the madman is well pronounced in this book. I know the story but have not read the book. I am sure the descriptions of the opera house are fantastic!

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    • Ste J

      15/12/2014 at 14:55

      They made me smile which has been rare this year as I haven’t been grabbed half as many times as previous years’ hauls. It is a place I will go to in my imagination many times in the future to hide the bodies.

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  11. Aquileana

    14/12/2014 at 22:24

    Impresssive overview. Thank you very much for sharing, Ste.
    Sending you all my best wishes!. Aquileana 😀

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    • Ste J

      15/12/2014 at 16:39

      Always happy to share a good book with such erudite readers as yourself, without spoilers of course, even everybody knows the story already! best wishes backatcha my friend.

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  12. anna amundsen

    21/12/2014 at 17:58

    I’ve read it three or four years ago and my memory is almost blank. I have no clue what I thought about it. Definitely a candidate for rereading.

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    • Ste J

      23/12/2014 at 16:48

      Most definitely, as ever your thoughts will intrigue me to the max!

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  13. vsvevg

    25/02/2015 at 02:18

    Just read this at your suggestion, and I loved it. Honestly, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I was forced to watch the musical and well, I just didn’t have high hopes for the book. I loved the role of the building and the Persian. The sad happy ending…thanks Ste J 🙂

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    • Ste J

      25/02/2015 at 19:56

      I am so pleased! I was surprised when I picked it up too, I had no expectations other than it be a quick read. I just loved the building, it has such magic and mystery to it and the Persian with his exoticness makes it awesome. I remain committed to finding the best books for you to read (and the worst ones so you don’t have to).

      Like

       

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