The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Recommended for: ages 13 to Adult
Rating: PG (scary situations)
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.
A few weeks ago, I posted my review of the play The Phantom of the Opera, which I really loved. I have since finished the book, despite interruptions by super awesome books by friends, and can now tell you what I thought of the original.
Despite being an old book, Phantom is pretty fast paced and easy to read. The way it is told is in a manner that assumes it is all real, which I found quite interesting. The only drawback to this style is that it is much harder to develop the characters. It is a translation of the original, my French is limited to ballet words and "allons-y," so I can't really review how it originally reads. It didn't read like a translation, though, like certain editions of Heidi do.
It largely takes place in the Opera House, which is a place full of trapdoors and secret doors and all sorts of interesting things. I don't know how truthful the note at the end saying the Opera House really had all these things is, but it seemed realistic. The background as a prison during, if I remember right, the French Revolution was an added asset. And the Phantom's home and torture chamber were fascinating.
Surprisingly enough, the play is a fairly faithful adaptation. Of course, there are some differences. The ending has a lot more to it. It also makes things make a lot more sense. I had almost the same experience with Phantom as I did the first time I read The Hunger Games, constantly going "Oh! I get it now!" Because the book does give an explanation to all the seemingly fantastical happenings. I like rational explanations for stories set in the real world. I didn't notice any plot holes, and, while some parts were difficult to understand, I was able to get the gist of it, and understand better when it was explained later.
Character Development: 4/5
The characters were a little better developed than in the play, but not much. As I said, this is probably due to the writing style as being an account later written of these strange events. I had been warned that Raoul was a wimp. Well, he isn't really the one who makes the rescue of Christine possible. That would be the Persian. He really did lose it in the torture chamber. Christine is much the same as in the play, but I think the Phantom really came to life the best. He's so scary and pitiful. I still don't know what to think about him, though I think I'm more inclined to hate him in the book.
I definitely recommend for fans of the musical The Phantom of the Opera to read the book. It was very good, and supplements the musical nicely without one destroying the enjoyment of the other.