Book Review

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Gaston Leroux

Rating: 3 / 5

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Gaston Leroux was the October pick for the #classicsbuddyread on Bookstagram. This was actually a reread for me, but I felt like I hadn’t fully concentrated on the book the first time I read it for a reading challenge early last year, so I decided it was worth the reread.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is a fairly well known story thanks to the musical adaptation. While I haven’t had the opportunity to see this one on stage, I have been familiar with the music and the basic plot. The novel does diverge in story from the plot I knew, but it begins much the same way. Christine is a young singer raised with the opera after her father’s death. She becomes the focus of the Opera Ghost, a figure known to everyone in the opera circle, but really known by no one. Still, this mysterious voice guides Christine and coaches her and arranges so she becomes the focus of much attention with the opera. Problem is that Christine’s childhood friend Raoul shows up and immediately falls in love with Christine, setting off the ghost’s jealousy.

The basic story of this one is a good one, but this is one of those rare situations where the adaptations definitely improve on the original in my mind. That many don’t realize that the musical was born from a novel says a lot as well. I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters well as their motives and feelings aren’t as clear as I would have wanted them. Christine is in the middle of a love triangle, but neither of her suitors won me over and her inability to make up her mind is hard for me to buy into as well.

This book is written in a way where the reader is a bit removed from the story. It begins and ends with a narrator reporting his research into the events that transpired at the opera as if it is beginning with a prologue to a true crime story. Upon this reread I wondered if perhaps this style of writing maybe impacted my connection to the characters in the framed narrative.

The action in the second half of the book does pick up and diverge from the musical as well, but overall it isn’t one I’d count as a favorite classic read for the year. Reading it did give me an excuse to rent the movie version and sit back and relax for an evening though, so I was happy for that. I still would love to see the musical on stage someday!

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