Thursday, 13 September 2012
The Phantom Of The Opera - Gaston Leroux
For those who don't know; this is a story of tragedy and (occasionally unrequited) love. It's so hard for me to write about this book as it's always been in the background of my mind for me and now I find myself back to the root of what started it and, whilst this was a lovely read, it was slightly disappointing as it didn't quite live up to the hype I'd piled on it. Not to say it isn't a good book though but, as has been the case with the book for most of it's history, it has always been overshadowed by stage & screen (there were moments it even went out of print in the twentieth cent.).
This Gothic romance tells the story of a a chorus girl caught in a love triangle between the Opera Ghost, Erik, and the French nobleman she knew from her childhood, Raoul. As this story progresses Christine becomes an amazing opera singer who is even used as a replacement for the Prima Donna, this she attributes to her 'Angel of Music', who she wholeheartedly believes in being an angel.
This novel starts off in an investigative format, with the author setting the idea that what he is writing is an article to disprove the idea of the Opera House being haunted by a ghost and, what's more, that the same man (for he states he believes it's a human) is responsible for the disappearances and deaths that occurred around the same time the 'ghost's' activities were at it's highest. Leroux uses the idea of the unnamed author/investigative journalist to introduce us to the only character left who can really tell the story of what happened, including insights into the Phantom's previous life that's not been brought up on stage or on screen.
For those who have never read the book but been exposed to the story in another way, like myself, you may be forgiven for thinking that this is just a classic french tale of romance with just a touch of angst thrown in - but wait!! This book is not only romance but also a fine example of a gothic horror at the time of being written. You have a ghost that is never really seen except for his actions, he has the ability to be all over the opera house & yet not be caught. At the same time there is a young, impressionable girl caught up in the thrall of this unseen Angel of Music with an infatuated old friend trying to save her from his grasp.
Although I believed this to be a well known story I found parts that were completely new to me and put the whole thing in a different light. It was a lot more horrifying and terrifying than I thought and the romance seemed, at times, to play second fiddle to the phantom's devious acts.
Although I found Erik to be well written I must confess to believing that Raoul and Christine seemed to only be written as two-dimensional characters for Leroux to compare Erik against. They had moments but most of the time they fell flat and couldn't hide from the fact that they really were just supporting characters in this tale about a man's descent into darkness, literally and figuratively, as he tried to hold onto the light the only way he knew how.
I enjoyed this book, though at times it was slow due to the style of writing, and for such a short read (I thought it'd be a lot longer) it ould definitely hold it's own, probably why it's become a classic!
I recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed the various adaptations of this story as it will give you a whole new outlook. Also a good read for lovers of the gothic novels.