book review, buddy read, horror

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I’ve seen the movies and heard the songs, but now it’s time to go O. G. Opera Ghost, that is.

Leroux sets the novel on the framework of investigating the legend of the ghost of the Paris Opera House and its relation to the disappearance of the young Viscount de Chagny and the promising young opera singer, Christine Daae. Using extracts from interviews, memoirs and piecing together the narrative from these sources, he seeks to uncover the truth of the situation and relay it to the reader.

What results is a novel of surprising humour – the opera ghost is an entertaining if morally bankrupt character – complex character studies and melodrama.

I’ve seen many adaptations of this story, but the one that I recall most vividly is a two part television series starring Charles Dance as the O.G. He is reimagined as a tragic hero, while the original love interest, Raoul, is a controlling baffoon. It’s nothing at all like the book – I recall lots of scenes of Raoul drinking in seedy bars while watching girls dance the cancan – and I had to strike it from my memory while reading the book.

I am amazed that this story was filmed as a monster movie with the phantom playing an organ. There is an organ mentioned, but it is metaphorical rather than literal, and while the O.G has a horrible visage and questionable ethics, he is very intelligent and rather suave when he wants to be.

Likewise, I don’t understand how this was turned into a love story between Christine and the O.G. The phantom has led anything but a sheltered life and while it’s true he has a horrible face, I think it’s his ugly spirit that is more effective at keeping the women at bay. He is controlling and unrealistic, manipulative and lying, and his obsession with Christine is done well.

However, I’m not surprised that reader’s hearts haven’t been captured by the pairing of Christine and Raoul. The young viscount is quick to make judgements about his love and is rather arrogant and annoying. He is a melodramatic avatar rather than a real character, like the others that populate the book.

Christine also suffers in this regard, and I feel she is hard done by because we never hear her side of things and both her suitors use her ill.

However, the descriptions of the opera house and the petty squabbles between the people who work there are priceless. The opera ghost is a wonderful character, and it’s easy to understand why he has stood the test of time.

I award The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera is widely available in different versions. Click here for a free kindle copy.

I read The Phantom of the Opera as part of a buddy read with my good friend, Joe. Look out for our buddy read post coming soon.

15 thoughts on “The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux”

  1. I’ve never read the book but around 1964ish I saw the movie and it’s the only movie I’ve ever screamed in fright during the opening credits. The extract in the movie of an opera had a profound effect on me. I was blown aware by it (don’t now have a clue with what it was). When Who-dacky of England wrote a musical of the same name (I’ve never seen it) I thought the music was awful. Yes, in the old movie I remember the phantom playing the organ!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s a great horror movie. I love that Lon Chaney did his own make up for it. It’s a truly terrifying movie but nothing like the book. I’m with you on Who-dacky. Unfortunately I had to shoot our friend Joe over that musical.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I read the Phantom novel back in high school (I was a big fan of the 1943 and the 2004 films at the time and wanted to read the source material). Yeah, it’s kind of crazy how few stories actually try to closely adapt the story. And the character of the Persian is rarely, if ever, included (there’s a great video on YouTube about how he’s been pushed out of adaptations I can send you). Still, it’s a great novel. Loaded with the normal Victorian/Edwardian language that takes some getting used to, but you can see why it caught on. And I’m honestly not surprised people ship the Phantom and Christine, even though the former is kind of a proto-incel in some ways. People love a Beauty-and-the-Beast story.
    And to think the novel came into being because of an actual accident at the Paris Opera House, where a ticket lady got hit by a chandelier that fell from the ceiling.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I cant say I’ve read this book but I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve only seen the 2004 film and was a big fan, mainly because I knew the story and songs through choir in middle school.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

    Liked by 1 person

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