The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux


Puffin Classics, 1994. ISBN 0-14-036813-2

Summary, from cover:

The legendary rumours of an ‘opera ghost’ take on a terrifying reality when the beautiful young singer, Christine Daaé, suddenly disappears after her triumphant performance. An ever increasing pattern of fear and violence pervades the dim backstage areas of the Opera House, as the phantom threatens to strike once more.

My thoughts:

I was so excited to read this book- when I found it at the AAUW book sale in May, I danced in my spot. Eureka! The book I had been waiting for. After reading, I was disappointed with the whole story. The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most boring and dry works I have ever read… and that is coming from someone who thought Jane Eyre was dry. This book was drier than dry, this book makes the Sahara desert an oasis.

In the first twenty pages, nothing remarkable happens. In the first hundred pages, nothing remarkable happens. In the last fifty pages is all the action. There is so much exposition that it drowns out the actual story. Who gives a flying cow how the directors needed a safety pin? Why do we read so much about Madame Giry? Who cares?! I am reading this book for the hideous love story between the Phantom and Christine! I want romance! I want action! The first twenty chapters is akin to a joke without a punchline. I kept waiting for something to happen, but was let down every five pages.

The bad writing culminates in the booby scene in chapter 21. The Persian is going after Christine, but is stopped by the Phantom. The ensuing battle of wits is circular and full of half-hearted jabs at each other’s wit. Why would a villain call someone a great booby over and over again? I know this alludes to the stupidity of a bird species, but it’s a genius villain resorting to a childish phrase. I read this part at 11pm and I reread it the next morning in complete astonishment. It’s pulp rather than literature… there was no point to this scene aside from showing that the Persian knows who the Phantom is.

The description of the Phantom’s torture chamber is confusing. I couldn’t imagine the scene in my mind at all. I later Google’d the chamber, and the drawings helped make sense from the poor description in the book. The torture chamber actually is a fantastic contraption, which is the only true evidence to the Phantom’s genius. Throwing a man into a hall of mirrors to become stark raving mad and to hang himself is right up the Phantom’s masochistic alley. It’s a shame that when exposition was necessary, there was none at all!

If you want to know about The Phantom of the Opera, watch the musical. This is a rare moment when the movie is better than the book. The Phantom of the Opera is not a major literary work- if it even is a real literary work at all. An imaginative premise was destroyed with too much shallow exposition and cheap writing tactics. I would not recommend this book to anyone, and I would rather hand a friend a copy of the musical than a copy of the book.

a dedication

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
-John Keats, To Autumn


Growing up, I always felt that this poem was dedicated to me. I adored it in its entirety, every gorgeous word and flowing stanza twirled in my life as falling leaves do. Keats was the writer that introduced me to poetry and the ensuing obsession- years later- for the written word.


For a long time, I have wanted to write. It was always hanging at the end of internet biographies- Autumn: geologist, reader, writer. However, I kept my words to myself in journals, diaries, and occasional anonymous postings on the internet. Here is my place to share. It is time to bring the things I have written out of their hiding places and into the light of day.