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.

1 thought on “The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

  1. Pingback: Tidying up August | gathering swallows

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