What’s it all about?:
The Phantom of the Opera was first published as a serialisation in Le Gaulois from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910.
The Phantom of the Opera lives under a famous opera house. A mere chorus girl, Christine Daae, becomes, under his guidance, a well known singer with a beautiful voice. But her old child hood sweetheart, the Viscount Raoul de Changy, has also entered the picture. The past comes back to haunt her, the future ahead is uncertain, and the present is undecided. Who will win the heart of Christine?; the handsome, rich Raoul or the masked Angel of Music? A story of romance, murder, sacrifice and sadness, this riveting, seductive tale will keep your emotions high until the very last page of the shocking conclusion.
What did I think?:
I’ve seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famed theatre adaptation of this book a few times now and absolutely love it so I was intrigued to find out what I would make of the original book. The scene is set in a large and popular opera house in France where the managers have left in a bit of a flurry, no longer willing to concede to the demands of its oldest and most demanding inhabitant – the Opera Ghost. He doesn’t ask for much really I suppose, just a salary and that a particular box is left free on each performance for his pleasure, yet the new managers are almost incandescent with rage, certain that somebody is playing a prank on them. Our protagonist and heroine of the book is a young girl called Christine Daae who sings in the chorus and has quite a sad background story. Her father, a famous and talented violinist used to take her travelling around Europe and told her many stories about The Angel of Music whom he said would come to her from heaven, teach her music, and look after her when he was gone.
Now an orphan singing in the chorus at the opera house, Christine catches the eye of two very different men – her childhood friend Raoul, and the Opera Ghost who visits her in the guise of the Angel of Music and tutors her so her voice becomes spectacular. When Raoul hears her sing, his memories of their shared childhood comes flooding back and he falls violently in love with her. Unfortunately, he did not think he was going to have to contend with the Opera Ghost who is begging for her affection and understanding. He isn’t really a ghost you see, just a horribly disfigured man called Erik who wears a mask to hide his affliction, lives underneath the Opera House in total seclusion and escapes from his lonely life by writing beautiful music. Things become slightly more hairy however when Christine is over-looked for singing parts and the Ghost’s private box is deliberately filled on performance nights which invokes his rage and leads to a few nasty incidents. You’ve probably heard of the famous falling chandelier scene but is the Ghost actually capable of murder? And how does he cope when he finds out that he has a rival for Christine’s love in the form of Raoul – a “normal” non-afflicted man who doesn’t live like a hermit and is a Viscount to top it all off?
I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed with this book for the most part. Obviously there are going to be major differences between a novel and a musical on the stage but I thought the play stayed fairly loyal to what is between the pages. I was quite surprised to learn that the novel is based on historical events at the Paris Opera in the nineteenth century, one such event being the use of a former ballet pupil’s skeleton in one of the productions! The characters themselves are very intriguing and I think it would probably give book groups a lot to talk about, in particular Erik/The Opera Ghost – is he a villain or just a misunderstood and vulnerable man? My only slight niggle with this novel is how it changed my opinion of the two lovers, Christine and Raoul. The former was a bit less spirited compared to her musical doppelgänger and the latter was vastly more annoying. I got so fed up with his jealousy over the Ghost and his pathetic moaning and endless whining I was ready to throw my Kindle across the room in sheer frustration! In general though I think it is a beautiful story with a classic romantic ending that would make the hardest heart a little teary-eyed, and I’m really glad I read it in the original form.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):