“Our lives are one masked ball.”
-Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera
I have heard of this story for a long, long time; most people probably know about the story, but I have to admit, I didn’t know anything about this renowned tale until a few days ago (shame for me 😦 ). I got the book a few months back, and decided I would finish it about a week ago. What started out as an idle read soon turned out to be one of the most engaging storytelling that I have seen in quite some time!
First off, I had zero knowledge regarding French and opera; I had heard of the term monsieur several times, so I am okay with that, but I had never heard of the word de Chagny, and I guessed that it was a noble-title. Aside from several unfamiliar meanings of the French-words, I was also having a trouble in illustrating the opera inside my mind as I didn’t even have any idea what a ‘box’ in opera term, meant; I guessed it to be some sort of a private balcony, but without a definite google-search, I couldn’t read the book in a composed manner. A few discomforts from the lack of familiarity with these terms made me think that Gaston Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera” would be a tough read, but instead, it etched its story onto my mind, which will probably last for quite a while.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is about the Paris Opera House’s alleged rumor about a ghost haunting the iconic building; a ghost with the skull of Death. After the opera house’s chief stagehand, Joseph Buquet, died in the third cellar, things start to go volatile; from Raoul the viscount and his pursuit of the ghostly figure that constantly interacts with the soprano Christine Daaé, to the Persian’s attempt to stop the opera’s legendary Phantom, the adventures inside the Paris Opera House has never been as romantic and tragic; why, the Opera Ghost is in love with Christine! And Raoul does not plan to let the ghost win over his love interest.
The book manages to blend several genres really well, capturing the mysterious, spooky moments and harmonizes it with romantic developments that can certainly fuel one’s self while seeing Christine behaving suspiciously, talking to the Opera Ghost while Raoul listens in discreet. Thing is, when you are introduced to a male protagonist, knowing that he has a thing for the female protagonist, but the girl is already seeing somebody, a ghost, for that matter, you are bound to feel something 😀 . Not to mention a few comical (and absurd) moments as well when the opera house’s new managers, M. Firmin Richard and M. Armand Moncharmin attempt to disprove the Opera Ghost’s existence.
Most of the characters are rather flat and do not possess much depth; we get that Christine is the beautiful lady, Raoul is the handsome, rich dude, and the Opera Ghost, is, well, a pretty illusive and mysterious being. Things keep on staying that way, until the Opera Ghost reveals something that is as shocking as it is satisfying; a revelation that adds layers of depth into its character; this one aspect is so great, that it may cause the readers to choose sides, whether to support Raoul all the way to the end, or empathize with the ghastly Phantom. Regrettably, other characters do not get such treatment; sure enough, Raoul and Christine has some backstories, but they are more like an attempt to make them ‘not generic’ rather than an effort to deepen their character. Regardless, the paths these characters take and the decisions they make are engaging enough to function as the reason not to hate them.
Another brilliant thing of the book is that it is actually told by an investigator with the name Gaston Leroux (yes, the author himself). The story starts with his analysis in convincing the readers that the Opera Ghost does, in fact, exist in reality, along with his other characters. Throughout the story, except for several chapters, the tale of Raoul, Christine, and the Phantom of the Opera is told through Gaston Leroux’s perspective. With those several other chapters told through a form of manuscripts asserted to be left behind by the other characters within the book. With an ample amount of evidences, Gaston Leroux manages to insert the curiosity to look further into the matter, and the question may or may not satisfy the intended desire.
After reading, aside from trying to solve the mystery as stated above, readers may believe that this is not merely a tragic romance with a bittersweet (and fulfilling) ending, but one much deeper than that; it is a story of us fathoming the desire of one’s self in achieving what they want, even under the perplexing circumstances, a story about getting to an understanding with our possibly darker selves or surroundings, just like how Christine responds to the grim, yet somehow pure, love from the Phantom of the Opera.
Rating from me: 4/5
Have you read the book or watched the adaptations? share your thoughts with us in the comments! 😀