My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
About the Author:
Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux (6 May 1868 – 15 April 1927) was a French journalist and author of detective stories. He is known to English readers as the author of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, 1910), which has been made into several film and stage productions of the same name. His novel ‘The Mystery of the Yellow Room’ is also one of the most famous locked-room mysteries ever.
Publication Year: 1910
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is set in the Paris Opera House rumored to house a phantom who is an object of speculation and fear for the people working in the establishment. The story begins on the night of the gala celebrating the retirement of the old opera directors who are going to hand over the Opera House to the two new directors.
But the festivities are interrupted when the chief scene-shifter working in the Opera House, Joseph Buquet, is found hanged in the basement in a mysterious manner. That same night, the new and inexperienced opera singer Christine Daaé delivers a splendid performance. There she is reunited with her old flame Raoul.
Soon after settling in, the new directors find themselves in a pickle when they receive letters from the phantom blackmailing them to fulfill his demands which are dismissed by them that leads to dangerous consequences. At the same time, on learning about the association between Christine and Raoul, the phantom, driven by jealousy, kidnaps her.
In the prologue, the author explains how his interest in the historical events that took place 30 years ago in the Paris Opera House inspired him to write the novel. He conducted extensive research by going through the Paris Opera House’s library, memoirs of manager, letters and hearing first-hand accounts from people. He claimed that the legendary ghost actually existed.
“He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar.”
The plot of the book was fascinating and it was the main reason I picked up this book. Shunned by everyone, the ghost finds solace in a girl. It’s thrilling to watch the revelation of the story of the ghost. He was the one pulling all the strings, tricking the managers, extorting money, sabotaging the rival of the girl he loves which gave him a lifelike quality yet, he was a mystery shrouded in darkness.
However, the writing failed to charm me as I found it unengaging and overdramatic. The book is slow in the beginning but gets more interesting towards the end. The dialogue was bland and some side characters felt really unnecessary as they did not affect the plot.
I found myself bored at places and the only thing that kept me going was the Opera ghost who stands out more than any other characters in the novel. They did not make any lasting impression on me, except the Persian who is acquainted with the ghost and plays a significant role in the novel. It would have been interesting to know the story from Christine’s perspective but it’s left to the imagination.
“If I am the phantom, it is because man’s hatred has made me so. If I am to be saved it is because your love redeems me.”
The phantom reminded me so much of ‘Heathcliff’ from ‘Wuthering Heights’. I was horrified by the phantom but in the end, we do get to learn about his life story which made me sympathize with him. Though that doesn’t justify the bad things he did, the events reveal the human side of the ghost and the monstrous side of the society that shuns people who do not fit in.
All in all, despite the unremarkable writing, I still enjoyed the Gothic element in the novel that rendered it a dark and thrilling quality. If that’s your cup of tea, then this will be a satisfying read.