Tuesday, September 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

4 musical stars.

The book is nothing like the musical.

I just thought I'd give everyone a heads up in case they're thoroughly in love with the musical and don't want to read anything that deviates from it, even though technically the musical deviated from the book. I read a few reviews where the reviewers were disappointed because the book was so inherently different. That being said, while I'm a fan of the musical, I have never been 100% in love with it. In fact, it turns out I prefer the book over the musical.

The book holds a much more complicated relationship with the reader than the musical does with the viewer. There is more going on in the plot, there are more plots in general, and it is just over-the-top, gothic horror fun. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this! It is almost a satire of itself.  It is overdone, dramatic and juvenile.  Christine is so virginal, Raoul is so heroic (yet gentle), and the Phantom is so creepy (yet pathetic).

What struck me the most was that this was a re-telling of the Persephone and Hades story from Greek mythology -- and it was a solid re-telling that added more depth to the story, making it more complex. (Of course, it also has traditonal Christian elements as well:  Christine (Christ) and The Angel of Music (a common occupation for the Devil/Lucifer).  I have seen the movie adaptations of the musical, I've seen the musical itself on Broadway, but never have I connected the dots so clearly as when I was reading it. The lake to the Phantom's house is the lake to the Underworld. This underworld is where the Phantom (Hades) dwells and he goes to the upper world to capture the beautiful Christine (Persephone) to make her his. What impressed me was that there were flowers in the Phantom's underground chamber. Persephone, in classical Greek mythology, loved three things: sunshine, laughter and wildflowers.

Although all the characters themselves felt sympathy for the Phantom, I never once did, and I'm not entirely sure how much Leroux wanted me to.  Certainly, the Phantom is a victim of his time, but being a victim does not give one the right to become a villain. It was hard for me to feel sympathetic for a sociopath, hellbent on getting what he wants, everyone else be damned. I know there are many readers who love the Phantom, but even in the musical version where he is presented as a much more sympathetic character, I could never bring myself to like him. 

Either way, this book is a quick read, hilarious and I would recommend it to everyone. You may love it, hate it or feel ambivalent about it, but I definitely think it's a book worth reading once in your life.


  1. Oh wow.
    I never saw the similarity between the Hades-Persephone story to this until I've read it here.
    I want to comment something re. the Phantom but I guess I need to reread it again in order to get my thoughts sorted out. lol

    Raves and Reads ll The Bookwhore Diaries

    1. Haha, well, it's definitely a book worth re-reading! :)
      The comparison totally jumped out at me and I was like... holy crap. Lol.
      I'm sure my obsession with Persephone had nothing to do with it. >_>

  2. Really interesting this theory, thank you for this inspiration.

  3. The Phantom of the Opera is one of my all time favorite books. I am obsessed with anything to do with The Phantom of the Opera. Thanks for sharing your wonderful review.