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Enter the Trap-Door Lover

  • Jun 13, 2006
  • by
Pros: Very satisfying to read the original

Cons: Can become a bit muddled

The Bottom Line: He's not Gerard Butler, that's for sure.

My grandparents were set on buying me clothes for a graduation present. I don’t need clothes. What did I do? Convince them to take me to my happy place, Barnes & Noble, where I bought two books (the third wasn’t there – sad). This was one of them. I’d been curious for some time about the actual story of the Phantom of the Opera the moment I heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece had a real beginning to it. I like to compare things – books and movies, soundtracks, English and Japanese voice actors…one might go so far as to say I’m a bit of a comparison glutton.

But before I digress any further, let’s get to the topic at hand, shall we? Gaston Leroux, the creator of the Phantom in 1911 tells a tale much different from what we’ve gotten from Mr. Webber over the years. True, much of it is the same, but there is also much left out (and which good reason, I have nothing against the musical and am in love with the most recent movie). The book I have is 270 pages and a part of the Signet Classics group with an introduction by Dr. John L. Flynn. The introduction provides some interesting comparisons themselves concerning the various actors and actresses who have portrayed the Phantom and Christine, their motives and styles. He also gives the reader a brief biography about Gaston Leroux. Yet however interesting the Introduction may be, we’re here for the story, aren’t we?

The Phantom, whose name is Erik for many who don’t know (I didn’t for the longest time), haunts the halls of the famous Paris Opera House. It is his home, and though rumors abound about his appearance and actions, no one knows the truth behind the Opera Ghost. When two managers take over the Opera House, they are convinced this is all an elaborate hoax, until horrible things begin happening. The Phantom has also been giving secret lessons to young Christine DaaĆ©, who believes him to be the Angel of Music sent by her dead father. However, a young man by the name of Raoul is suspicious about such things, and as he is in love with Christine, vows to discover the reason behind her strange behavior and claims of the Angel of Music. Much more goes on within the Paris Opera House than anyone knows about, including the construction of a house on an underground lake, secret passages snaking throughout the structure, and the true history of the Phantom.

That is merely a taste of what is in this book. Gaston Leroux introduces the reader to many more characters than the musical ever does, some of whom are drastically different in their manner and looks than you might have thought. The reader also gets a huge amount of information about the Phantom’s past, which I found rather intriguing and very unique as well as unexpected. The things Erik has done and what Raoul and another character named the Persian find themselves facing won’t ever be found in the musical, and in some ways can be kind of weird if that’s all you’ve been accustomed to, though it does make for a rather awesome change. Oh, and don’t let any of the musicals fool you – the Phantom is in no way a good looking man.

Problems with the book? Leroux portrays this as a true story, claiming that the Opera Ghost really existed. He uses excerpts from memoirs, letters, and other things to get the idea across. It’s very interesting and gives the book a very nice touch. The style is what I have a few problems with. Sometimes it feels as though things get a little convoluted or the description is just not clear enough to me and I have a difficult time in picturing a certain scene. There are also times when you just want to wring a character’s neck for being a fool. I tend to have issues in general with people who just can’t communicate properly. There are also the presence of a few things that make little sense to me, which may be due in part because the book was written in 1911 and here I am reading it in 2006. There were two characters (I guess I could call them) that are extremely random, described very oddly, and in general, just make no sense to me. The shade and the rat catcher. Very odd indeed.

Overall, I admit to liking the musical better. Mostly because Webber cut out basically everything that could have been cut out, making the story a little less convoluted, more straightforward. That and you get some actual music, whereas if you’re just reading, you’re not exactly getting the full experience if you know what I mean. But I still highly recommend reading it for the simple fact that it is so different from what we all know. In a way it almost became a different story to me.

So go find your Phantom and see all the interesting places he takes you. Oh, and beware the siren of the lake.



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More The Phantom of the Opera (book... reviews
review by . June 27, 2010
(Mild spoilers ahead)      "I am the little boy who went into the sea to rescue your scarf," Raoul de Chagny explains to Christine Daaé when they meet again after many long years. She laughs at him for this, but the root of her laughter is more complex than one might think.      Perhaps that's why I tend to favor the original novel version by Gaston Leroux over any other.   Don't get me wrong: I adore the 2004 movie …
Quick Tip by . October 09, 2010
Oddly poetic, disturbingly thought provokingj. Wonderful as a live performance, written work, or on the big screen. A must for fans of music, theater, drama, or odd characters
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
didnt read the book...loved the plays.....and i never saw the movie.
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
WARNING: the novel is nothing like the musical! It is, however, artfully written from the perspectives of multiple characters with all of the same intrigue, mystery, and danger you expect from the popular stage adaptation.
Quick Tip by . July 14, 2010
Just as good as the musical. I love the descriptions of the underground opera house.
Quick Tip by . July 07, 2010
Engrossing, enthralling, suspenseful, and allows varied perspectives as touched upon below. Psychologically important and interesting in addition to a great love story.
review by . June 30, 2010
This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys the play or the movie. I read it after seeing the Broadway production (way before the movie) and was highly surprised. Where in the book and even in the play you could feel for the Phantom and sympathize with his character, the book shows his true side which is more psychopathic, blood thirsty, and madly intellectual. At first I didn't want to continue reading it (I'm a fan of Eric so I was a little disappointed) but I'm glad I did. The …
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
good movie
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Definitely a good read! It's a fair bit different from the movie and stage versions, but I tend to like it best, even though it's the least known version. The story is captivating all the way through, once you get over the fact that it may not be the same "Phantom" you know.
review by . November 03, 2006
I bought this book after seeing the broadway show a few times and watching the movies.  The book to me was all over the place in focus. Drifting back and forth. Raoul is such a winy wimp in the book and Christine is almost evil in the way she treats both the Phantom and Raoul.  The only thing I can say is that if you are a fan of the broadway show or the movies, this book clears up some questions and details that you miss in the show and movies.  All in all it's a great …
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Nicole ()
Ranked #166
Age: 27 Currently: Freelancing my butt off and querying my other novel, Blood for Wolves. Who likes seriously factured fairy tales? =D      Like books? Then take it from a real, live … more
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About this book


The novel that inspired the Lon Chaney film and the hit musical. "The wildest and most fantastic of tales."--New York Times Book Review.
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ISBN-10: 0060809248
ISBN-13: 978-0060809249
Author: Gaston Leroux
Publisher: Harper Perennial

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