Tuesday, July 1

"The Phantom of the Opera" - Gaston Leroux

"The lights dim at the Paris Opera House. The exquisite Christine Daae enraptures the audience with her mellifluous voice. Immediately, Raoul de Chagny falls deeply in love. But the legend of the disfigured "opera ghost" haunts the performance, and as Raoul begins his pursuit of Christine, he is pulled into the depths of the opera house, and into the depths of human emotions. Soon Raoul discovers that the ghost is real and that he wields a terrifying power over Christine--a power as unimaginable as the ghost's masked face. As Raoul and the ghost vie for Christine's love, a journey begins into the dark recesses of the human heart, where desire, vulnerability, fear, and violence unravel in a tragic confrontation."
I love the stage show and absolutely adore the 2004 movie, and while I was well aware that the actual novel is NOT the same as the Andrew Lloyd-Webber creations, and that it is an older book written in Gothic style, I was still expecting to be caught up in that rather charming way you often do (or maybe it's just me...there's a weird thought) when reading a book written in an older style. I don't do it often; I'm a girl who likes the gloss of big-budget Hollywood movies, slick and polished studio CDs, and modern books. (With a few exceptions of course, "Jennie" by Paul Gallico is a slightly older book and I love it to bits).
But back on track. I eagerly dove into this story and was swept up in the enchanting tale of the mysterious Opera Ghost. For the first few chapters I happily read the story that inspired the stage and film adaptations I love so much. Yes, it was different, but still quite good and it was interesting spotting all the similarities and differences.
Then, after about the first quarter of the book, the charm started wearing off. Especially the descriptions of Raoul. I'm not a fan of Raoul anyway, in either the stage or movie production, but in the book (even though he's the one the readers are supposed to be backing, not the phantom!) he was even more cowardly, weak and insipid than anywhere else. It seemed on every other page he was bursting into tears and whining about Christine. At one point it became intriguing, as Raoul was mysteriously found one morning almost dead and unconscious in a cemetary, and as he recounted what happened I was expecting him to say something like "I had a brief sense of the opera ghost stealthily creeping up behind me - the next minute, I felt a devastating blow to the back of my head - then blackness." No, it was much less exciting than that. It was "I saw the opera ghost, and he looked so terrifying that I fainted and nearly froze to death." He fainted because the ghost looked scary. Grow some guts, Raoul!
Even besides the frustratingly insipid Raoul, by the time I was halfway through the novel, I was sighing and wishing it was over. I flicked through the second half and noticed nothing much else that might attract my attention. What a pity.
This one's going straight back onto the shelf, and I'll stick with my beloved movie and the memory of the time I saw it on stage. Admittedly, a lot of my dislike is probably simply due to my dislike of the genre, and not the book as a whole. But this is my review site, so I can give it whatever rating I want. 1 STAR

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