Friday, June 29, 2012

Gaston Leroux - The Phantom of the Opera

 *The following information refers to the original French edition*

  Author: Gaston Leroux
Title: The Phantom of the Opera
Published: 1911
Publisher: Pierre Lafitte and Cie
Length: 260 pages
Genre: Gothic (mystery/horror)
Why I picked it up: Currently obsessed with the musical
Rating: 4 stars
Buy:  IndieBound Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

As I described in my post about The Phantom of the Opera, I am going through a bit of a phase. Of course, this meant I had to devour the book. (Minor?) Spoilers to follow.

This novel is just over one hundred years old. I can't even begin to fathom how (relatively) long a hundred years is, how different the world was then. I was surprised to find myself, therefore, easily reading this book as though it was written not so long ago. The language wasn't stuffy and I found the book moved at a good pace; it didn't drag along or dance around events (at least as much as other books) like the most recent 'old' book I read, Treasure Island. I have had a very rough time reading anything pre-1900s (can so much have changed in just ten years?), but then, I've never really read any French fiction. Perhaps it's the translation. I've only read a bit of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is a much older tale, but I got the same sort of feeling while reading that as I did while reading this. Maybe I should read more French fiction...(if anyone reading this knows about early 21st century French fiction, please enlighten me ;P)

format, historical recording, POVs

Another aspect of this novel I really enjoyed was the humour - again, something I wasn't anticipating.

I had heard the ending was a lot different from the musical. It was different, I suppose, just a bit, but it wasn't drastically so - I thought the Phantom would kill Christine or something tragic like that. The ending was still tragic, but not in such a different way from the musical.

I marked a lot of passages that I liked in this book, something I haven't done for awhile. A phrase has to really catch my eye for me to mark it down, so this just goes to show prove how much I really did enjoy the writing. 

  • Pg 96 -Carlotta's great Co-ack! is one of many great examples of how Leroux builds suspense and tension and humour. I love the excessive use of ... for dramatic pause/breaths (what is the name for those three dots?! I can't recall... ;P)
  • Pg 121 -  A favourite passage (context required but I don't want to explain it all, haha)
    • One day, about a week after the game began, Raoul's heart was badly hurt and he stopped playing and uttereed these wild words: 'I shan't go to the North Pole!' Christine, who, in her innocence, had not dreamt of such a possibility, suddenly discovered the danger of the game and reproached herself bitterly.
  • Pg 130 - Christine describing the voice:
    • 'And it said this with such an accent of human sorrow that I ought then and there to have suspected and begun to believe that I was the victim of my deluded senses.'
  • Pg 141 - Erik's rantings at this part were pretty frightening, I got pretty absorbed and creeped out (rare for me!)
  • Pg 145 - Christine: 'Are people so unhappy when the love?' Raoul: 'Yes, Christine, when they love and are not sure of being loved.'
  • Pg 215 - This is a good example of a technique that Leroux uses a few times throughout the story. There'll be some weird event that seems out of place but is then explained later on when the story switches to another character's perspective. The Persian instructs Raoul to walk with his hand out as though he's going to shoot a rifle, but though they are carrying rifles, they aren't intending to use them. This perplexes Raoul (and the reader); we find out later on when the story is told from the Persian's perspective that Erik is a master of the lasso and could easily strangle them from a distance. By holding their arms out Erik won't be able to get the lasso just around their necks. Clever!
I whould say which version of the story I liked better - Andrew Lloyd Webber's or Gaston Leroux's - but is nearly impossible to compare such different creative mediums. I adore the musical for what it is, for the songs and the drama, and I adore the novel for what it is, for Leroux's engaging method of storytelling and more developed characters. As for my obsession, it leans more towards the musical (those songs!, those voices!) but I'm glad the musical lead me to the book. I enjoyed this little haunting tale.

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