Well. That was different to the film.
Oh, I know. Sinner, sinner, sinner. How could I commit such a monstrous wrong as to not read the book first? The answer is even worse.
For a long time, I didn’t even know there was a book.
But find out I did, and I have since made amends by reading the thing.
It’s a strange old novel, which I liked more than I disliked, and which I think perhaps I didn’t entirely understand.
‘Oh, tonight I gave you my soul and I am dead!’ Christine replied.
‘Your soul is a beautiful thing, child,’ replied the man’s grave voice, ‘and I thank you. No emperor ever received so fair a gift. THE ANGELS WEPT TONIGHT.’
The Phantom of the Opera is not the romance it is made out to be, but a Gothic novel about an outcast genius and his obsession with a naïve young singer, whose virginal personality is more like that of a child than an adult woman.
As far as the classics go it is, in my opinion, easy to read, and the writing is in places very beautiful, making this a highly quotable text.
The plot is also by turns exciting, inventive, and unusual. Unfortunately, it falls down on realism, with over-dramatic dialogue and a cast of (mostly superfluous) two-dimensional characters.
And, despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should. As for Raoul, he saw nothing either; for, when he had Christine in front of him, nothing interested him that happened behind.
This is a good book, but in my opinion it’s not one of the best when it comes to Gothic literature. As sort-of-fascinating a character as the Phantom is, I think this novel lacks the depth and nuance of its contemporaries.
Also, for all its romantic themes (love between father and daughter, young love, selfish love, obsessive love, etc.), I found this book quite cold. In my opinion it lacks tenderness, and as such there was no one I really ended up rooting for.
And then there’s The Persian, who is the definition of a plot device in character form, endlessly appearing to deliver his lines, and then disappearing, without need for motive, convincing backstory, or indeed, an actual place in the narrative.
‘I have invented a mask that makes me look like anybody. People will not even turn round in the streets. You will be the happiest of women. And we will sing, all by ourselves, till we swoon away with delight. You are crying! You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked. Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself. If you loved me I should be as gentle as a lamb; and you could do anything with me that you pleased.’
However, The Phantom of the Opera does feature some delightful description, particularly in regard to the setting, which is an exaggeration of the Paris Opera. I have actually visited the Palais Garnier in real life, and I can tell you, this book really does it justice as an otherworldly, magical palace in which all sorts of strange, glamorous things might happen.
And I did enjoy the plot, which is a good deal quicker-paced than most classics.
So, all in all, an inch shy of disappointing. Not the best, but not the worst. I’m glad I read it, anyway.