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.

What I Read While Neglecting This Blog

In addition to the books below, I have been rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events because a) The Mysterious Benedict Society made me want some very good child lit about orphans, b) Snicket’s autobiography is coming out in October and c) I just really felt like it. I’ve been doing this over the past two weeks; I’ve just finished The Miserable Mill. I forgot how wonderfully, disgustingly evil Count Olaf is. The first book is quite terrifying.

  • The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard
    • Finished on: May 18
    • Published: March 2010
    • Genre: Non-fiction
    • Why I picked it up: High interest level in subject matter
    • Rating: 4.5 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • I wish everyone could read this book. I definitely think everyone should  read this book. Why must people insist on living in ignorance? (I know, so they can continue living the way they do, but people can still have wonderful lives without such insanely high levels of consumption.) The Story of Stuff clearly illustrates why I make the decisions I do. It does a fantastic job of elaborating what I mean when I say ‘Because it’s bad for everything and everyone!’ (for example, when asked why I don’t like shopping at Wal-mart or why I feel guilty buying fast food). 
      • Shared throughout the book are a lot of really neat and handy resources (I wish I had marked more of them) if you are American, however – for example, the GoodGuide.)
      • I always have to wonder how comparable American and Canadian stats are when I read a book like this…but really, statistics don’t matter at all, what matters is how we choose to live our lives. 
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
    • Finished on: May 31
    • Published: March 2012
    • Genre: Memoir
    • Why I picked it up: Heard lots about it, something finally made me want to pick it up (though I can’t remember what it was!)
    • Rating: 4 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • This book was not really what I expected. I was anticipating something more like light-hearted, a bit fluffy, girly, mostly humourous but with thoughtful moments of reflection. I was not expecting something more similar to another favourite memoir of mine, also called Wild, by Jay Griffiths. I prefer Griffith’s book, of course, and they are very different stories, by Strayed’s book had plenty of grit, lots of rough moments and was far more down to earth than I expected. It was very real. You can feel Strayed’s emotions bleedings from the paper, the tragedies and difficulties she struggled with 
        • Examples of this would include her heroin use (definitely was not expecting that!) and the scene she describes of the horse shooting. These were just two I remembered to write down; I was very absorbed in this book (for entertainment purposes) so I didn’t take a lot of notes.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by  Trenton Lee Stewart
    • Finished on: June 2 and June 4
    • Published: March 2007 and May 2008
    • Genre: Children’s literature
    • Why I picked it up: Books looked cute, picked them up for $4/each
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • The stories felt unbelievable and highly contrived. I can’t help but compare these books to A Series of Unfortunate Events – while outrageous, unbelievable events happen in ASOUE, they are placed in a context and world that makes them acceptable. In these books, the events just seem outlandish and silly.
      • I couldn’t figure out what age would appreciate these stories, particularly because of the above point. The writing can be somewhat mature, perhaps for age 10-12, but the story itself comes across as infantile, despite some of the ‘scary’ events contained within.
      • Although I didn’t really enjoy these books at all, there were some very funny passages and some very serious heavy moments. These are the reason why I gave the books three stars instead of two – I laughed out loud at more than one place (The reason for Constance’s sleepiness and crankiness? I laugh now just thinking about it!)
      • Passages of note (all from Perilous Journey): Page 31, page 185, page 203 peacock and page 250 ineffective
  • The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
    • Finished on: June 4
    • Published: October 2011
    • Genre: Non-fiction art book
    • Why I picked it up: Adore The Hobbit and Tolkien, love seeing author’s visions
    • Rating: 5 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • This is a beautiful beautiful book and any Hobbit or Tolkien fan show own it. ‘Nuff said.
      • I love all the information given on the development of the pictures and their place in the story; the references to various Tolkien works. I think this book works best as a supplement to something like The History of the Hobbit (which, coincidentally, I happen to be reading right now :P), where it fits in a greater context and you can really see the development of the illustrations with the story.
      • My favourite images:
  • Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
    • Finished on: June 7 and June 18
    • Published: April 2000 and November 2002
    • Genre: Slice-of-life fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Reading the series
    • Rating: 3.5 stars