Phantom of the Opera

I went into Phantom knowing absolutely nothing about the story, the setting, or anything about the characters; I simply found it sitting on my Kindle and decided to give it a try. Looking back, I think that was definitely one of the best literary decisions I’ve made all summer. Phantom tells the story of the Erik, a disfigured and mysterious being that lives beneath the Paris Opera House, and his ensuing relationship with his love Christine Daae.

I shouldn’t be writing this review after watching the movie, but the truth stands the book is overwhelmingly better than the film or musical adaptation. The novel is written as more of a mystery; there’s elements of terror and the supernatural with respect to the happenings in the opera house, and the story cleverly unveils the happenings behind these events with expert precision.

Something I loved was how action-packed the novel was for something released in the 19th century. The scene with the mirrored torture chamber was something that felt straight out of a swashbuckling adventure. And, the classic about-to-drown moment paired with the sense of craziness that the opera house would collapse was absolutely insane. I ended up secretly reading it at work, since I couldn’t take the suspense for 8 more hours. The latter half of the book with the reveals and action is breathtakingly wonderful.

The characters themselves are more grounded and interesting than their movie counterparts. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated how necessary and important developing a character to point where the audience connects with this is, but I think that’s certainly something that the film adaptation didn’t do well that the book does. By thrusting us into the personal lives of the main characters and explaining their backstory at critical moments, we’re given a mirror to view them in and potentially map ourselves onto them. To be fair, I didn’t like Raoul–he was a pretty ineffective character who doted over Christine but never really took any initiative for her. Regardless, I was interested in him, whereas I wasn’t for Movie Raoul.

There’s a strong similarity between Book Phantom and Book Raoul that doesn’t make it to the silver screen that I really liked. Both these characters are ineffective and childish; they’re guided purely by the love / infatuation they have for Christine, though they really have no other redeeming qualities that make them likeable characters. Raoul basically loses all will to live in the torture chamber, and his weird interests like going to the North Pole are just…weird. I don’t know. I think there are implications that Christine chooses Raoul for his looks and normal-ness, which adds to the tragic factor because it potentially means that the Phantom suffered yet another loss due to his inability to be normal. Or maybe she didn’t want to be with a homicidal maniac.

In the end, I think the part that really appealed to me about Phantom was the romantic part; a little unexpected, I think, because the book is more of a mystery at heart. I went into the musical expecting that it would develop this part more, but I think it wasn’t really satisfying enough. Regardless, I felt a sense of departing from a living, breathing universe once I reached the end of Phantom. I love that feeling.


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