Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera

Welcome to the second installment in my reviews of books I read over break! This next one is called The Phantom of the Opera.

I’ve actually read this book before, though I doubt I understood much of it given that it was in 7th grade. The Phantom of the Opera, written by Gaston Leroux, is a thriller told from the perspective of an investigator who investigates the tragedy of Christine Daee, her lover the Vicomte de Chagny (Viscount of Chagny), and his brother the Comte de Chagny (The Count). I’ll briefly summarize the premise of the book and I’ll try to be careful not to reveal the mystery prematurely. If you’re a person who dislikes spoilers and wants to read this book, I’d recommend you stop reading this post (just to be safe) and start reading the book. Gaston Leroux assumes the position of a detective and composes the novel like a police report, a literary choice that both heightens the experience but sometimes makes the book a bit of a chore to read. As the managers of the Opera retire, they inform their successors, Moncharmin and Richard, about a phantasm that haunts the Opera. The new managers are initially incredulous and laugh off the phantom’s demands as a joke made in poor taste. However, Moncharmin and Richard are unprepared for the bizarre events that follow. As the book progresses, we discover more about this strange figure who casts a sinister shadow over the grandeur and romance of the Opera. There’s a love triangle (kind of), a set of ingenious and devilish traps, and other fantastical occurrences that keep you glued to the book. While I generally liked the book, I thought Leroux’s attentiveness to detail was a sort of double-edged sword. His lurid descriptions added a new dimension to the opera, transforming it from a stiff music hall into a city where mystery and tragedy abound. On the other hand, he spends way too much time discussing information tangential to the story which bored me a bit. Exacerbating my boredom was the fact that most of the allusions he makes during his long-winded rants were French and thus completely missed on me. The Phantom of the Opera is a masterpiece, however, and a great read if you have the stamina to sift through the heavily belabored prose.

 

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