Skip to main content

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Finally it is done. Don't get me wrong; I may sound unamused but I am happy having read the book. Well, not exactly thrilled maybe, but yeah, happy. 

I began reading Phantom in January. In coherence with my earlier trysts with classics, it took me quite a bit of patience to get through. In other words, it wasn't exactly breath-taking, but was interesting enough to tickle my imagination.

I will begin by telling you what I like about The Phantom. The Opera house in itself, is a marvel to read about (the origins of which is detailed in an appended newspaper report that Leroux referred to for his story); all the columns and boxes and dressing rooms and shaded corridors, the roofs with the statue of the Apollo... there was nothing flowery in their description, but the architecture set the mood of the mystery-in-catacombs. And then there were the supporting characters: the incredulous managers, the gossiping dancers, the haughty Madam Giry and the lovelorn Raoul - who created the perfect atmosphere of early 1900s Paris of ornate horsedrawn carriages on cobbled streets and men in tailcoats and hats. What appears to be the same, is the plethora of everyday reactions of people. The story concerns primarily with life inside of the opera house, so naturally it is enriched with elements of superstition, mistrust, jealousy; basically everything to do with showmanship. But love, ah, is undeniably the villain of the story. It ruins lives both metaphorically and literally. As for the plot, it is certainly very ingenious (I feel foolish saying this about a story which has been adapted into various form of media so may times, and mostly successfully) and keeps the attention from swaying. After all, what can be more spine-chilling about a ghost haunting an opera house ?! It has all the makings of an incredibly well-choreographed ghost story amidst the dank stone structures of a baroque opera house. 

But the story has its damp parts. Often, there were angst ridden exchanges between Raoul and Christine; it seemed but obvious about what was going on and I found myself rolling my eyes internally. Some characters, I feel, could have a few more pages dedicated to them - the Persian, for instance. Admittedly the story was about the ghost, or O.G. as he was 'lovingly' called but well, the Persian's history seemed abrupt. I actually loved the backstory of the ghost, tragic though it was, it explained much. The Persian featured in a key role and in my opinion, deserved more attention than the lovelorn couple. The managers of the Opera mostly provided the comic relief and helped in bringing out - in a cynical way - the worldliness in the surreal world of art.

Things did seem melodramatically in excess towards the end, but the parting shot of "Erik is dead." was touching. And well, this is afterall a story of the stage, for the stage and by the stage ! It gave me a feeling of mild accomplishment when I was through. Maybe my next initiative would be the stage adaptation; I have a feeling (naieve as I am) it would seem a lot grander in such arrangements...


Popular posts from this blog

Man-Eaters of Kumaon - Jim Corbett

Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 5/5

This one is decidedly a classic, so there is little point in reviewing this book. It is a beautiful one, without doubt. 
Personally, I avoid any form of entertainment (books, movies, plays, anything) which features cruelty - either directly or tacitly - towards animals (I have not yet seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, Ant Man was uncomfortable too). So deciding to read this book took a certain degree of convincing. 
Much credit goes to the beautiful cover of the book. This one is an Aleph Classics (co-founded by David Davidar of The House of Blue Mangoes fame, and Rupa Publication) edition. In terms of sheer elegance, the cover design is unmatched.

The palette concept of jungle green coupled with the late afternoon sun creates an ambiance even before you delve into the pages. I picked out the book from a thin pile on a shelf in the little HigginBothams book-store near Charing Cross in Ooty, one biting winter evening (more on that later), such w…

Higginbothams of Ooty

It took us some time to decipher that the name of the crossroad was Charing Cross. After all, it is an unexpected name for an Indian crossroad in Tamil Nadu, and the mildly opinionated chap driving us to our hotel had a heavy accent. Charing Cross turned out to be a triangular enclosure, with an imposing fountain (we later discovered that it was named the Adam's Fountain; it is three-tiered, the second one topped by four very colourful cherubs). Since we had arrived in the middle of the afternoon in the thick of winter, the roads were thronging with people and vehicles. Shops were bustling and business appeared brisk. Our driver skilfully negotiated the traffic as we passed woollens shops, gift houses, eateries, groceries and mobile-phone shops. 
We returned to the market later in the evening, after having deposited our luggage. Both my husband and I had been fending off a nasty bout of flu and needed to restock our now near-empty medicine pouch. Charing Cross in the evening (thi…

Top 10 books to read when you are depressed

Books are handy weapons to stave off blues - be it the dregs of the Sunday evening or a nasty bout of flu. When you are depressed, it takes herculean efforts to shake off the feeling. And I'm not even talking about the more severe, clinical form of depression. I can't get myself to pour myself a glass of water the day after Diwali; on Fridays on the other hand, I am the epitome of eternal sunshine. For such moody, dull days, these top 10 books are the surest way to dust a little sparkle in your life.
1) Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog): This is Jerome K. Jerome at his absolute best. It was published some 130 years back and is still capable of eliciting raucous laughter. It is the honest journal of three young, bumbling flatmates and their dog on a river cruise. Look out for some meandering, pedantic pages, but they offer some relief from the relentless humour. 
2) James Herriot'sDog Stories: If you love animals (and dogs, in particular), this is the ultimate…