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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...

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