I read this with the serial reader app. I love how accessible it makes classic books. You get a small portion of the book each day, and before you know it... you're done. I even find myself reading ahead from time to time to see what happens next.
I never read this one before and I never even saw the musical. I listened to the music and loved it, but that was all.
This was a good story and I enjoyed reading it. The Opera Ghost is always a mystery, but the other characters are interesting - though not enough to really get attached to. I was on the edge of my seat at the end, waiting to see who would survive.
Well, that was crappy. Things do happen in this novel, and yet, it somehow manages to be completely anticlimactic. How? Everything important happens "off-screen" to characters Leroux never bothered to even consider that someone would want to read about, despite being the lead characters in the novel. No, instead, let's have chapter upon chapter in first-person from the point of view of a character that's barely been introduced until the last third of the novel when he's narrating! Erik and Christine? PHHHT! Who'd want to read about the main protagonist/antagonist?! The most interesting chapter in the damn thing is when Christine describes being taken underground by the "Angel," and even then, it's waaaaaay after the fact. I suppose Leroux thought he was creating mystery and suspense. It doesn't work. I can't imagine how this was published as a serial, when no chapter left me wanting more.
The characters are insufferable. The only one I felt mildly for was Christine, who had to deal with Raoul's bratty behavior, and Erik's homicidal stalking, the managers not really caring that she disappears and suspecting her of orchestrating some of Erik's tricks, Carlotta's loyal audience giving her a hard time every time she sings... I had a basic female empathy for her, even when she was being frustratingly naive. Raoul can go eat a bag of turds for life; Leroux tried to excuse his behavior by telling us it's his inexperience in love. Generally an inexperienced person doesn't accuse the person he loves of being an unfaithful whore every other sentence, as she's trying to confess what happened. Sighs. And Erik... just forget it.
All of it is written as an investigation of mysterious events that transpired at the Opera, making it rather a precursor to modern procedurals, but also making it distant and difficult to care about anyone. It's one saving grace is how short it is.
So why is my rating so generous? Well... I said 'its one saving grace,' but it has another, and that's that Leroux came up with an idea so fantastical, so lurid and interesting, that a hundred and five years later, it still belongs in our public consciousness. He did it poorly, but it's inspired so many adaptations, so many people to take the bare bones of what he laid out and elaborate on. And that is more than a noteworthy feat.
My Modern Library edition also includes an analysis of the text, which discusses such things as antisemitism and Freudian psychology. Which I feel is giving far too much credit. And also an introduction by Anne Perry, which just creeped me the hell out with her rhetoric espousing sympathetic killers.
Oh, Christine Daae, it sucks to be you. Like, seriously, every man in her life is a complete douche-canoe. People don't like Raoul in the musical because he's a wet blanket? Oh, book!Christine should be so lucky! He treats her like garbage, essentially calls her a whore, with the excuse that he's "inexperienced" in love. So why doesn't she run off with Erik, one might ask? Well, other than the fact that I've actually never dug this whole romanticism of the Phantom, in the books, he's childish and emotionally blackmailing. At one point, Christine keeps saying that it was as if she were given a "cordial" when he took her underground, and this led me to be certain that he's drugging her also so she's more pliant. The general public hates her because she's daring to be "above herself" by being in love with Raoul, her brother's fighting them, the Opera's in Carlotta's favor...
And the book doesn't even bother itself with her point of view.
Sucks to be you.
So far, kind of meh. I was expecting something with much more Gallic passion and indulgence. But it's more, 'Upon the second occasion that the Opera ghost made himself known, it was a celebration for the retirement of M. X, lest it should be forgotten that he began his career in his twenty-second year and BLAH BLAH BLAH.' I mean, it's still early days, and I JUST got to Raoul and Christine meeting again, so thank goodness! Also, Raoul has a brother, huh. Who dies in a terrible way towards the end--thanks for the spoiler for your own book, Gaston! Sarcasm. But I did not see that one coming, from all the adaptations that I've seen.
Also? The introduction by Anne Perry reads as suuuuuper creepy to me, with all of her justifications of the sympathetic murderer, considering her real identity.