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The Phantom Of The Opera is a theatrical nightmare of a book. And that’s a compliment. It’s a fantastic and thrilling journey into the gothic that reveals the dark side of romance and music. Not only is the novel an aesthetic treat, with vast visuals and delightful dreams, but it has a deeper meaning. Yes, unlike the previously reviewed The Night Circus, there is magic beyond bewitching set pieces. It’s not shallow like a muddy puddle.
Gaston Leroux is a sharp, beyond competent writer. Although I read a translation, you can see his literary prowess within the text. He knows that the gothic requires detailed descriptions, and that people are drawn to the madness of the Phantom because he is so bizarre and peculiar. And Leroux delivers. The Phantom is a haunting character, mysterious in the best way, that bewitches the reader.
That is because The Phantom Of The Opera bothers to be profound. There is commentary on love, and how it is often forced. Yet what Leroux does is tie the narration of humane desires with insight on beauty, or lack of. Best of all? He does it with grace and poise.
The Phantom is, ghastly and ugly. Yet that’s the point with Leroux’s novel. He wants us to think about beauty and its intersection with love. He also paints a world where love and beauty are denied to certain individuals and recounts the consequences.
Many will interpret such a message as meaning ‘should people be forced to love others?’ Yet that’s not what Leroux is doing. Although the Phantom is a drawing character, he’s not right in his obsession. Rather, Leroux is making a sophisticated comment on the masks we must wear, even whilst we are waging war on the entire world. It’s terrific that The Phantom Of The Opera is in the hands of an author who doesn’t weaken his message.
That is imperative. Books can easily fall into meaninglessness if they weaken their intelligence or themes. Yet thankfully, Leroux does not do that. Instead, we are greeted to a dusky world, owned by the Angel of Music, and graced by the patrons of the underworld. There is so much thematic depth in Phantom Of The Opera. It stands out not because of its gothic aesthetic, but because of its unique way to see beauty and love in the macabre.
Few writers have that skill. Because of that, I’m excited to apply the literary lessons in The Phantom Of The Opera to my writing.
The Phantom Of The Opera is also a mystery, as secrets are not easily given away initially. Whilst Leroux’s unveiling of the answers can feel rushed, it remains satisfying. This is the book you’d want to read in a single sitting.
I wish some side characters got more development, as it’s clear there is only room for a few stars in this universe. Yet for the characters Leroux opts to focus on, his skill is showed.
I kept this review vague on plot points, because I hope that the future readers of The Phantom Of The Opera are oblivious to the events of the story until they read it. Like I was! It’s also important to dwell on the themes, because I dislike it when the Phantom Of The Opera, and the gothic, is reduced to ‘dark stuff.’
To finish this review, I’d like to share my lack of familiarity with the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. That said, I love this medley by Lindsey Stirling. Because it captures both the romance, beauty and mystery that lurks in the Opera House.