I fell in love with The Phantom of the Opera after watching the 2004 movie adaptation. Since then I have wanted to read the book. I never knew what a surprise was in store for me. The movie was simply a love triangle between Raoul, Christine, and Erik – the “opera ghost” and nothing more. But the book is none of that. It is a gothic horror story; quite different from the movie and very dark. Reading the book reversed my perspective on the story and its characters.
The “Poor Erik” of the movie was not so “poor” after all. He is not so much the wronged, unlucky man as I thought him to be. He is a monster who kills, injures, blackmails, and kidnaps to achieve his desires in life. Just when I thought I have read the darkest classical character in Heathcliff, Leroux presents me with a more sinister Erik! He terrorizes the whole of the opera house with his brutality especially the young and innocent Christine Dae. Erik is nothing but a villain who deserves no sympathy. And Raoul is no hero. He is more suited for a fool with his doubting heart, his childish actions, his short sight, and impatience. Leroux’s heroine is Christine. For one so young, she has a surprising strength to undergo the brutality of Erik and is of a mature mind to do what is best for the others even at her peril.
The story is a dark tale of a man with an unnatural and wicked mind. The horrifying drama his actions bring about and the fright they arouse leave you quite frantic. However, Leroux injects a little humor to assuage the grim atmosphere. So despite the gravity and shocking wickedness so nakedly portrayed, I had quite a laugh too.
Although the book was not what I expected, it was nevertheless an interesting read. Irrespective of the dark subject matter, I did enjoy the story pretty much. And on reflection, I think I’m glad that this is a gothic horror story and not a simple love triangle.