The Phantom of the Opera: a story fraught with expectations that precede it I honestly had no idea what to expect. I picked up the audiobook a few weeks ago from the library thinking it was high time I learned about the story and that I was in the mood to listen to an audiobook at the gym. While I've always been a theatre geek, I somehow never saw a stage or film adaptation of the Leroux's famous novel. Over the years I've seen plenty of posters and heard snatches of Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical to have vague notions of the story, but as I listened to audiobook I didn't know much more beyond a few iconic images - the mask, a giant chandelier falling, a beautiful young woman, etc.
So, I don't think Erik is romantic. His character fails to appeal to my personal sensibilities and by the end of the novel, I was fed up, however, I recognize that Leroux captured the romantic feel of his time. Part of my frustration may be from Henry Butler's reading (narrator of the audiobook) as he drew out the repetitive nature of certain sections, like when the Persian and Raoul are trapped in the flooding torture chamber I was actually rolling my eyes. I get it. They are trapped. They might drown, but I know they don't because this is all from the Persian's written account, which means he survived to write down the story ... get on with it! I just, ugh. I can't over how much I disliked the Phantom and his motivation - his love for Christine and desire for a wife. I know, I know, gothic = some element of death, but ew. He's described as corpse-like and she as a real living bride. It squicked me out.
I was much more interested in how he penetrated every room, corridor and mind in the opera house and more importantly - why? What deformity did he have at birth? For the most part those questions are answered in the epilogue. Leroux uses the epilogue to neatly describe Erik's troubled past, plot his tracks to the opera house and explain away his deep desire to be like everyone else ... by kidnapping a woman and demanding she become his wife. Yeah, that's normal.
Here's the thing: the novel starts off with a promising premise - the narrator is investigating the truth of the myth about the Phantom of the Opera using police reports, eye witness accounts and exploration of the opera house. I enjoyed the stories the ballet dancers told and even how the phantom swindled money from the managers of the opera house. Scaring the dancers is a bit creepy, but blackmailing the management, which reprehensible, is clever. If the story had stayed in that realm and unveiled the past and the tricks of the Phantom, that would have satisfied me. The focus on Christine, Raoul and Erik's love triangle frustrated me to no end. The love triangle diverted the story so much that when the managers receive their money back, they simply wash their hands of the Phantom and don't worry about him any more. Thanks for neatly tying up those loose ends devoid of any curious minds.
By the end of the novel I was bored. I never got caught up in the atmosphere of the novel. I just wanted to know how it ended and I didn't even care if Christine lived or if the Phantom let her go. I didn't find the characters compelling or care about their development of which there was little. The Phantom changes somewhat at the end by releasing Christine and we never see Christine or Raoul after their horrifying hours in the Phantom's home. From what I've read of the musical, the story is altered and some other reviews of the novel assert the musical and the movie are better. Having seen neither, I can neither agree nor disagree, however, I find it hard to believe that I will enjoy an iteration of a story that many accept as romantic in which a man kidnaps a woman and demands she become his wife. Not cool.