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Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1910)
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I've been leafing through HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BOOKS (Featuring 100 Original Essays by Masters of the Genre.) It's a book of short essays on classic horror novels and I came across an essay on Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

Because the book is a classic, I think it's beyond a grade by someone like me. However, I would like to write my opinion.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, Wikipedia describes it as "The story ...about a man named Erik, the Phantom of the Opera, an eccentric, physically deformed genius who terrorizes the Opera Garnier in Paris, France. He builds his home beneath it and takes the love of his life, a beautiful soprano Christine, under his wing."

I suggested this book in another thread for one of the best Gothic romances of the 20th century. Now, I think the book itself really belongs under "Horror Gothic," but you can make your own decision. I think that the book has a wonderfully imaginative storyline with effective atmosphere and setting. The world of the Paris Opera house is gorgeous and mysterious.

The best parts of the book are the beginning and end. The middle is interminable because the focus is on Raoul and Christine, two terribly insipid and weak characters that just annoyed me. The only character that stands out is, obviously, Erik the Phantom, but he is nothing like the Erik of the musical and film.

This Erik is older, more malevolent, and clearly disturbed. He is a pathetic figure, but not the romantic hero we have recently seen. He is violent and rather insane. Even then though, it seems he's not in the book nearly enough.

To be honest, without Lon Chaney's film version of the book, I'm not sure the book would have become the classic it is. It may have faded into obscurity. It's worth reading for the phenomenon to which it gave birth, but you won't find the sexy and wounded Erik in this novel. This is an Erik to fear.
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