Monday, January 3, 2011


Hi everyone! Today I want to talk about a book I finished not too long ago. "Phantom" by Susan Kay. I have always been captivated by the story of "the Phantom of the Opera." Something about the story and its themes of mystery, madness, longing, and ultimate redemption through the transcendent power of love have always gotten to me in a way that few other works of fiction can. This book had been on my reading list for a long time and I had to resort to ordering it off Amazon since it has been out of print for awhile. After having read it cover to cover I can happily tell you it was well worth the near thirty dollars it cost me.
The book is a sort of prequal to the classic Leroux novel and tells the story of Erik's journey into becoming the character we know and recognize from pop culture from the tragic circumstances surrounding his birth to to his self-imposed exile within the dark catacombs fo the Paris Opera House to his doomed romance with Christine. Tracing nearly the entirety of his life, the book expands greatly upon archaic bits of exposition that were presented but never really elaborated upon in the classic Leroux novel such as the reasons behind his raw hatred toward his mother the complex nature of Erik's relationship with the Persian.
The book is split into five different secions, each related by a different narrator. The first is told by Erik's mother Madelaine, who is cruel, selfish, and just not a very nice person at all. Her preocupaion with beauty and upper class pride cause her to loathe her son for the ghastly nature of his deformity and she goes to shameful lengths to avoid having anything to do with him including forcing him to wear a mask and locking him away in his attic bedroom.
The next section is told from Erik's perspective as he run's away from home and is captured by a band of roaming gysies who put him on display as the main attraction of their show. An unwillful prisoner at first, Erik's status within the camp grows as he absorbs the secrets of the the gypsy culture and turns the tide on his captors who quickly come to fear and respect his abilities.
The next section is told from the perspective of Giovanni, an aging stone mason living in Rome who is impressed by Erik's knowledge of architecture and takes him under his wing as his apprentice. Unfortunately Giovanni's conniving and impulsive daughter becomes obsessed with Erik and the whole situation just ends very badly.
The following section is told from the perspective of the Persian who is given a name in the story, Nadir. In it, Nadir is odered by the Shah of Persia to track down and retrieve Erik, whose repution as a master sorcerer/magician has spread like wildfire throughout the Eastern world. Allured by the promise of wealth and power Erik returns with Nadir to Persia were he gains fame and influence as a court magician and architect for the shah. This is probably my favorite part of the book. The descriptions of life within the devious, cuttthroat world of the Persian court are equally fascinating and disturbing and I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Erik and Nadir evolve from one of suspicion and distrust to genuine friendship and respect. In no other instance does this become more prevalent than at the end of the section when Nadir helps Erik to escape from the Shah who wants to kill him after having outlived his usefulness.
The next section is again told from Erik's perspective. In it, he joins forces with the renown French architect Garnier to construct the Paris Opera House, a building of such magnitude the likes of which have never been seen before. The construction goes on for the next twenty years until the Franco Prussian war puts an indefinate halt on the project. Finally having had enough with humanity's propensity for violence and bloodshed, Erik retreats deep into the cellars of the opera house, were he constructs a dwelling for himself at the far end of an underground lake.
The narrative of the last section switches back and forth between Raoul and the Phantom and comprises the events from the classic Leroux novel which sees him falling madly in love with a young chorus girl named Christine whom he abducts into the dark recesses of his shadowy netherworld in a desperate gamble to obtain her love.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definately recomend it as a must read to people like myself who are continually moved by this timeless story. The drama, suspense, and myriad of emotion overflows from the pages and envelopes the reader in the Phantom's dark, beautiful world.


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