Le Fantôme de l'Opéra

by Gaston Leroux

Paperback, 1975



Call number




Le Livre de Poche (1975), 342 pages


A viscount seeks to unravel the mystery of the Paris Opera House and rescue the woman he loves from the threat of the phantom of the opera.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera is a book that, by all rights, I ought to like and simply don't. It is a mystery with a touch of the supernatural, stagily melodramatic with a brooding atmosphere. It is an acknowledged classic, with a story loved by many who have never read the original novel but who are avid "Phans" of the famous Broadway production. And yet this is my second time around with this book and I just can't warm to it. Why not? (This review contains spoilers, so please proceed carefully.)

In many ways this is just another spin on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast, and furthermore shares many similarities with one of that legend's derivatives, King Kong. Both Kong and Phantom feature a hideous monster falling in love with a beautiful young woman, who of course cannot stay with him. She has another love interest, but she does care about the monster who has imprisoned her, pitying him for his isolation. He is doomed from the beginning; beauty destroys him because he is incompatible with it. In both stories much is made of the young woman's physical frailty compared to the monster, but she wields a mightier power than mere brute force. And of course the tale is rendered more complex when we start pitying the monster and finding ways to humanize him. But his ending is always tragic; he cannot exist without the woman he loves, and she loves another. The Beast dies of Beauty.

But though I very much enjoy King Kong, Phantom is a disappointment. I found most of the characters hard to like. Christine Daaé is extremely gullible, even stupid, to so implicitly trust this "Angel of Music." Somehow I have always found that whole idea rather cringeworthy, and disliked Christine for being so dimwitted. And Raoul is little better. I suppose his impatient frustration as a young lover is realistic, but he annoyed me more than anything else. They are both very childish. One thing I did appreciate was how Christine and Raoul had a pre-existing relationship as friends before falling madly in love. As a child, he had gone into the sea to rescue her scarf and they were friends all through their childhood years.

Parts of the story are very tedious, such as the detailed conversations between the two managers and the blow-by-blow account of their evening when the Phantom steals the 20,000 francs right out of their pocket. No one cares about that! Get to the dark subterranean world beneath the Opera House already. The involved descriptions of the dancing girls at the beginning of the story also drag a bit. And after setting all that up, we never go back to them. However, I understand from a friend that this could very well be the fault of the translation. Though it purports to be complete and unabridged, never believe it. Stay away from de Mattos (apparently he took great liberties with the book, even excising parts he didn't like and changing the meaning of others) and look out, if you can, for the Wolf or Bair translation. It's a pity that de Mattos' work is the most widely published English translation.

The novel does have some interesting thoughts on the definition of true love. Is Erik's passion for Christine really love, or just lust? He says he adores her, but he also imprisons her... and then lets her go. Would a person who truly loved take away the freedom of the one beloved, or is that a selfish love? Is overpowering emotion an excuse for criminal acts? Do such acts "prove" the power of such love, or do they reveal a soul that cannot truly love anything but itself? Sometimes I was pulled one way in this story and sometimes the other. I must grudgingly admit that Leroux does set this up admirably and I found Erik's last speech to the Persian gripping. He is still incredibly selfish — to all the Persian's questions about Christine's welfare, he answers that he, Erik, is dying. All he can think about is himself, still. But he does give Christine up to her own happiness with Raoul at the end; he does do that one great unselfish thing. It's complicated.

Though really, isn't it a little too much that Erik should die of love at the end? It strikes me as sadly overblown romanticism. Of course Erik must die; there is nothing else for him. And I've alluded to his final speech with the Persian and how fascinating I found it. But to have him die of love is just too melodramatic. This is where it starts tiptoeing up to the edge of corny.

I thought that listening to this story on audiobook would help me appreciate it more, but interestingly enough, my reaction is almost exactly the same as my first time reading it. This Blackstone Audio production is read by Ralph Cosham, who was fine for the part but not outstanding. And overall I just found this so tedious, overblown, overhyped, and overdone, with just a few parts that caught me with their complexity. Perhaps I would like the Broadway production better, though I've seen the film version with Emmy Rossum and wasn't impressed. Maybe it's just me and not the story at all that is to blame! I'll give this a couple stars because I do see why it's considered such a classic, and there were a few parts that were memorable and emotional. But I just don't love it, and it hasn't earned a third read with me. Ah well.
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LibraryThing member andyray
The book is better than the movie(s) or, to be more precise, it is excellent in print and the second movie with Andrew Lloyd Weber's score in it was excellent as in that art form. In this book, we see excellent development of the phantom, opeera ghost, or Erik, and fairly good development of the dahomey and some other secondary figurfesk, but the hero and heroine (the count and christine) are flat, picture-like characters and act mostly as a foil to Erik's jekyl and hyde personality.
Of course, it was written in French and the publishers didn't bother to give us the name of the translator. This is a pity as I believe he or she did a marvelous job.
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LibraryThing member lauranav
I've seen the movie and the play (not voluntarily) and found the plot confusing or nonexistent. So, I tend to not be a big fan. But after some a discussion of how the book compared (and truly, isn't the book almost always better) I decided to give it a read to see if it made more sense.

I was told that the Bair translation was probably a better version to read, but my library only had an unattributed translation which means it was very likely de Mattos and also abridged. It seems de Mattos translated by cutting out stuff for some reason. (I'm sure that's every writer's nightmare about having their work translated.)

The story makes a lot more sense in the book. There are two plots to follow - the managers of the opera as they struggle with whether they believe in the Opera Ghost and the seemingly supernatural things that keep happening, and the love triangle between Raoul, Christine, and Erik.

The novel is a look into how the environment (the Opera House) and emotions can affect our interpretations of events. Some people are more susceptible to music or visual experiences or sleight of hand. Some accept the world as it comes to them, while others search for more practical or more fantastical explanations.

..spoiler alert..

The study of the character of Erik, the Phantom is interesting. Perhaps the movie encourages this, but there seems to be a desire to see him sympathetically. Christine and even the Persian refer to him as poor Erik and seem to pity him in the novel. While it is described a bit in the book, his attraction and allure is difficult for me to see. I'm with Raoul - let's flee right now, why wait until tomorrow night to break his heart.

It is tragic that his ugliness prevented him from receiving love and affection as a child. I do think it is natural for him to desire a normal life, and feel it unfair to be denied that only because of his looks. And that the desire to have someone else love us can create a strong fear and even anger when it appears the love is not being given to us.

I do no think, unlike Erik, that deceiving Christine and forcing her to love him will change him or his circumstances greatly. He is the sum of all his experiences and decisions, which included some very nasty business. Having a beautiful wife will not allow him to suddenly exist in normal society with no repercussions. His methods to coerce Christine into agreeing to marry him show that he is not changed by his love for her. His actions at the end seem to show he is beginning to understand what true love is, and I think Christine has some strong character to be able to show him the kindness and pity that she does. I wonder if Christine and Raoul fared well together.
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LibraryThing member melydia
I get the distinct impression that had this book not been made into a fabulously popular musical, it would have been largely forgotten. The writing is largely dreadful, with long passages of dialogue consisting mainly of people repeating themselves and each other. Meh.
LibraryThing member tess_schoolmarm
[ Phantom of the Opera] by [Gaston Leroux] was a Gothic tale centering around the ghost of the Paris Opera House, Eric (as they call him). I have seen the musical twice and much prefer it over the book not because of the scenery, the costumes, or the music, but because of the tale, or the lack of it The book is very very detailed and we have a nice little wrapped up package in the end, where everybody ends up "happy", even Eric; who finds another opera house. I much prefer the "unknown" of the musical. The book also seemed to drag for about 4-5 chapters when telling about the dungeon. I read this and listened to it on audio while driving. The audio was very well done. A good read; not a great read.… (more)
LibraryThing member factory
This story is very famous. I had not read though I knew the title of this story.
This story is a talk that centers on the true colors of the ghost that appears in the opera house.
Because the story of the original had been easily brought together as for this book, it was very comprehensible.
Because characters' names were French, it was not easy to have read.
This title is very fear but story was very interesting!
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LibraryThing member ssimon2000
2.5 stars

The Phantom of the Opera is almost universally acclaimed as a classic Gothic horror story, and I’ve often heard that it rivals Dracula or Frankenstein. There is no denying the influence of this book, and Leroux deserves a great deal of credit for creating an incredible plot. Conceptually, it is a perfect storm of Gothic nightmares: the ancient, labyrinthine opera house; the many colorful characters that make the beautiful Paris Opera House the center of their lives; a love triangle in which one of the lovers is an actual monster; echoes of Persephone and Hades... What more could a gothic aficionado want?

Well, unfortunately, good writing is at the top of the list. Leroux's ambition far surpasses his ability. The book is poorly written in nearly every detail. The dialogue is ridiculous; even when the characters are engaged in the most serious discussions, their cartoonish dialogue ruins these scenes. The narrative itself is repetitious, tedious, and contrived, so that the overall effect is rarely horrific or suspenseful; ultimately it was quite mind-numbing and dull. The tone of the book careens widely from slapstick to the thrilling, with the result that any attempted atmospheric consistency is never fully established. The characters are not particularly interesting or sympathetic. Christine Daae is self-centered and manipulative, never demonstrating any admirable qualities. Okay, she is beautiful and talented, but her personality isn't worth all the trouble her suitors go through for her. Raoul, the young man who is madly in love with her, is never develops into a believable character. He is simply too plain to be accept as “real”. The Persian and the Phantom are naturally more interesting, given the air of mystery that surrounds both, but little is done to develop them to something more than minor set characters.

Frankly, I struggled to finish, and skimmed the audiobook for the last hour or so. Ultimately, I just didn’t care what happened because of the lack of development mentioned above. The potential of the plot is great, but the story wasn’t brought to life for me.

I also struggled with the narrator and the recording itself. It seemed to change sound levels and tone at random throughout the book, perhaps where the narrator stopped recording for the day, and picked up another time. Whatever the case, the sound guys didn’t save the settings, which didn’t help with the possibilities of this book.
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LibraryThing member capriciousreader
LibraryThing member madepercy
A timeless classic in the Gothic horror genre, rightly compared with Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The afterword mentions an American reviewer's distaste for the opera ghost being merely human, but after seeing many horror movies in recent times where the face of the supernatural being is revealed, I am inclined to prefer the man masquerading as a ghost any time. Apparently Leroux wrote detective novels before this work and the influence is noticeable. The nature of the building and the brilliant descriptions (or more accurately, allusions) to the opera itself recall many a nightmare where one is trapped underground. Leroux had access to the Palais Garnier to research his work and it is obvious in the story. This was an easy and enjoyable read and one I should have completed many years earlier. While I do not usually have a preference for the Gothic genre, this 1910 classic presents a complex mood that, for me, was belied by the images of the phantom singing with Marina Prior that haunted Australian televisions screens throughout the 1990s.… (more)
LibraryThing member StoutHearted
What is interesting about this novel in light of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, is that the novel seems devoid of a hero. Erik, the Phantom, is a murderous psychopath. His muse, Christine, is a fragile wreck, and her lover Raoul is described as childish and whiny by the author. Yet, the gothic tale is very suspenseful, and we almost don't know who to root for. Erik's background is fascinating, and his genius almost overshadows his murderous rampages. The decent beneath the Opera House is very compelling in its mystery and suspense.

Leroux's strength is in his scenic descriptions. It is through flashbacks that we best sympathize with the characters, as the author's dialogue does his characters no favors. For fans of the musical, much more is explained between the relationship between Madame Giry and the Phantom, how Christine came to the Opera, and, best of all, how the Phantom constructed his underground lair. His description of the impressive hideaway blows the Broadway scenery right out of the water.
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LibraryThing member rzalegowski
Phantom of the Opera
Gaston Leroux

Set in Paris during the 19th century, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux exposes the dark secrets behind a mysterious ghost that lives within the walls of the Opera House. Filled with vivid symbolism and rich dialogue, this novel creates a mysterious story in which characters are forced to choose between life and love.
Never having seen the musical that this famed French novel inspired, I was not already familiar with the story of the Opera Ghost. It was not until I had begun to delve into the novel that I understood the tortured personality of this phantom. Because the novel was written from the point of view of an observer with no critical role in the story, I found myself developing strong opinions of each of the characters. My favorite character in the novel happened to be the antagonist: the Phantom himself. The novel allows the reader to go backwards in time and learn about the ghost’s miserable youth, which is why I found myself sympathizing for him later in the novel. I could not help but forgive him for his cruelties towards others because I knew that he was in a state of mental anguish.
My least favorite character in the The Phantom of the Opera was the female love interest of the Phantom: famed opera singer, Christine Daaé. Almost immediately I developed a disliking of this character because of her inability to express her true feelings. Her reticence for communicating her feelings for both the two male characters in the book made her a weak and unlikable character. The novel wove a tangled love triangle between Christine, the Vicomte de Chagny, and the Opera Ghost in which Christine refused to choose one of the men to spend the rest of her life with. Instead, Daae went through the novel without growing as a character or making important decisions.
In The Phantom of the Opera I was able to pick up on a few instances where symbolism was used as a literary technique. The most prominent of these symbols was the use of the mirror. There were many times in the book when mirrors were mentioned or used. For example, the dressing room of Christine Daae contained a wall completely covered with a large mirror. Whenever Christine looked into the mirror, expecting to see her own face looking back at her, she saw the face of the Opera Ghost. This was because the secret living space of the Phantom was located under Christine’s dressing room, giving him immediate access to her personal room. The mirror served as somewhat of a door through which the Ghost was able to enter and leave the dressing room as he pleased. This symbolism, as I interpreted, represented Christine’s hidden desire to spend her life with the Phantom. The Phantom has become such an influential figure in Christine’s life that he had actually become part of her soul, which she saw by looking in a mirror.
I also noticed the use of mirrors in the novel represented the way in which the Opera Ghost viewed himself. In his cabin he had built a room full of mirrors which he called “his torture room”. Whenever anybody had the misfortune of being tortured in this room, all the mirrors reflected different faces of the Opera Ghost. These reflections of his face, which the Ghost himself deemed torturous, were what the Opera Ghost thought would bring pain to whoever saw them. This shows that the Ghost was insecure about himself and was only able to use his deformed face for the purpose of torturing other people. By finding both of these uses of mirrors in the novel, I was able to come to the conclusion that the reflection in the mirrors represented the true identities of the two characters. In Christine’s mirror, she saw the face of a ghost that had started to alter her personality. In the ghost’s mirror, he saw himself as a torturous monster. The mirrors not only served as reflections of the person looking into it, but their internal reflections and feelings as well.
Through the use of detailed symbolism and intricate character analyses, I was able to appreciate the story contained in The Phantom in the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I developed strong opinions of each character and noticed symbolism that related to each of these characters.
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LibraryThing member ajjacobson
Have you been mystified and enchanted by Andrew Lloyd Weber's "The Phantom of the Opera"? Did you know that the musical was based on a book? Gaston Leroux's "The Phantom of the Opera" is an excellent read for anyone who loves the musical or anyone who loves detective novels. The novel is written almost as a documentary, with the author trying to figure out if the Phantom of the Paris Opera was ideed real or not. He recounts the strange events attributed to the Phantom, and claims that they are all real events because the Phantom is a real man. He was not a ghost or ghoul, but a real man with real emotions.
This book is very similar to the musical, but offers more insight into the thoughts of Christine, Raoul, and Erik (the Phantom). It also introduces a few new characters who help smooth out some of the rough/confusing parts of the musical.
This novel proved to be an excellent example of our "who's the hero" theme. Raoul is a daring, physical hero who risks life and limb to save the love of his life. Christine is the selfless, internal hero who gives up all of her happiness for the happiness of others. It could be said that Erik is a hero as well, due to his undying love and selfless acts at the end of the novel. There are several heroes in this book, and all are special in their own unique way. It was interesting to see how they faced their various moral dilemmas.
I really liked this book. Personally, I had just seen Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in November. I had never known the storyline before then. I was slightly confused about some of the things that happened in the play, so reading this book really cleared things up. The detective/mystery style layout of this book made the book really fun and easy to read. I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to anyone who loves the Phantom or just a good mystery!
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LibraryThing member kaho.i
I'm a big fan of Phantom. Maybe his nature was pure.
He just wanted to be loved by someone.
If I were Christine, I wolud love him...
LibraryThing member MissLizzy
A movie. Based on an opera. Based on a novel. Based on what may or may not be slightly true events. Always interesting. And it involves music, another passion of mine. Just a painfully beautiful book about the masks we all wear.
LibraryThing member Wanderlust_Lost
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had no idea what to expect as I wasn't familiar with any of Leroux's other novels and I hadn't heard anything about it from anybody else who'd read it. I fell in love with it from the start. It's the perfect Gothic novel. It's ingenious, beautiful, and dark. I love it.
LibraryThing member crazyjerseygirl
This story is dark enough, but slow moving throughout most of the book. If you saw the modern movie, don't bother. This Phantom isn't romantic.
LibraryThing member bitter_suite
Better in the original French, but the English is awesome too!
LibraryThing member robble
This book gives us an insight into the depravities and, conversly the beauties of humanity. The ugliness of the phantom is contrasted with the beauty of his music and understandably, Christine feels an undeniably pity for him, whereas the naive Raoul only feels anger towards him. One of the best characters that was left out of the musical version was the Persian, who presents important background into the phantom's life. This book totally made me cry at the end!… (more)
LibraryThing member schmal06
I loved this book. It is more a melodramatic love story than the horror story it is made out to be and it's neither the musical nor the black and white silent so it should not be judged based on them. It is dark and passionate and surprisingly very funny.
LibraryThing member MMWiseheart
I like the story line, but I had a hard time getting through the book. The format of the book changed back and forth between newspaper artical, diary excerpt, play and actual story. It also jumped back in time when switching perspectives and then back to present. It was a little hard to keep up with. I love the musical/movie. The 1925 version, with Lon Chaney, follows the book fairly closely. It helped me to make sense of some of the jumps in the book. I have to say though, reading the book makes it a little harder to sympathize with Erik, the phantom, than watching the musical.… (more)
LibraryThing member MrsLee
My daughter made me read this before we could go see Andrew Lloyd Webber's movie. I have wanted to see it for a long time because of the music, but never knew more than the outline of the plot. It was a good story. Very readable and a page turner. Anything lacking in style is probably due to translation difficulties. Like Frankenstein, it is the story of a great man who cannot be accepted because of his utter ugliness and is driven mad because of it.… (more)
LibraryThing member the1butterfly
I consider The Phantom of the Opera to be a retelling of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale. The phantom in this version is kind of a creepy stalker guy. We get depth in some aspects missing in the musical (although we do not have the depth of feeling that the musical conveys), but really, if you want a good retelling of this story, read Susan Kay's Phantom. Leroux gets credit for the story line, but his writing is just as boring as that of other authors whose works have been turned into really awesome musicals- Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens. Were men of that general period just completely incapable of writing?… (more)
LibraryThing member mkhongms
The part with the Indian princess is my favourite.
LibraryThing member aikon
This story was difficult to read for me.
I thought if the phantom was not him, whether Christine love him or not?
I thought he was so poor.
LibraryThing member bitter_suite
So much better in the original language!


Original publication date


Physical description

342 p.; 4.52 inches


2253009504 / 9782253009504
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