If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’ve become a really big fan of The Phantom of the Opera. Seen the musical three times, a fourth time is coming up in September, and a long time before I even discovered the musical, I read the novel Phantom by Susan Kay.
Susan Kay wasn’t the original author of that story though. That was indeed the French author Gaston Leroux and his novel was published in 1910. Kay’s version is in parts a retelling of the story, but also like a prequel because it starts at the birth of Eric, the main protagonist and Phantom and also explores parts of Leroux’s story much more detailed and gives more information of Eric’s life before he ended up in the Paris Opera house and also what happens past the events at the Opera. Kay’s version is the much more popular one, from what I know. And rightly so.
I loved that book very very much when I read it many years ago. But instead of re-reading it now, that I’ve become almost obsessed with the musical and the story, I decided to read the original story written by Gaston Leroux, so that I could compare. And of course I also wanted to find out what the author, who came up with that character in the first place, had to tell about him.
I don’t remember that much from Kay’s book but her portray of the character of the Phantom resembles much more how the character is portrayed in the musical. And he’s much more “visible” in her book. In Leroux’s version the Phantom is actually more of a real phantom. He’s barely even seen… he’s more of a ghost and most people don’t even know whether he really exists and question those who say they have. His looks are described a bit differently… more like there’s a blank skull where his head should be, instead of a damaged face with a mask. More like a fantasy/horror monster. Kind of.
Because it was written at the beginning of the 20th century, the language appears to be a bit old-fashioned, yet the book is easy to read.
For die-hard fans of the story and everything Phantom, I guess it’s a bit of a must to read this story as well because it was Leroux who came up with that character in the first place. It was okay, but I wasn’t really psyched by it. Maybe because the character of the Phantom is so… vague here. It’s only in the last couple chapters or so, that he even gets to speak.
It’s not a bad book at all, yet I would always recommend Susan Kay’s version to everyone. I would even recommend it to people who don’t have any interest in seeing the musical. Simply viewed as a novel, without any connection to the musical, that book is a GREAT read!
So while this is a review about Gaston Leroux’s version, I would not recommend his version but Kay’s.
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