Book Review | The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

13 January 2024


I'm on an unofficial personal quest to reread all of my all time favorite books. It's not something I'm really doing consciously. I've just been craving familiar stories. I look at the books on my shelves and feel nostalgic for the feelings I had while reading them for the first time and want to experience them all again and again and again. The Phantom of the Opera is one of those books I have held up as one of my favorite books of all time, but have not revisited it since I first read it when I was 11 years old.

I don't remember how I ever picked up The Phantom of the Opera when I was 11. I had no reference for what the story was about before reading it. I hadn't seen the musical. I hadn't heard of it mentioned in any way. I just have a vague memory of seeing the cover and being intrigued by the idea of a mysterious, masked figure and the setting of a theater in Paris. 

I remember becoming fully immersed in this book and making it my new obsession. Even though it was initially intimidating to my younger self who hadn't read many long classics up to that point in my life, I was swept away and was able to understand and keep up with the plot easily. Of course, I had to watch the movie as soon as I finished, but was disappointed that it did not live up to the vivid images I had in my head as I was reading about the opera, the characters, and the haunting world of the Phantom.

I was worried that picking this book up again nearly 15 years after my first read through it would tarnish the original perfect experience I had with it. But I'm glad to say I feel like it enhanced it as all the feelings and memories I had came flooding back to me as I was reminded of certain scenes and plot points.

Something that I had forgot was how The Phantom of the Opera is written like a piece of investigative journalism. Gaston Leroux is convincing in the way he makes the events seem like they could have really happened with pieces of supposed interviews with witnesses, written accounts he claimed to have found, and other mixed media aspects that make the structure of this book feel ahead of its time. Especially as he weaves in some bits of real history in the story, such as the event with the chandelier and the lake beneath the opera. The truth feels muddled which adds to the overall mystery.

The atmosphere of the book is developed so well. Besides the investigative aspects, the whole mystery surrounding the Phantom and whether he really is a ghost haunting and cursing the opera, or if he is merely a brilliant man, is done in such a suspenseful way. Things are revealed at a good pace, making it hard to put the book down. Some of the tricks and lingering questions aren't even addressed until the very last pages, and I even found myself surprised at certain parts.

I will say that the character development is probably the weakest part of the story. I was so engrossed in the plot while I was reading that I could overlook how flat Raoul and Christine were at times. The Phantom is not a character we really get to know until the very end, and even then I found it hard to become especially endeared to him after everything he does throughout the novel. However, I don't think any of the characters were supposed to be incredibly likeable. I was able to root for them and accept them for how they were since they were little more than pawns to deliver the story.

It will always be hard not to be biased when I'm trying to review a favorite book of mine. But I absolutely loved reading this book for a second time! I'm so glad that it remains on my list of all time favorites, and overall, I just loved how fun this book is. It's clever, eerie, even funny at times and is a story that will always be a part of who I am as a person and a reader.


"He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar." -- Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera

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