Thursday, May 04, 2006
Phantom - Susan Kay [May/06]
I read this book and then lent it to a friend, so I am afraid the novel is not as fresh in my head as I need it to be to write a good review. I should have wrote it before I gave it away, but I wasn't thinking at the time.
I will say, this is one of the best books I have ever read. Tracing the life of the man who would become "The Phantom of the Opera", Susan Kay has created an experience that to anyone who wants to better understand the Phantom, you will. She goes back to the very early days, when Erik was born and traces his life up to his death many years later. Unlike the earlier versions of the novel, this is not just about his romance with the opera singer, Christine, but captures the life that he led before she was even a part of the story, even not even born yet.
Broken into sections, the novel is told by Erik at some points, but it is also told by the people that he meets in the course of his life. The first narrator is Madeleine, his mother. Her husband has died and she has been left all alone to bring this child into the world. Used to beauty and always getting what she wanted, she was beside herself when she looked into the face of the boy who was her son. For many years, Erik went unloved. His mother tolerated him, but she was also disgusted by him. It was not until he decided to run off into the night that she learned that she loved him, but by then it was too late for her little boy.
The next narrator is Giovanni. When witnessing the famous play or reading the early novel, you are not always aware exactly how the Phantom got the architectural abilities that you witness in his downstairs lair. Simple. He had always had a taste for building things, but it was Giovanni that took a chance on the young boy and showed him how to make his interest into a life long skill. The Phantom might have been happy there, maybe even stayed to run the business when the older man died, but then the lady of the house came home. Giovanni's daughter was rather spoiled and was used to receiving whatever she wanted. What this girl wanted, though, was the Phantom. Unfortunately, what you think you want does not always work out the way you expect, and in this case it has disasterous consequences.
The next person that takes up the Phantom's story is Nadir. A man that works in a difficult area where he is at the beck and call of the Persian king. A man that is not used to receiving a no for an answer. Erik has made a name for himself as a magician and the King wants him brought in to entertain the court. If Erik refuses, it will be Nadir's head, so before you know it Erik finds himself at the court of the Persian king. There he finds his closest thing to a friend, Nadir, and in his own way helps Nadir deals with the death of his son and his struggle to be his own person while keeping his head. Like everything else that happens to Erik, though, he does not stay at court long.
Unlike the movie version about the Phantom, Erik lived quite a life after the circus and before the Opera house. That was the period directly after leaving home. Now, he finds himself preparing for the life in the opera house, but Susan has him build the Opera house that becomes his home and the stage upon which Erik sees Christine sing for the first time.
It is amazing, when I watch the movie I do feel a little sad for the Phantom, but when I read this book you almost wanted to cry for how terribly he was treated! You gain a better understanding of why he became the man that we see, but Susan also represents his relationship with Christine differently. It is all in all a very different take on the Phantom's life, and I would safely say that it is the better version of events. I can see me rereading this book again, I could easily read it right now!