As promised, the next classic book I read was indeed The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (not Victor Hugo -- don't ask me why I thought it was). To me, this book was clearly written by a Frenchman. The hero is a whining pansy. The heroine can't look beyond the Phantom's hideousness. The Phantom is the uber stalker. And the author himself if always interrupting with pointless tangents about accuracy of minute plot points. Seriously, no one cares what kind of hat he's wearing. Oh, and the food sounds both divine and odd. I mean, at one point they eat violets. Now, I know eating flowers happens, but still. Gross. I've eaten rose petals before, and they do not go down pleasantly. But, my grandmother does say a dandelion salad is delicious.
For those who are living under a rock, the story revolves around tragic and pretty singer Christine Daae, her lovestruck suitor, and a twisted stalker musician pseudo-boyfriend. Christine wants to love puppy-dog M. le Viscomte Raoul, but is forced to be a submissive music slave (and possibly romantic slave) to Erik. The Phantom.
As per usual, things end badly. No surprise there. But the worst thing in this novel is Raoul himself. He's insane! And a blithering idiot. Aren't they all? Anyhow, he kind of fancies Christine (an old childhood friend he loved when they were awkward teenagers), so he follows her around the backstage of the Opera. So that's weird. Then, when she has her miraculous triumph, Raoul falls head over heels in love with her and decides to go down and declare his love for her. She ignores him and he's completely depressed. This starts a trend for the next hundred and fifty pages where he whirlwinds through every emotion in the book. ANGER ANGST TERROR LOVE HATRED HURT. He just won't shut up. I don't know how Christine puts up with him. Oh wait, her alternative is a creeper with a death's head who kidnapped her and held her prisoner underground. Sucks to be her.
The Phantom is pitied by Christine. He's sad and lonely and demented and she feels bad for him. Dude. Every girl knows that you cannot give them any hope. You cannot go on pity dates, you cannot say "I can't be with you. . .right now." You have to pull a How I Met Your Mother, practice with a teacup pig oozing with cuteness, and stare into their eyes and tell them it won't happen. She cannot do that. And what happens? Death and destruction. Dumb ho.
Personally, I feel bad for Erik. Born deformed (a la Voldemort, i.e., lacking a nose), he lived as a sideshow freak, then a king's conspirator, then a ghost. Even though he's probably middle-aged, he's like a child. It's no wonder -- living as an outsider he's completely emotionally stunted. So when he proposes love and marriage to Christine and she keeps coming back to him because she's terrified of him, he sees instead that she loves him back. Really, then, he's just in this lovesick delusion that they're going to be happy together and he won't have to be alone anymore. How sad. I mean, he sleeps in a coffin because he considers himself less than alive and less than human. Christine is most likely the first person who ever treated him nicely. And what does he get? Death and destruction.
All in all, it was an exciting, despairing story. I won't give away the particulars of the ending, which are very different from the movie, but I will say that this was a fun read. It had all the things that make for great tales: love, heroes, heroines, a villain, tricks, and tortures. I would definitely recommend this one.
Now I put the question to you: what piece of classic literature should I read next? The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas? Some more Sherlock Holmes? Finally finish Jane Austen and read Mansfield Park? Please suggest something awesome!