Book Review: The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

phantom manhattanMost people know that I am a big fan of The Phantom of the Opera. It’s not a huge secret. I fell in love with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical when I was 12 and can recite pretty much every word from memory. I’ve read not just the original novel, but several other novelizations of the story. I’ve seen most of the movie adaptations. So once I saw the Lloyd Webber sequel, Love Never Dies, on YouTube, I had to read the book that it was based on – The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth.

There are a lot of people who hate this book (and the musical, for that matter), and although I’m not among the haters, I didn’t love it either. To say it plainly, the book is a little weird in it’s presentation of the story. In the sequel, the Phantom, who’s real name is Erik (everyone knows that, right?), has left Paris and started over in New York City (another reason I should like this book, right?). Using his incredible genius in architecture and slight-of-hand, he goes from living in the slums to becoming a wealthy man, first by performing in freak shows, and later by designing amusement park attractions. He has never forgotten about the love his love, the now married Christine de Chagny, so he invests in the building of the Manhattan Opera house and anonymously offers her a lot of money to get her to come and perform there.

As I said, Christine is married now, to her childhood sweetheard Raoul, and has a son named Pierre. We find out through the course of the story that there is no way that Pierre could be Raoul’s son. I’ll give you one guess who the father is. Erik not only wants another chance with Christine, he wants his son as well. I won’t give the ending away, but for anyone who is familiar with the musical, the ending is similar, although not exactly the same.

The main thing that turned me off a little with this book was the presentation. Instead of a straight narrative, we are told the story through a series of first-person vignettes from random people who are loosely connected –  a reporter, a gossip columnist, Pierre’s tutor, Erik’s business partner. Erik tells the story once, I think, as does Pierre, but I don’t think Christine ever does. Sometimes this technique works, but it doesn’t here. This story is about the relationship between two people, Erik and Christine, and we spend precious little time with them. More time is spent talking about the events surrounding them, and that just felt a little off putting for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t dislike the book. I’m glad that I read it. I just think the story could have been told a little better. And as far as Love Never Dies is concerned, the only major complaint I had with that show was the ending (how much do you hate your main characters? really?). I think the music is absolutely amazing. For your listening enjoyment, I leave you with the music video of “Till I Hear You Sing,” the big hit song from Love Never Dies. This should show you 1). why I love this music, and 2). why I’ve gone to great lengths to see Ramin Karimloo in concert twice (hopefully three times come August *fingers crossed*).

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