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The Phantom of the Opera    by Gaston Leroux, Kate McMullan & Paul Jennis order for
Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2005 (1989)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

He was born disfigured with no memory of a name, but does remember constant beatings from his father, and constant scolding from his mother. The boy, whose mother made him wear a mask, said 'I curse the day I was born'. He ran away, living on the streets until he joined a travelling Fair, a 'Freak Show' where he found others like him. Though his stage name was 'The Living-Dead Boy', his show friends called him Erik. They taught him card and coin tricks, techniques to escape and disappear, magic, and ventriloquism. The boy was gifted with a beautiful singing voice and was a genius at music composition.

The Shah of Persia learned of Erik's skills and sought him out to build a special, magical castle, while a Sultan asked him to create a robot. Both greedy men, they wanted Erik killed to keep what he had made for them unique. Erik escaped and returned to France, where he was hired to build the foundation for the new opera house. He created a world for himself under the building, with tunnels, secret passages, trapdoors, fake walls, and trick mirrors. Well placed walls of rock hid Erik's home on the outside. He loved the opera as the 'music seemed to take away (my) pain.' Erik secretly traveled within the confines of the house. Though unseen, people felt his ghostly presence. They dubbed him 'The Phantom of the Opera'.

From behind a wall of Christine's dressing room, Erik coached her to improve her voice. She called him the 'Angel of Music' (before her father died, he had told her that such a being would come to her aid). Erik communicated many demands through phantom notes, such as for a private opera house box and money. When new managers took over the establishment, a popular opera singer named Carlotta returned to the stage, and Christine was again given small parts. The Phantom threatened to blow up the opera house if the managers did not put Christine back in the spotlight. The Angel fell in love with Christine, and took her down to his underground world, hoping she would return his feelings. Further drama unfolded when another man came into Christine's life.

Kate McMullan admits that she is not a fan of opera; however, a fondness for special effects and ghosts led her to write this adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, in an easy-to-read format for youngsters. I learned more about Le Fantome de l'Opera, written by Gaston Leroux in 1907, from this Stepping Stone Book, even though I have seen the film and stage productions. It is interesting to note that Leroux was a reporter who covered criminal trials, and that his original novel was a French detective story. I recommend this well-presented, understandable read for youngsters, teens, and adults, too.

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