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THE PHANTOM OF MANHATTAN by Frederick Forsyth

THE PHANTOM OF MANHATTAN

By Frederick Forsyth

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-24656-0
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

The author of The Day of the Jackal (1971) and Icon (1996) steals more then a page from Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber to bring Erik, the Phantom of the Paris Opera, to America bearing his memories of Christine. Forsyth opens his continuation in 1906 with Antoinette Giry—a former Paris Opera ballerina who became mistress of the corps de ballet, now 58 and dying of cancer—telling the familiar story of Christine de Chagny, the Phantom’s beloved, currently the greatest diva in Europe. Giry first saw 16-year-old Erik as a cruelly deformed sideshow freak, with one side of his face looking like molten candle wax and maggots writhing in wounds caused by his chains. Later she freed Erik and nursed him, letting him wander the seven floors under the opera house. Having learned carpentry from his brutal father, who had sold him to the circus, Erik filched what he needed and built his own quarters, then taught himself all the works in the opera’s enormous library. He fell in love with Christine, coached her singing, and abducted her once she became a star. When the police and pregnant Christine’s beau Vicomte de Chagny saved her, Erik fled. Antoinette found him and, in Forsyth’s point of departure from Gaston Leroux, put him on a freighter bound for New York. At this point Erik takes up the story. Starting as a fish-gutter, he becomes as wealthy as Croesus. At first he wants a screened and curtained box at the new Metropolitan Opera, but instead he joins Oscar Hammerstein as a secret partner in opening a house of his own. His eye is on the renowned soprano Nellie Melba. Just as his plans are ripening, however, Christine comes to Manhattan to sing at the Met’s inaugural opera. Will she and the Phantom sing together again? Will he see his son at last? Forsyth captures the era with a brilliant series of pasteboard narrators who stand in for Manhattan’s garish liveliness. Please understand, though, it’s all perfectly operatic.