Book Reviews Every month, a different student shares their views on their recent reads.
The Insiter • NOVEMBER 2010
In the early 20th century, Gaston Leroux created the dark and mysterious character of Erik, who later became commonly referred to as the infamous "Phantom of the Opera". Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of the novel, and the film, which was released in 2003, brought the story to a wider public. In 2010, Vicki Hopkins re-created the myth of Erik, who met a sad ending in Leroux’s novel, by bringing "The Phantom" to Malta. From the Paris Garnier, Erik, who is distraught about losing Christine forever, is driven towards a new goal when he reads about the fire that destroyed the Royal Opera House in 1873. As an architect, he is keen to buy it and rebuild it from its ashes, giving it renewed fame and glory. For fans of Leroux’s original work, Hopkins brings back some of the old characters, while introducing new and captivating ones. Erik, whose love for the opera and for music continues, is given
the opportunity to remedy his mistakes and excel as a real man rather than a masked ghost. Romance constitutes an important part of this intriguing book. Valletta is depicted not just as the baroque masterpiece of the Knights, but as a centre of culture, engulfed in an eerie aura of mystery. Hopkins’ writing will delight readers. Her beautiful descriptions and engaging dialogue make this an easy, compulsive read. I highly recommend this book, not only for its theme and setting but also because it is skilfully written and provides a good alternative ending to Leroux’s original masterpiece. It also prompts interest in the history of the Royal Opera House, which is a welcome contrast to the recent controversy about Renzo Piano’s plans for the site where it once stood. The novel reminds us that the Opera House was already destroyed once in 1873 and rebuilt before being destroyed again during the war.
Published in 2009, The Price of Innocence is a historical novel set in the late 1800s. It recounts the misadventures and encounters of Suzette Camille Rousseau, a young French girl who was robbed of her family at a young age. Suzette’s upbringing protected her from the evils of the world at the time, when Paris was as luxurious as it was poor and miserable. When she finds herself alone and afraid of living in the streets, she has no choice but to take poorly paid jobs, which leave their mark on her formerly well cared for body. She is then offered the opportunity she fears to accept but also to refuse: to join Paris’ richest and most frequented brothel – "The Chabanais". Hopkins masterfully draws the reader into the different realities Suzette must face and the turmoil she encounters as she is slowly stripped of her naïveté.
From Paris to London, as Suzette falls in love, the reader will not only feel the change taking place within Suzette as she grows older, but also become entangled in her doubts and insecurities. The author manages to portray the social reality of the time very well, encapsulating in the book not only a historical, but also a moral lesson. Although we all yearn to grow up quickly when we’re young and full of dreams, sometimes unexpected turns may cause our lives to take a sour turn. I recommend this book to all those seeking a classic tale of romance and intrigue. The Price of Innocence will be followed by a sequel entitled The Price of Deception, which is going to be published in the coming months.