The original Phantom : Before the Andrew Lloyd Webbers musical, there was Gaston Lerouxs original novel The Phantom of the Opera. If you have never seen the production stage, and know only a few things of the story, then...when you reach the middle of the narrative you will be surprised because it is totally different from what you will expect. And it is a great surprise.
More than a love story, The Phantom of the Opera is a gothic tale of obsession --leading to madness. The Paris Opera House and its hidden rooms, and underground are the perfect place to develop a horror story. Leroux noticed this potential. His descriptions of the place are creepy and in the end we start wondering if it is not a true story indeed.
Leroux was very smart, writing a novel like he was only reporting something --and not creating a work of fiction. Therefore there are police reports, newspapers scraps, witness interviews. More than a narrator, the person who is telling the story is only gathering useful information for the reader.
His characters are real human beings --even the `ghost, of whom throughout the narrative we realize that he is the one with most human characteristics. Sometimes, Christine is a little stereotypical, mostly when she says she wants to be `the mistress of her faith or something like it. And so is Raoul --but that doesnt diminish the qualities of this engaging novel.
All in all, this is a French classic that is highly recommended.