29 October 2010

Book Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Publisher: Intervisual Books Classics
Release Date: 1886
Date Finished: 29 October 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, R.I.P. V

The Short and Sweet of It
Mr. Utterson, a simple lawyer and good friend, takes it upon himself to discover the mystery of his friend Dr. Jekyll's odd will in which he leaves everything to one Mr. Hyde, unfamiliar to Mr. Utterson. His desire to aid his friend leads him on a journey of strange discovery.

A Bit of a Ramble
I don't think it much of a plot spoiler to reveal the dual identity of Dr. Jekyll. I'm pretty sure most people know that Jekyll and Hyde are one-and-the-same, Hyde being the "dark side" of Jekyll who brought on the transformation through chemistry. If you did not know this, huh....really? :)

Reviewing a book many have read and most know about is difficult for me. Then again, this was my first reading and I was quite surprised by the book. My imagination concocted a story with Jekyll as the protagonist, the reader following him as he makes his discovery, transforms for the first time, undergoes spiritual questioning and torture, et. al. I believed the tale to be focused on Jekyll's experiences existing as both himself and his alter ego. The book, however, is more like a tale told after the fact by one not directly involved in the main spectacle.

Mr. Utterson is the character we follow, the one whose thoughts we are privy too. Our information about Jekyll and Hyde comes to us from Utterson's observations, a friend's letter, and Jekyll's own letter. We do not watch the main event; instead we are removed from it, only hearing about it well after the fact. I have yet to decide how I feel about this (I finished the book about three minutes ago at this point).

This was a fast read for me; I went through it one sitting. Part of the reason for the quick speed is the delightful atmosphere of the novel which is wonderfully sinister and moody. Another reason is the general lack of activity. Not much happens, and that which does happen is told simply and shortly, primarily because it is revealed in summation by characters who witnessed the event.

As is often the case with classic novels, the language has an art to it that is at once strange and beautiful for a contemporary reader. Artful prose is one of the many reasons I love classic literature so very much. If you haven't yet read this book, I definitely recommend doing so, and if you are worried you already know too much about the story, you don't....

On a side note, the version I have is not the cover pictured here.

I read this for the Dueling Monsters readalong, hosted by Heather at Age 30+ and Jill at Fizzy Thoughts. Heather's site hosts the readalong for Jekyll and Hyde while Jill has the readalong for The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde which I re-read this past week but originally reviewed back in Spring. My official post for the readalong(s) will be tomorrow.

The Filmic Connection
There are so many visual interpretations of the Jekyll and Hyde story that to list them all would take ages. There are straight-up adaptations, re-envisionings based on technological advancements, children's versions, and even musicals. I do hope to watch some of them in the near future.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Fizzy Thoughts; Becky's Book Reviews; things mean a lot; Age 30+;

Question: Have you seen any of the films? Suggestions on which I should watch?


  1. Other than that dual-identity, I knew absolutely nothing about this book going in, but I loved it! Every second of it. The prose is probably the most delicious prose I've ever tasted and every time I read that book, I can just feel my writer's muscles getting all juiced up!

  2. I've never read this one and wish I'd been able to get in on the read along...I have had the best time with my Historian and We Have Always Lived in a Castley read alongs :):)

  3. As I read all these Dueling Monsters reviews, I realize I want to read both of the books for it this year. How can you leave money to your own self if you are dead? He doesn't KNOW he is his alter ego? I guess I better read the book!

  4. Amanda - I was really surprised by how the book was written. It was actually nice that the book was so different from what I expected as it kept it fresh.

    Peppermint - Both books were great choices for a readalong.

    Jenners - You definitely should. I really enjoyed both. And you will understand the strange will situation if you do....

  5. After reading your and Amanda's reviews, I want to read this novel soon.

  6. I have not read this book yet (I'm finishing up Dracula, which I also had not read). These sorta books fall into the category of: I feel like I read it because I already know about it but end up being surprised by (insert something here) in the novel.

    Whew. That was a mouth full.

  7. Stephanie - I really think you should; it's a well-written and entertaining story.

    Christina - You definitely will be surprised if your ideas about the story were anything like mine.

  8. I've never seen any of the films...which was a bonus going into the book, since I actually knew very little of the story. And I was worried after I finished it, since I read this before Dorian Gray and I enjoyed it. Thank goodness I ended up liking my own guy better!

  9. Jill - I think not knowing is definitely a plus when reading a book. I do worry that watching the movies will decrease my pleasurable memories of the book though; my understanding is that some of the film versions are really really not good. And yet still, I have a strong desire to watch them...

  10. I have not yet read this book, but your description of it makes me think I would really enjoy it. I like the comments that you make about the style of the writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book with us!

  11. I actually have not read this book! I'll have to move it a little closer to the top of Mount TBR :)


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