Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The idea of Jekyll and Hyde has been reused and rehashed so many times, in so many different ways, that you feel like you already know what the book will be like. However, let me stop you there. It seems that movies and hype have once again taken people away from the book itself.

We all know the basic premise of this novella; one good doctor who drinks a concoction in order to turn into his darker side but soon finds himself stuck in an unwanted position. However, what I didn't know before was the theory and premise behind WHY Dr Jekyll created this 'potion' (for I can't of what else to call this, really). Out of everything, the answer to this question is what really intrigued me.

I used to think that him having Hyde trapped in him was some sort of accidental side affect, but I was wrong. I'm not going to say why it really happened on here but I will tell you that the thought behind it intrigued me and was the bit I found the most thought provoking out of everything that happened in this book. What happened in the book was the result of these contemplations on the human mind and character and so I did want to focus more on that.

This book itself and the way it was set out did disappoint me in that it's based around diary entries, letters etc and so, therefore, seems a bit 'he said, she said' and seems to jump all over the place. An example of this jumping is the fact that the entire book is split into Middle, Beginning, End, Middle, or some other order that doesn't help draw you in as much as it could. On top of that it's all rather a civilised capture and end of Mr Hyde, don't expect it to be jumping from rooftops, harassing damsels in distress sort of things. It's more a mental sort of anguish than anything else. Granted there are one or two moments where Hyde gets out of control but it's definitely more a case of the unseen evil having the biggest hold on the story.

Having said all this, however, I was slightly disappointed in this book. Yes it's a classic, yes I know my 21st Century mind had a lot of expectations and yes I know that it's my fault, not the book's. I still wish something had REALLY happened at the end that was more visceral than intellectual.

This is a good read, especially if you know what you'll get from this era of books (I'm beginning to learn). A good quick read that should be read without the expectations from this century but imagining how it must have come across to the readers of the time.


Jessica @ Books: A true story said...

Ooo that makes me so excited to read this now! Thanks for the review!

Rea said...

I've read both of Stevenson's longer books (Treasure Island and Kidnapped) but can't really remember what happened in either. I also have some vague memory of studying a short by him about stealing corpses to sell to the medical students.

I hadn't realised that this book is... err... "epistolaire" (omg I don't know the English word! Have to look it up... Apparently it's epistolary, so not that much of a difference) as I know they were popular in the 18th century but they'd gone out of style by the 19th.

I know what you mean about the ending's being very different in the classics. My bro was telling me about his latest Virginia Wolfe read and he says that at the end you're left on top of a cliff and that's it. He loved it but I'm not sure that would really be the ending for me.

Ah well, great review! This is one of those books that I really ought to get around to reading some day!