The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson – Book Review

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I haven’t read much Robert Louis Stevenson. I had the illustrated version of either Treasure Island or Kidnapped when I was growing up, but I’m not quite sure which one it was and I just couldn’t get into whatever it was. Something about it put me off, and I had carried that around with me, so much so that I never read anything by him and thought I wouldn’t like his work that much. I can’t say for certain why I picked up The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I suspect that it might have something to do with having a mash-up book where Sherlock Holmes works on the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on my shelves, and wanting to be familiar with the original before I read it.  I enjoyed it so much! I regret that I didn’t read it sooner, and now I wonder if I will go back and think that all his other books are awesome.

The novella starts with two gentleman, Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield,  who walk together each week.  The men are seemingly indifferent to each other, but the walk is the part of the week each values the most. While they are out walking Mr. Enfield relates seeing a strange man emerge from a door in an alley they pass, and how the man became involved in an altercation with a child, in which he intervenes.  Mr. Enfield realizes that he might know more about the story than he first suspected.

I loved the way that this story unfolded as a story within a story and letters that directed the reader to other letters.  I had a problem with Frankenstein because Shelley didn’t put enough thought into the plausibility of the creation story of her monster, but here Stevenson carefully considers why Dr. Jekyll would have created the potion that he did, how its properties affected him when he took it, and the implications that it had for humanity.  I loved the idea of studying the attempts to separate aspects of human consciousness. It was all very clever and I loved every minute of it.  Stevenson proves with this little gem that human minds and people are some of the scariest creatures on the planet in our efforts to understand and improve upon the design of our own species.

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10 Comments

  1. Ah … this sounds like something I would enjoy. Terrific review, Nicole. You totally hooked me with this: “Stevenson proves with this little gem that human minds and people are some of the scariest creatures on the planet in our efforts to understand and improve upon the design of our own species.”

  2. I was surprised at how much I loved this book when I read it awhile back. I went in thinking “Oh, it’s just a horror story” and boy was wrong. I agree with your thoughts on Frankenstein. I have always had a problem with it seeming like she didn’t think out the story well enough before she wrote it. Not the case here at all. Thanks for reminding me about this I think I going to recommend it to my son, make him think is the guise of a spooky story.

  3. It took me a long time to read this too (last Fall actually so like 30 years), but also like you, I am so glad I finally read it. And it definitely helps with the Holmes/Jekyll pastiche!

  4. This is one of those books that has been languishing on my TBR list for years! I’m more encouraged to read it after hearing your thoughts.