Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1885 classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the first book I’ve (re)read in my 100 to read challenge. After a somewhat dull start, this really got going, with a brief deceleration towards the end.
The novel details a lawyer’s investigation into the gradual recluscion of his old friend Dr. Jekyll, and his surprising friendship with the polar opposite Mr. Hyde. Even if you’ve not read it, the chances are you know of it, and the plot twist is in itself particularly famous. If you’ve not heard of it and not read it, you’re in for a treat.
Whilst reading, I was reminded in particular of Frankinstein through the experiments and the statements about science. I think that is a mark of its period, science was becoming fast a major power-but people didn’t know how far scientists could-or would go, where they would draw the lines-if they did at all.
If ever a book wanted to prove the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’, it is this. Not directly stated, but gradually implied as the book progresses, as the detective tale leads into a biography-or a confession. It seems somewhat confused as to its genre, but that takes nothing away from how avidly I read it, and what’s more enjoyed it.
I would have liked a little more development of some of the characters-Mr. Utterson the lawyer, Dr. Lanyon, and several others. The opening in particular needs a hook, the first sentence is dull as ditchwater:
Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable
Such a great book surely should have been graced with a better start, the first few pages ramble, and though I have nothing against descriptive prose, I feel Stevenson far overuses that here.
In all, when it gets going the book flies by, but a slow opening does nothing to help retain the reader.
My edition-1910, 141 pages, Longmans, Green, and Co.
Read-6.11.2014–7.11.2014 (as one of the 100 to read)
Value for money-good Kindle price (as out of copyright so competitive pricing), other prices a little above average-★★★★
Character development-very good on titular characters, but I would have liked to learn a little about the Mr. Utterson, who we follow for the novel’s duration-★★★½
Readability-too slow opening, and gets a little less interesting for a bit before the end, but the pace picks up and is thoroughly enjoyable for most of the book-★★★★
Overall-lack of hook and underdeveloped characters more than countered by runaway plot-★★★★ (with the 100 to read, I will also rate books out of 100: 83)