Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson
audiobook: 2.5 hours
narrated by Ian Holm

*** About the Book ***

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeMr. Utterson is concerned.  His long-time friend (and client - Utterson is a lawyer) Dr. Jekyll has revealed a very close attachment to an unnerving man called Mr. Hyde.  Hyde not only has a bad reputation, he also generates feelings of intense dislike in all he meets.  When Jekyll makes Hyde the beneficiary of his will, Utterson becomes concerned that Hyde means to kill Jekyll.  After several months of socializing in a normal manner, Jekyll suddenly shuts himself up and refuses to see anyone.

What is going on behind Dr. Jekyll's locked door?  Who is the mysterious Mr. Hyde?  Is he blackmailing the dear doctor, or has he possibly killed him?  It is only through a series of letters and the breaking down of a door that Mr. Utterson finally learns the truth.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

This book was on my TBR list because it is on the 1,001 Books You Must Read list, and that means it counts for the 1% Well Read Challenge.  That, and the fact that I've been wanting to read more from this author.  Then Jill and I decided it would be a good fit for this year's Dueling Monsters read-a-long.  Gotta love it when reading one book meets so many different goals!

*** My Thoughts ***

I was, of course, familiar with the basic concept of the story before listening to this book - it IS an element of our (pop) culture at this point - but I didn't realize that I had several key details wrong.  First, I was completely unfamiliar with Mr. Utterson and the other characters in the book.  Second, the real reasons for Dr. Jekyll's experiments were new to me. And third, the outcome of the experiments was not what I expected.  I realize that I'm being vague here - that's intentional!  I'll go into more detail in the read-a-long section below but I don't want to put any spoilers here because I think that there are probably other people who had incorrect impressions of this book and I don't want to ruin the fun of reading it for them.

This is the most accessible classic monster book I've come across to date.  It is easy to read, the language is straightforward, and it is very brief.  If you've considered trying out one of the classics in this genre, definitely give this book a shot. [FYI, I've also read Dracula and Frankenstein, and listened to The Picture of Dorian Gray.]

I have to admit that many of my expectations for this book were influenced by my love of the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  I know that it is an amalgam of literary figures and that those figures have been changed from their originals, but it is still that movie that I think of when I bring to mind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

*** The Narrator ***

I think this is the first time I've heard Iam Holm and I'm very impressed.  He was soft spoken but very clear, and I greatly enjoyed his narration style.

*** Dueling Monsters - My Thoughts ***

WARNING: This section will contain spoilers.

Ok, so - Dr. Jekyll is really creepy! He doesn't seem that way at first, and he doesn't come across that way to his friends, but if you think through his actions and his decisions ... the man is creepy! He actually ENJOYS being Hyde because he is basically without a conscience.  His experiments were originally meant to split the two parts of this nature - the good and the bad - and allow each one to have fullness of expression.  The first few times he returned to being Jekyll after being Hyde, he reveled in the horrid things he'd done and said and rejoiced over the fact that there was no possible way he'd ever get caught.  It isn't until he commits murder that he finally realizes things are getting out of hand. 

The other thing that makes him so creepy is that as Dr. Jekyll he is such a mild mannered person, and he has done an excellent job of hiding his evil desires and refusing to act on them.  But then he allows them free reign in the person on Mr. Hyde  - and that is creepy.

Dorian Gray is going to have to do some really horrid things to compete with Jekyll in my mind ...

*** Your Thoughts ***

If you've read this one, what did you think of it?  Did it match your pop-culture-influenced expectations of what it was really about or did it surprise you?

If your comment will contain spoilers please note that so people can skip over it if necessary.  Thanks!


Suey said...

I have a post planned for a few days from now about my thoughts on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! My love for this story mostly stems from the musical that was made from it.

bermudaonion said...

I read a kids' version of this book with my son years ago and remembered that it was different than I thought it would be.

Avid Reader said...

I read this one and I completely agree that it's accessible and wonderfully creepy. I just finished reading Vol. 1 of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and now I want to re-read all the monster book you mentioned.

Alyce said...

I skipped the spoilers part because I haven't read it yet and might at some point in the future. It's nice to know that there are some surprises.

Trish said...

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been on my tbr list forever, and now I'm really really looking forward to reading it! I also have my eye on Dorian Gray, Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

It's a great time of year for creepy books, isn't it?

Heather J. said...

Suey - I've never seen the musical but I think I'd really enjoy it!

bermudaonion - Kiddo wants to read it now so I'm going to look for the graphic novel version for him.

Avid Reader - I have a half-finished post on exactly that topic - hopefully I'll get a chance to finish writing it soon!

Alyce - Let's just say that it didn't exactly match what pop-culture has led me to believe about it. It wasn't all that different, but the differences were important ones in my mind.

Trish - I'm hoping to read Moreau at some point too! (I've read the others already.)

Ryan G said...

This is one of those books that I have always meant to read but never gotten around to yet. I know I will someday so I skipped the spoilers part but am looking forward to it.

Teacher/Learner said...

A great read, I agree. I found it the most accessible book in the 19th Century Lit class I took a few years ago. It's quite spooky. I've also seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon take on it :oD

Amanda said...

I really enjoyed this one when I read it in high school and afterwards when I re-read it. You are right that it is very accessible. I think that's why I love love RLS, he writes very well but accessible. If you want some more cool stories by him, check out his collection called The New Arabian Nights - stories include The Suicide Club (very very good) and The Rajah's Diamond. Love them.

Heather J. said...

Ryan - It's a quick and easy read - I know you'll enjoy it when you pick it up.

Teacher/Learner - Oh I'll have to look up the Bugs Bunny cartoon - I don't remember that one! Did you see the video I put up from Arthur the other day? I love that one too. :)

Amanda - I'm definitely planning to read more by RLS - I'll check out the ones you mentioned for sure.

softdrink said...

Accessible is the perfect way to sum up this book! It's to Dorian what Dracula was to Frankenstein. And I was totally surprised, as well. But then, I didn't know much going into it, other than the whole good v. evil thing.

I think we chose two good books this time, although Dorian's still my favorite. :-)

Heather J. said...

softdrink - I'd agree, except that I actually like Dorian somewhat and I really didn't like Frankenstein all that much at all. And YAY for choosing good book ... b/c you KNOW we were very scientific about how we chose! LOL

Tribute Books Mama said...

Thanks! for sharing

Amanda said...

I'm glad you loved it so much! It's one of those books that I don't understand why we don't teach high schoolers instead of books they will less enjoy. This is accessible but still both fun and thematic!

I just posted my Dueling Monsters wrap-up:

Heather J. said...

Tribute Books Mama - Thanks for stopping by.

Amanda - I agree! I would have loved reading this in school, but more importantly I think lots of non-readers would have liked it as well. (And I'm glad to see you're on my side in this Duel!)

Valerie said...

I just put up my dueling monsters post:

It was a tough call this time around! Thanks for co-hosting.

Heather J. said...

Valerie - Great, thanks! I'm off to check it out right now ...

Miri said...

I really enjoyed rereading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and having to think about what I was reading (or actually listening to). I think your characterization of Jekyll as creepy really sums him up perfectly.

Heather J. said...

Miri - I'm glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being a part of the Duel. :)

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