Book Review: “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson

April 18, 2010

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Going into this one, I really had no idea what to expect, other than the montage of cliched Jekyll/Hyde iconic imagery so nicely provided me by our society (I think I can name off the top of my head at least four versions of Edward Hyde in other media that really are nothing at all like Stevenson’s portrayal of him).  The only thing I really did know was the basic premise of the story, which, unfortunately, took out some of the surprise at the ending.  Nonetheless, my lack of confidence in what to expect, I think, made the story even more interesting to me than I had expected.  It centers around the concept of the nature of good and evil in man (a concept, which, I confess, I ponder frequently myself), and I think Stevenson does a phenomenal job capturing this philosophical conundrum in story form.  It is primarily told focusing on the point of view of Henry Jekyll’s good friend, a Mr. Utterson, who struggles inwardly with knowing how to help Jekyll be free from a fiendish little man called Edward Hyde.  As the story progresses, so too does the complexity of the character of Dr. Jekyll (and the confusion of Mr. Utterson)–and, in my opinion, by the end, the complexity of Dr. Jekyll is easily comparable to that of Victor Frankenstein or maybe even Quasimodo.  Final Verdict:  Super quick, super good suspense/thriller/horror story.  Please read late at night for full effect.  But above all, please read.

Treasure Island

This is another fairly iconic story, and going into it I had to intentionally not compare the book to Muppet version of the same or Treasure Planet.  Treasure Island is an all around wonderful tale of adventure and piracy on the open seas; kind of a literary version of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Stevenson’s mastery of language is fantastic–he perfectly captures the tone and inflection of “piratey” voices and “gentlemanly” voices alike, and the scope of characters through the story is quite charming.  In fact, character is probably one of the strongest things about this book:  there are plenty of characters throughout, and Stevenson does amazingly at keeping them distinct and unique, while still well defined and developed.  Of course, Long John Silver is probably the most intriguing of them all.  Probably because the reader is never entirely sure what to think about him.  The primary thing I would critique in Treasure Island is that, even though the story is gold and is broken down into short chapters that one can read through very rapidly, there are still parts where the story seems to drag a bit.  I’m not sure exactly how to put a name on it, but I could sense it when I was reading.  My conclusion:  Treasure Island‘s a great story and a lot of fun to read, but I wouldn’t say it was the best read I’ve ever had.  Will I read it again?  Yeah, probably, but it’s not one I’m going to go out of my way to re-read, I don’t think.

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