Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) 110 p.

The problem with reading Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the modern day is that we all know the twist. The novel is structured as a mystery, with a London lawyer investigating his client Dr Jekyll’s decision to leave his fortune, in the case of his disappearance, to the notoriously brutal and unpleasant Mr Hyde. I can imagine that a 19th century reader going into it blind would be drawn into a what is, objectively, a well-written and engaging mystery with a supernatural slant. Modern readers don’t have that luxury, because of course we know that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person: a monstrous transformation putting Jekyll’s baser instincts into physical form, indulging in all manner of crimes across London while Jekyll’s reputation remains unimpeachable.

Of course there’s all kinds of interpretation and analysis you can make of it, about the duality of man and the repression of darker instincts and the nature of good versus evil, et cetera. For the most part, though, it struck me as more of a potboiler. Stevenson was, after all, mostly a writer of adventures like Treasure Island and Kidnapped. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would have been a pretty decent supernatural mystery novel back in the day – for us, unfortunately, popular culture has spoiled it.

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