“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

audiobookreview

A man with a curiosity about the nature of good and evil creates a potion to separate the two parts of his nature.  When things don’t go as planned, the monster grows stronger and lives are lost.


jeckyllandhydeaudiobook

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Narrated by Scott Brick

❤︎ ❤︎

Series: Standalone
Genres: Classics, Fiction, HorrorScience Fiction, Mystery, Gothic, Fantasy, Literature, 19th Century, Academic, School
Published By: Tantor Audio in 2006
Original Publication: Longmans, Green, & Co in 1886 (Original UK Paperback Edition)
Format: Audiobook (3 hours, 6 minutes)

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summary

An intriguing combination of fantasy thriller and moral allegory, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depicts the gripping struggle of two opposing personalities – one essentially good, the other evil – for the soul of one man. Its tingling suspense and intelligent and sensitive portrayal of man’s dual nature reveals Stevenson as a writer of great skill and originality, whose power to terrify and move us remains, over a century later, undiminished.

review

A few years ago, I picked up Treasure Island and absolutely loved it.  I figured, hey!  Jekyll & Hyde is also a classic, and written by the same author, I’ll like this one too!  Unfortunately, it just didn’t hit home for me.  Actually, I’m sort of preparing myself to be pummeled with tomatoes because out of all classics, this one seems to be the one most people like… eek!  Here goes….

Characters

We spend the book trailing a man called “Utterson” who appears to be a prominent lawyer and in service to all the important men of London.  Utterson is nosy, judgmental, and pompous.  I suppose for the time it was written, this character would have been a respectable character with high morals and great compassion, but frankly I found him annoying.  Having to see the story through his eyes was, I believe, an unfortunate choice of Stevenson’s, for it would have been so much more insightful and interesting to see it from Jekyll himself.

The other characters we come across are more or less the same, with the exception of Jekyll (who is only like Utterson half the time.  The other half, obviously, is Hyde) and his manservant Poole, who simply comes across as small and rash and a bit like the Cowardly Lion.

World

❤︎

The story takes place in London.  I found this aspect a bit interesting, actually, because although most of the tale itself is just a series of conversations and letters, you really do get a sense of the surrounding world.  In particular, I thought Jekyll and Hyde’s individual houses – Hyde’s Soho apartment and Jekyll’s sprawling manorhouse complete with operating theatre – to be particularly well imagined.  In addition, these spaces gave a visible sense of character where otherwise the reader has only to rely on an eyewitness account and a pair of letters.

Story

❤︎

The morality tale is an interesting one.  This is along the vein of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey as well, asking the question of “what if we could split ourselves into two halves, one good and beautiful, the other ugly and villainous?  We could indulge our fancies and not face the consequences”.  Unlike Dorian, Jekyll is unable to truly separate himself from that dark, hedonistic side and the consequences chase after him.  See, Dorian Grey strips himself of his conscience as well as the strings between crime and punishment, whereas Jekyll must carry the knowledge of his evil in his heart.  For both, temptation is paramount, although Dorian has more patience than Jekyll, for Jekyll is thrown into his vices rather than growing into them.  For the philosophical question alone, this book is worth reading.  It makes you think.

Writing / Narration

As mentioned above, I feel as though this story would have been much more interesting if it were presented differently.  A first person standpoint would have served it well, rather than a third person outsider.  The dialogue-style storytelling is a fairly common format for 19th century literature, especially for this sort of story where the reader may wish to distance oneself from the subject matter, but I just don’t think it works well here.  Ultimately, the story comes across as mostly a monster stamping on people and an old man being strange and reclusive.

The narration, thought, I will say was just fine.  Scott Brick distinguished the voices well and read at a good, manageable pace.  With classics, especially those written in times when the language and popular styles were a little different, it’s doubly important to have a good narrator or they are unreadable.

Personal Thoughts

All in all, I’m glad I picked up this book and gave it a try, but I don’t think that I will revisit it any time soon.

tldr

Although a classic and woven so much into our daily understanding, I think this is just plain boring.

source

I got this as part of a sale on Audible a couple years ago: I think it was Buy 2, Get 1 Free!  Or something to that effect.  I purchased this book of my own volition and this review is commitment-free.

firstsentence

“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.”

favoritequotes

“It is one thing to mortify curiosity, another to conquer it. ”

“There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul.”

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Book Review: Pistols & Petticoats by Erika Janik

bookreview

I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not altered my views on the book and I strive to provide my unaltered and completely honest option, for better or for worse.


pistolsandpetticoats

Pistols & Petticoats

by Erika Janik

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎

Series: Standalone
Genres: Non-Fiction, History, Mystery
Published By: Beacon Press in 2016
Format: Paperback (248 pages)

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summary

A lively exploration of the struggles faced by women in law enforcement and mystery fiction for the past 175 years.

In 1910, Alice Wells took the oath to join the all-male Los Angeles Police Department. She wore no uniform, carried no weapon, and kept her badge stuffed in her pocketbook. She wasn’t the first or only policewoman, but she became the movement’s most visible voice.

Police work from its very beginning was considered a male domain, far too dangerous and rough for a respectable woman to even contemplate doing, much less take on as a profession. A policewoman worked outside the home, walking dangerous city streets late at night to confront burglars, drunks, scam artists, and prostitutes. To solve crimes, she observed, collected evidence, and used reason and logic–traits typically associated with men. And most controversially of all, she had a purpose separate from her husband, children, and home. Women who donned the badge faced harassment and discrimination. It would take more than seventy years for women to enter the force as full-fledged officers.

Yet within the covers of popular fiction, women not only wrote mysteries but also created female characters that handily solved crimes. Smart, independent, and courageous, these nineteenth- and early twentieth-century female sleuths (including a healthy number created by male writers) set the stage for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, as well as TV detectives such as Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison and Law and Order’s Olivia Benson. The authors were not amateurs dabbling in detection but professional writers who helped define the genre and competed with men, often to greater success.

Pistols and Petticoats tells the story of women’s very early place in crime fiction and their public crusade to transform policing. Whether real or fictional, investigating women were nearly always at odds with society. Most women refused to let that stop them, paving the way to a modern professional life for women on the force and in popular culture.

review

Erika Janik seems to me like the type of person who learns a fact, then gets really excited about it and learns everything possible about the subject.  She is clearly enthusiastic and while I found Pistols and Petticoats interesting, it was a little too ambitious and scattered for my tastes.

Delivery

There are several ways to format any non-fiction work.  My experience in historical works is that they are approached from a chronological point-of-view.  Janik, instead, chooses to take the route of division of subject matter.  There are chapters about the first women in real life and fiction, there are chapters about uniforms and dress, job requirements, the social stigmas of being in law enforcement and so forth.  If I were a researcher looking for a specific body of information, this would be quite useful.  From a read-through standpoint, however, it makes the work feel scattered.  Names come up time and again and are not always reintroduced so I would have to keep jumping back to figure out who she was talking about.

Speaking of names, there are a lot of them.  Tackling both real-world women and fictional ones, and their authors is a fairly ambitious topic for so small a book and there are a lot of condensed facts.  If anything, I would have advised breaking this work into three separate sections and tackling each angle one at a time, just for the reader’s sake.  Having to go back and fact check on fictional vs. real life women definitely disrupted the flow.

Detail

❤︎

Detail is something Janik offers in spades.  It is immediately clear how passionate she is about her subject, and her desire to share every little bit of what she has learned.  There is absolutely nothing vague about her work – you want detail?  You got it.

Subject

❤︎

Women in law enforcement is an interesting subject and I do appreciate how Janik has tried to offer even more illumination by wrangling the likes of Miss Marple and Nancy Drew into the mix.  I think I was more interested in the history of female detectives in fiction than I was in the real life women, although the included image section in the middle of the book was a nice touch.  I never knew, for example, that L. Frank Baum had written a series of adventuring women.  I don’t know how thoroughly this subject has been approached before, or if there are any other books quite like this one, but Janik’s passion certainly presents an interesting subject.

Sources

❤︎

I think there are about twenty pages of source material and references in the appendix of this book, and all are great for those who found this book interesting, but wanted to dive more deeply into a singular section of the material – women’s treatment in prisons, for example.  Janik is very well researched.

Personal Thoughts

Overall, I just wasn’t blown away by this book.  I will not deny that Janik knows her source material and knows it well, and the subject is interesting… but I found the readability very difficult for me.  I know this isn’t always evident from my blog and reviews on Goodreads, but I have ready a fair amount of historical non-fiction and don’t attribute the difficulty in reading this to a change in flow from fiction to non-fiction.  In fact, I find that formats like this are the types that steer laymen away from history – there are so many names and dates and not a clear lineage of growth of the story (and yes, historical non-fiction definitely has a story).  Pistols and Petticoats is a fine book for academics to pick up and peruse, but it may be less accessible to those unprepared to jump into a lot of scattered detail.

tldr

Very informative, very difficult to get into thanks to the overwhelming detail and jumping subjects.

source

Beacon Press provided me with a copy of this book when I won the drawing on LibraryThing – huzzah!  It will be going out into the wild to be loved by someone else.

firstsentence

“With high heels clicking across the hardwood floors, the diminutive woman from Chicago strode into the headquarters of the New York City police.”

favoritequotes

“”Another woman, Vera Bash, found herself out of a job in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, after opponents found her too attractive to be effective at policing. “Her beauty interfered with her work,” reported the Portsmouth Herald. “The presumption is that no one had the hardness of heart to tell the young woman that beauty is not an asset to the Police Department.” “

“Americans focused more on leisure and entertainment than on lobbying and petitioning, as reform movements of all kinds lost steam.”

“Florence Dempsey, played by Torchy Blane actress Glenda Farrell, goes so far as to memorably declare to her friend Charlotte in The Mystery of the Wax Museum, “You raise the kids; I’ll raise the roof!””


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