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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

BOOK REVIEW
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
originally published 1886
this edition Barnes & Noble Classics
2003 w/ Introduction and Notes by Jenny Davidson


  Is it fair to Robert Louis Stevenson to say that he's over-represented in the original edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die?  He's got four books on the original list: Treasure Island- his break-out hit- published in 1883.  Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- both published in 1886- and The Master of Ballantrae- 1889.

  Having now read all four novels- I feel like the answer is yes, he is over-represented with four titles in the original edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  There is no way to deny Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- but considering the sheer number of possible contenders, it's rather harder to make a case for Kidnapped and The Master of Ballantrae- even though they both possess the outstanding quality of being action packed, brief and easy to read.

   Stevenson is an Author who was as popular as he could be for a while- and then had that favor rescinded in a way that is familiar to students of other artistic genres- his success created a back lash, mostly by inspiring his followers to make him into some kind of bohemian hero saint.  ANNOYING!

  Still, there's no denying the enduring appeal of the Stevenson canon- Treasure Island- pretty much directly responsible for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise- and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde having entered the popular consciousness as a synonym for a schizophrenic personality.  Quite an achievement evening leaving out Kidnapped and Master of Ballantrae.

  Stevenson was hardly original in his subject matter- but his treatment of familiar themes was bracing and engaging.   Stevensons prose style was effortless- a forerunner to the airport novel style of the best seller list- and he's probably contributed as much to popular fiction as any other Author.

  Shame he's not taken more seriously today- I think his work could teach would-be Artists of many different genres how to maintain Artistic integrity while pleasing a broad Audience.

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