Skip to main content

Review: Mary Reilly, by Valerie Martin

Mary Reilly is an alternate telling of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s told from the point of view of Dr. Jekyll’s housemaid, Mary, an observant young woman who is nonetheless somewhat blind to what’s going on around her. She keeps a journal of her observations, in which she chronicles the increasingly bizarre behavior of the man she calls Master; and her encounters with his new assistant, Edward Hyde.

It’s not a long book, only about 250 pages, but there’s a lot packed in. At first glance, it would seem odd that Dr. Jekyll seeks out the company of a lowly housemaid; but they really have a lot in common, both having gone through, or going through, periods of darkness in their lives—Mary with the demon her father, and Dr. Jekyll with his demon Mr. Hyde.

The tension in this novel, especially in Mary’s encounters with Mr. Hyde, is palpable, as is the London fog, which seems to surround everything. Right from the opening scene (which I won’t describe; you have to read it for yourself), I was immediately hooked into the story May’s language and grammar are colorful, too, and make her voice unique. The end of the book is somewhat marred by the anonymous postscript, but otherwise I enjoyed this novel. It’s been a number of years since I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but from what I can recall, Valerie Martin stays pretty close to Stevenson’s book. Mary is for the most part knowledgeable about the world; but in several others, she’s a complete innocent.


It was made a film some years ago, wasn't it? I haven't seen it, but always wanted to. Now that I know it has been adapted from this novel... I'll read the book. It's even better! Thanks for sharing!
Kathleen said…
I remember the movie with Julia Roberts but didn't realize it was based on a book. This one sounds good and I think I would enjoy it!
Gwendolyn B. said…
Sounds very atmospheric!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…