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.