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Mary Reilly

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From the acclaimed author of the Orange Prize winning Property comes a fresh twist on the classic Jekyll and Hyde story, a novel told from the perspective of Mary Reilly, Dr. Jekyll's dutiful and intelligent housemaid.

Faithfully weaving in details from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, Martin introduces an original and captivating character: Mary is a survivor-scarred but still strong-familiar with evil, yet brimming with devotion and love. As a bond grows between Mary and her tortured employer, she is sent on errands to unsavory districts of London and entrusted with secrets she would rather not know. Unable to confront her hideous suspicions about Dr. Jekyll, Mary ultimately proves the lengths to which she'll go to protect him. Through her astute reflections, we hear the rest of the classic Jekyll and Hyde story, and this familiar tale is made more terrifying than we remember it, more complex than we imagined possible.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Valerie Martin

50 books202 followers

Valerie Martin is the author of nine novels, including Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property, three collections of short fiction, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, titled Salvation. She has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the Kafka Prize (for Mary Reilly) and Britain’s Orange Prize (for Property). Martin’s last novel, The Confessions of Edward Day was a New York Times notable book for 2009.
A new novel The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is due from Nan Talese/Random House in January 2014, and a middle-grade book Anton and Cecil, Cats at Sea, co-written with Valerie’s niece Lisa Martin, will be out from Algonquin in October of 2013.
Valerie Martin has taught in writing programs at Mt. Holyoke College, Univ. of Massachusetts, and Sarah Lawrence College, among others. She resides in Dutchess County, New York and is currently Professor of English at Mt. Holyoke College.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 257 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
May 20, 2020
”Are you afraid of yourself, Mary?” Master said.

The room was silent about us, but for the clock ticking, which seemed to me loud of a sudden. I thought a long time might pass before I answered but Master and I would not know it, for we was both of us waiting to hear what I would say. At first I thought I would say no, for it seemed a strange thing to be afraid of myself, but then I thought he must mean afraid of what I might do, or might say, rather than what I am and what I see in the mirror. And it was true that when I feel afraid it is what I imagine that frightens me most, which is, in a way, a fear of what is in my own head. So while Master sat looking at me I went over a great deal and at last, almost as a surprise to me, I heard myself say, “Yes.”

“Yes,” Master repeated after me, seeming pleased almost. “Yes, I thought so.”

 photo mary-reilly_zps1d4841f9.jpg
Julia Roberts and John Malkovich star in the 1996 movie version directed by Stephen Frears. Read the book then watch the movie.

Mary Reilly works in the house of Dr. Jekyll. She has scars on her neck and on her hands that are reminders of her father. He was a cruel man ruled by drink. The need to hurt others burned like a hot wire in his head. This position as maid working for Dr. Jekyll is by far the best circumstances she has ever found for herself. Her loyalty is unquestioning even as Jekyll adds an odious assistant named Hyde.

”The chair was turned away from me and all I could see of him was his arm and hand. The back of his hand is covered with black hair, the fingers blunt, so although, like the rest of him it is small for a man’s, still there is something brutish about it. I found I did not like to look at his hand any better than i liked to see the rest of him, yet there was something that seemed to hold me still and make me stare, as a rabbit will stare stunned by a torch light.”

He mocked everything people said to him like a petulant teenager accompanied by a lurid grin or a smoldering grimace. He makes Mary’s skin crawl, but out of her concern for Jekyll, as well as the unnatural fascination she feels for Hyde, she keeps trying to figure out what the connection is between the cultured Jekyll and the malevolent Hyde.

Jekyll after seeing the results of Mary’s cultivation of a small garden in the backyard realizes the darkness that surrounds his own work compared to the beauty of Mary’s cultivation.

”My work doesn’t have such pleasing results as yours. It may finally be of benefit to no one. it may only make the world more strange than it is already, and more frightening to those who haven't the courage to know the worst.”

Jekyll is intrigued by Mary. There may even be a sliver of attraction. He asks her to write about her life for him. She keeps a journal, a secret journal, but she is self-conscious about showing her writing to him. The life that seems so boring to her is of endless fascination for Jekyll. He wants to understand the darkness in the people around her and if any of that darkness resides in her. He is her benefactor and so it is only natural that she starts to feel a tingle of a fairy tale.

”I stood a moment looking at his back, at his hair which is thick, silver and a little long for the fashion, curling over his collar, and I thought I would like to a lock of it. Then, shocked at my own strange whims, which it seems I never can control, I went out, closing the door quietly behind me.”

 photo MaryReilly_zps3a7af1d6.jpg
A servant girl from the 1890s that fits my vision of Mary Reilly.

Her growing closeness with Jekyll creates strife between her and the head butler Poole. She fears that she will be dismissed if Poole starts to believe that she is displacing him in Jekyll’s trust and affection. The fear of losing her position is beyond comprehension, a devastating thought that makes her knees weak and her breath constricted. She has to tread lightly, head down, offering reassurance to all with her obedient nature.

Mary starts to put enough pieces of the puzzle that surrounds Hyde and Jekyll together, but even as she understands more of the true horror, what she will know she will be unwilling to embrace.

”I felt a great confusion, as a buzzing in my head, and I knew part of it was sadness that Master should lie to me and I to him, but I couldn't bring myself to say I had gone down in the night. So I stood holding, the tray, frozen there, and I looked at Master with all my feelings in my face. His eyes met mine, but only an instant, for the lie stood between us and he could not look at me.”

We’ve all been there, in a situation with people we care about, with a big balloon of a lie filling the room around us. We know we have to accept the lie as true or we will cross a Rubicon that will forever compromise a friendship. We have to extend the luxury of belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We have to give them space to reach the truth on their own. We have to wait for the weight of the lie to pull their feet back down to the ground, for the truth to sift through the rose colored glasses. Their hubris must be bruised. They must be so far down all they can see is up.

Jekyll reaches that point...too late.

 photo Valerie-Martin_zps3987e4f0.jpg
The author Valerie Martin.

Valerie Martin has written a perfect ode to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The fingerprints of Robert Louis Stevenson are in every paragraph, every revelation. This book fits so easily inside the original that it feels like the part of the book that Stevenson wrote, but for reasons beyond comprehension decided to leave out of the published work. This book is not a sequel, but a retelling of the original in true gothic style. I owe my revisit to this book to Daniel Levine who recently published Hyde. It was a clever retelling of the tale from the perspective of Mr. Hyde. All those graphic scenes that Stevenson left off screen that contributed so much to our loathing of Hyde are shown in a new light, according to Hyde in the proper light.

In my youth I read many biographies of Stevenson and all of his work. I feel the need to explore those places again. I’ve always felt that Stevenson’s life is interesting enough that a feature film should be made of him. Why not the dream team of Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg? I can dream.

My scintillating review of HYDE.

My illuminating review of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,331 followers
August 24, 2017
This is a wonderful illumination of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, told from the perspective of the housemaid. Valerie Martin somehow inhabits the original at the same time she makes it new, and the result is a fresh gothic tale that's steeped in the original horror. Martin is an incredibly sure-handed writer, and her prose sings.
Profile Image for Linda Palmer.
Author 57 books57 followers
September 16, 2012
I read this book because I liked the movie so much and figured there would be details not revealed on the screen. The movie is fairly faithful, so there weren't that many surprises, but I still recommend the book for a lot of reasons.

First, it paints such a rich picture of the times. I could tell that Ms. Martin had done her research. Particularly fascinating to me were the details of a life in service to others. Mary, a maid in Dr. Jekyl's house (yes, that Dr. Jekyl) stays busy from dawn until dusk and even after. There's a cook, a dishwasher, a butler, a manservant, and Mary, all of them slaving for just one man.

But Mary is special. She has overcome an abusive childhood and can actually read. She is conscious of her station in life, but bold enough to push the limits when her curiosity gets the best of her. Most of all, she's amazingly positive in a very dark atmosphere, and that has its effect on everyone, most of all Dr. Jekyl and his alter ego Mr. Hyde.

I read this book in a day and loved it. Yes, it's dark. The Dr isn't a happy man; the Mr is brutish and scary. But Mary's a survivor, and her compassion is a joy to witness.
Profile Image for Anne.
388 reviews72 followers
October 23, 2021
I could hear his low laugh, and then his horrid, whispering voice. “Don’t you know who I am, Mary?” he said.

Mary Reilly is a modern retelling of the 1886 classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror from the perspective of the housemaid.

The cover and premise caught my attention and I decide to add this to my seasonal reading because of the horror elements. One might not guess this is a 1990 book judging by its classically designed cover. The writing, social customs, and dialect also have the feel of a book published in the 19th century.

Mary Reilly, our 22-year-old narrator, had been in the service of Dr. Harry Jekyll of London for a year when the tale began. Told in first person narrative style from Mary’s journals. With only Mary’s view of her interacting with the other staff and Dr. Jekyll (whom she called Master in her thoughts), the narrative moved slow and became repetitive to just before the action climaxed. When I say this moved slow, I mean SLOW. However, I was curious enough to keep reading hoping that something dramatic would happen.

It opened with a jarring scene from Mary’s childhood and there were few other suspenseful scenes and creepy footsteps and whispers. It was gothic with only the mildest horror descriptions. Think of this as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story told from what someone living the in the house may observe.

The strength of the book is the writing and characterization. Mary was a compelling character who had my sympathy. She had an abusive father that left her with conflicted feelings toward men. She was a hard worker with a “frank manner that [was] not without charm.” She had quick intelligence and could read and write (unusual for someone in her station). You get to know Mary well and hear her stream of constant thoughts. I liked the way Mary thought about things. For example, Mary wrote about her encounter with a man: “He was leaning forward in the chair, fixing me with a look of such hatred I took a step back as if I could get clear of it.”

Why only 3-stars?

I don’t think this book would be enjoyed by readers who prefer a fast or even moderately paced book. It’s a slow build to near the end before Mary understood what was happening and the plot concluded. And since the narrative centered on Mary, I would have liked to know what happened to her after the classic plot ended. More detail should have been included about the connection between Dr. Jekyll and the person in Soho. Unfortunately, we only get Mary’s perspective. While Mary’s characterization was great, you only get a shallow look at the others. That is why I did not recognize Mary’s romantic leaning for much of the book. Despite liking the classic feel of the writing, I cannot understand why this modern book would have Mary say something racially offensive (one time) when exclaiming about how dirty the coal made her.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story, but it was too slow for my liking. This book has a 1996 film adaption starring Julia Roberts that may be of interest.
Profile Image for Celia🪐.
504 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2022
El año pasado, por estas fechas, empecé las lecturas de temática de Halloween volviendo a coger un clásico típico de esta época del año, “El Extraño Caso del Doctor Jekyll y Mister Hyde”. Así que me parecía de justicia empezar las lecturas de la spooky Season (este año con cierto retraso) con un libro que propone una nueva visión de los acontecimientos narrados en la novela anteriormente mentada. Además de cerrar el círculo, “Mary Reilly” era una novela a la que tenía muchas ganas desde hace mucho tiempo (y que me fue muy difícil de encontrar porque está descatalogada. Curiosamente la encontré cuando menos me lo esperaba en un mercadillo de libros de segunda mano). Creo que fue visionando la película que hicieron sobre este libro, protagonizada por Julia Roberts y John Malkovich , que conocí por primera vez la trama del famoso clásico de Robert Louis Stevenson.

No soy muy fan del“Extraño Caso del Doctor Jekyll y Mister Hyde”, para que mentir. No voy a decir que odie este libro y que cada vez que lo haya cogido haya sido un sufrimiento. Porque, si mal no recuerdo, me lo he leído por lo menos tres veces. Y ninguna de las tres veces he logrado conectar realmente con la historia que nos propone Stevenson. Sin ser un mal libro creo que no es para mí del todo. Así que tengo que reconocer, que pese a las ganas que le tenía, no estaba muy convencida de iniciar la lectura de “Mary Reilly”. Pero también tengo que reconocer que desde que lo inicié hasta su final no pude dejar de leer. Tenía, no obstante, mucha curiosidad por ver la manera en que la autora contaba una historia harto conocida desde una perspectiva femenina y que Stevenson no tuvo muy en cuenta en su obra original, plagada netamente de personajes masculinos: la de una criada del doctor Henry Jekyll, la cual da nombre al libro y que en su diario consigna como, poco a poco, su amo, con quien mantiene una relación muy especial, se va metamorfoseando en otra persona, un ser que no tiene nada que ver con la cara que hasta ahora ha mostrado ante el mundo y ante su servicio: el señor Edward Hyde.

Como bien se dice en la sinopsis de la edición que he manejado, la gracia de este libro es la forma en que “mantiene la atención narrativa y la intriga propias de una novela de misterio en un lector que conoce de antemano la clave del enigma y el fatal desenlace”. Para mí esa es la clave de la obra de Valerie Martin, como juega con lo que el lector ya conoce, y la forma en que crea una atmósfera de misterio y de tensión que envuelve al lector sin que éste se de cuenta, haciendo que sea incapaz de dejar de leer. Y todo esto de una manera increíblemente sutil y finamente hilada, sin que éste se dé cuenta de que ha caído en sus redes hasta casi el final. Si hay algo que me sorprendió durante esta lectura es que durante la mayor parte del tiempo pensé que era increíblemente lenta y que no estaba ocurriendo realmente nada a lo largo de las más de 270 páginas que la componen. Hasta que llegó un momento en que comprendí que si estaban pasando cosas. Muchas más de las que me estaba dando cuenta durante la lectura. Valerie Martin es una escritora que hilar muy fino. Tiene un ritmo pausado, pero todo lo que escribe está muy bien meditado. Su novela no necesita de giros inesperados para asustar al lector o para seguir avanzando; ni de situaciones dramáticas para generar interés o malestar; ni de asesinatos y sangre (que los hay, pero aparecen de forma muy secundaria) para hacer una obra de miedo. El terror del que se sirve es más bien psicológico, está presente en las conversaciones agudas y misteriosas entre amo y criada; en la sospechas y en las dudas que poco a poco van gestándose dentro de Mary y que van empapando con ella al lector. Está en las escenas y los cuidados que se dan en la noche, en medio de las tinieblas y la oscuridad. De los susurros y misterios que, como un eco, nos van llegando a nosotros, como lector, por medio de Mary. Ya sea por medio de las habladurías que se dan entre los miembros del servicio de la casa del doctor Jekyll, o que les llegan desde la calle. O de los ruidos y los pasos que resuenan en la oscuridad en la casa del doctor, cuando se supone que todo el mundo debería estar dormido y la paz y la tranquilidad deberían reinar.

Algo que he valorado mucho en esta lectura fue uno de los aspectos que me parecieron más interesantes del “Extraño Caso del Doctor Jekyll y Mister Hyde”: Respeta la naturaleza de este libro, en el sentido de que no se trata de una novela que pueda inscribirse en un único género literario. “Mary Reilly” es deudora de la novela de Stevenson totalmente en todos los sentidos. De ahí que al igual que el original, pueda inscribirse dentro de la novela de misterio, gótica, de aventuras y el tratado filosófico. Y también es una recreación absolutamente verídica en los aspectos históricos y morales del Londres Victoriano y de la diferencia de clases que marcaba los compases de la sociedad que vivió en ese momento. Unos compases que son perfectamente perceptibles en las interacciones que se dan entre la propia servidumbre del doctor Jekyll, y la forma en que la jerarquía y la importancia que le dan de forma individual y colectiva a sus respectivos papeles y situaciones dentro de la casa. Estos ideales sociales están tan incrustados en el sentir de los habitantes de esa época que incluso no desaparecen cuando acompañamos a Mary a caminar por la capital inglesa, ese caleidoscopio de niebla, humedad, movimiento y personajes de toda clase y condición; donde ir de una punta a otra era toda una odisea que podía llevarte un día entero y que no estaba exento de peligros. Un mundo que Martin reproduce muy bien.

Nuestra protagonista, Mary, es una joven inteligente, cumplidora y tenaz. No lo ha tenido fácil en la vida, con una infancia marcada por un padre borracho y abusivo, y por la firme convicción vital de que como criada tiene un papel preestablecido dentro del hogar del doctor Jekyll y de la sociedad, del cual no puede permitirse salir ni por un instante. Mary es hija de esta época para bien y para mal, tal y como demuestran sus pensamientos y acciones a lo largo de la historia. Es una mujer orgullosa y llena de matices, que bajo su aparente frialdad esconde un fuego interior brutal, que no siempre puede controlar. Resulta terriblemente convencional y a la vez terriblemente adelantada a su época, según las circunstancias. Incluso según le convenga. La obra no deja de ser, al fin de al cabo, lo que ella escribe en sus diarios íntimos. De ahí que el lector nunca esté seguro de la parcialidad con la que Mary relata las cosas. En muchos momentos te queda la impresión de que cuenta las cosas con el fin de presentarse asimismo con el mejor aspecto posible. Como una criada hábil, cumplidora y hermosa; y como una mujer realmente inteligente, educada y consciente de sus habilidades. Desde el prólogo la autora va (bajo el disfraz de ser una editora que se ha encontrado los supuestos diarios de Mary) nos deja con la duda de cuán verídico son los textos que tenemos en nuestras manos, si no se tratará, realmente, de una obra de ficción que se nos presenta como escrita por una sirvienta de la época victoriana.Es un engranaje que crea un juego en el cual el lector deberá tomar parte: si creerse a Mary y lo que ella nos cuenta, o tomarse este libro como una fábula moral ficticia. Una muestra más de lo sutil que es todo en Martin, y de como juega con el lector y, en cierto modo, le obliga a tomar parte dentro de la lectura. Pero al mismo tiempo en ese juego de espejos vi algo que, personalmente, me ponía un tanto nerviosa: lo poco que podía creerme tanta perfección por parte de mérito, lo que me costaba muchas veces empatizar con ella por ese aspecto. Y sobre todo creérmela. Algo tan banal como el hecho de que dedique tanto tiempo a describir cómo va realizando una aúna las tareas que le toca hacer dentro de la casa del doctor es una prueba de cómo a ella le gusta mostrar en su diario lo buena criada que es y lo bien que trabaja, lo fuerte y avispada que resulta a la hora de hacer su trabajo. Eso es algo que en no pocas ocasiones me sacaba de la lectura, porque no terminaba de creérmela.

En otro orden de cosas, si hay algo que no podemos obviar en esta reseña la relación que se establece entre mérito y el doctor Jekyll, entre criada y señor. Es una relación totalmente los límites sociales entre los dos. Por primera vez en su vida, alguien se interesa por el pasado de Mary sus habilidades personales y mentales (que ya nos deja ella claro que las tiene, eh) y la trata con respeto. De ahí que Mary terminara totalmente comprometida con su señor, convirtiéndose en la persona que mejor llega a comprenderlo, incluso cuando muchas de las cosas de las que habla le resultan incomprensibles y se le escapan muchas de las situaciones por las que Jekyll pasa. La suya es una relación marcada por una conexión plena, y una absoluta y una total complicidad. Si hay algo que marca totalmente los tiempos de la novela y que es el motor de la misma son las conversaciones qué mérito tienen. No solo porque son la ventana por la cual podemos ver como la historia de la criada se entrelaza con la obra de Stevenson y vislumbrar todo por lo que está pasando el doctor y como va gestándose su conversión en Hyde y la extraña relación de hermandad y enemistad que se forja entre las dos personalidades. También por toda la tensión sexual que sobrevuela cada uno de los diálogos que tienen y que conviven con el misterio entorno a Jekyll y Hyde. Un misterio que como lectores nosotros ya conocemos, y que es ese conocimiento lo que da sentido a todo. Y lo mismo vale cuando es Hyde quien aparece en lugar de Jekyll. La relación que tiene con Mary no está exenta de esa tensión sexual y de atracción, la que cada uno siente hacia los aspectos más oscuros del otro .Pero a la vez hay un componente mucho más mórbido y masoquista. Lo que en mérito y Jekyll es una conexión de almas, en Mary y Hyde es un duelo por el poder y por el control, porque sea uno u otra quien lleve las riendas de la situación. Una de las cosas más impresionantes de Martin es como según tu grado de conocimiento de la historia de Stevenson (que se sobrentiende que has leído antes de iniciarte con este libro) los diálogos entre Mary y Jekyll-Hyde pueden decirte una cosa u otra. Pero en ningún momento dejan de insinuarte algo, independientemente de si has leído o no la novela original. En estos diálogos es donde mejor se ve el trasfondo moral de la obra original. El como se trata el tema de la dualidad humana tanto en Stevenson como en Martin , como la maldad puede llegar a atraer al mejor de los hombres, y como todos tenemos una parte buena y otra mala. Al igual que en el original, en “Mary Reilly” , se trabaja la cuestión del bien y el mal dentro del hombre con fuerza descomunal y de una forma muy pura. Es un libro que bucea en lo más recóndito del alma humana, y se plantea cuestiones que siempre han acompañado a la humanidad. Y no solo por medio de Jekyll y Hyde, también por medio de los impulsos, miedos y sentimientos de la propia y terriblemente humana Mary.

Para acabar, solo quiero decir que para mi la gracia de “Mary Reilly” es que está escrita desde una perspectiva femenina que se echaba totalmente en falta en “El Extraño Caso del Doctor Jekyll y Mister Hyde” y que eso se nota. Baste decir que la atmósfera de esta novela (sutil y envolvente) me ha recordado más que a Stevenson a “Jane Eyre” de Charlotte Bronte y a las novelas de Daphne Du Maurier y Shirley Jackson. Y también resulta muy interesante conocer esta historia desde la perspectiva de una criada, nos permite alejarnos de las clases altas que Stevenson manejaba para conocer más la vida de los grupos más humildes en la época victoriana. Gracias a esto podemos echar un vistazo al día a día de la vida de un sirviente de ese periodo histórico, y introducirnos de una forma increíblemente vivida en su forma de ver las cosas y su papel dentro del entramado social de la época y la importancia que le daban a no salirse de los limites impuestos y quedarse en su lugar. Todo esto da una perspectiva muy diferente y más intimista al núcleo emocional de la novela de Stevenson: la lucha que cada uno de nosotros tenemos interiormente entre las partes luminosa y oscura que todos tenemos, y la dualidad que todo ser humano alberga. Es una nueva visión de un libro de sobras conocido que realmente merece la pena, por el enfoque que da a lo que en su momento contó Stevenson.
Profile Image for Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings).
1,500 reviews152 followers
January 13, 2020
Found this story quite drawn out and rather repetitive. Enjoyed the first part of the book, then it dragged in the middle only picking up again in the final pages. If Mary cleaned one fireplace out she must have cleaned a hundred! Very tedious. Not quite what I was hoping for and certainly can’t be called ‘horror’ in my opinion.
Profile Image for Cody Sexton.
Author 17 books73 followers
October 11, 2016
Are you ever afraid of yourself? Sometimes the things that scare us the most are the things living within our own minds. Henry Jekyll lives in the silence between words spoken and unspoken, the same place desire, lust, and contempt live and the place where Mary finds herself.
The original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story was about the anxiety of man giving birth to a future they could never understand nor control and therefore feared, much like our own modern fears concerning artificial intelligence. But this book goes deeper into that anxiety, it's a fear about not what lies outside ourselves in the world but rather what lies within ourselves that we project into the world. The truth of ourselves lies in what we do, the inner worlds we imagine we have are a lie to mask the truth of ourselves. We are animals with basic needs and desires. But society tells us that our desires are base and uncouth and that we should rise above our own animalistic tendencies. Henry Jekyll was trying to rid himself of the three things that society forces us to carry around, fear, guilt, and shame. He does so the same way others have done, by ingesting chemical substances to alter his behavior. To give an excuse to be the animal that he clearly was, an animal that wishes to fuck, murder and destroy. The same way Mary's father drank gin and then gave into his desire to inflict suffering. But it's not so much that he was taking pleasure in the suffering of others only that his pleasure resulted in the suffering of others. This is why the novel is so sexually charged. Perhaps the whole social order only exists so as to allow us to transgress it hightening our pleasure?
It's also important to keep in mind that neither Jekyll or Hyde nor Mary's father were monsters, that would dehumanize them and we need to understand that while they all did monstrous things they still remained human throughout. The blame lies with us, we are human all to human as Nietzsche would say.
The Jekyll and Hyde story plays itself out daily in our newspapers. Duplicity is not uncommon. Moral arbiters are forever falling off their own pedestals.
In a different vain, However, Mary was a character who has had no leisure, and Jekyll was a character that has had too much. Suggesting the corruptibility of wealth. The good Dr. transforms himself into a vampire and feeds on the less fortunate, never the well off, who are deprived of life. Whenever the rich need to taste life they go to the poor who are more closely attuned to it and who also as it happens are more virtuous, as in Mary's case. Henry Jekyll needed to feed on Mary's innocence to quicken himself against his own corrupt nature.
But as the afterword suggests maybe this is all a work of fiction representing Mary's desire for her Master?
But the truth about mankind is all blackness with only pin points of light, much like a starry night. Cook said that Edward Hyde, "seemed to come out of the black as if he was made of it." That's because he was and so was she, we all are. The shadow of men casts a long form.

Profile Image for Cathy.
1,596 reviews237 followers
February 11, 2017
It's been a while since I read this. I remember thinking that it was an interssting take on Jekyll and Hyde. It was pretty tragic, not only the original story as such, but also Mary's life in general. It was not the most gripping read, but a solid read at the time.
Profile Image for Bobbie.
264 reviews12 followers
March 20, 2020
I waited to read this until I had read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which I had never read until just recently. I was surprised at how different that was from the several movies and the musical which I have seen. So I was anxious to read this retelling of Jekyll and Hyde shortly after reading the original. I was very pleased with how very closely this novel follows the original. This story has been fascinating people for over a century and it is still fascinating to me after reading both books. I found this book very clarifying in many ways but there are always those questions which Stevenson left unanswered in the original so therefore can never be answered. But I did love this book.
Profile Image for Emjy.
188 reviews52 followers
August 11, 2016
Le récit intime et fascinant de Mary Reilly, la jeune domestique entrée au service de Mr Jekyll, un mystérieux et bienveillant scientifique (héros du roman de R. L. Stevenson).
Un très beau roman victorien, sobre, sombre et mené avec style.
Profile Image for Ellis ♥.
812 reviews10 followers
October 25, 2020
In verità è un 2,5 su 5.
Ho scoperto dell'esistenza di questo libro solo dopo aver visto il film, che peccato! Avrei preferito il contrario... L'idea di partenza era lodevole, un retelling del noto romanzo "Lo strano caso del Dr. Jekyll e Mr. Hyde" dal punto di vista della sua più devota cameriera. Fatto sta che non raggiunge la piena sufficienza a causa delle numerose digressioni sui suoi compiti da domestica, a dir poco ridondanti, e ne va a discapito la scorrevolezza dell'esposto.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,816 reviews224 followers
October 3, 2014
The classic story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is retold through the journal writings of the housemaid, Mary Reilly. Mary was physically and emotionally abused by her father as a child, which has left scars on both her person and her psyche. She appreciates that she is very lucky to have her position in the Jekyll household and is a very loyal and hard-working servant who understands her station in life. If she should forget, the butler, Mr Poole, is always there to remind her.
She is therefore rather chagrinned when Dr Jekyll begins to question her about her ability to read and write after he observes her reading one of his books while working in the library, and she admits that she attended a school that he has helped support. Too bad she doesn't take the opportunity to describe the deplorable conditions at that school, which he has never bothered to visit, and too bad that he doesn't offer to encourage further learning by lending her a book of poetry from his library. Sigh. I know...one must not forget one's station!
Dr Jekyll questions her about the scars on her hands and neck and asks her to write down the story of what happened to her to cause the horrible injuries. And thus begins a rather strange friendship between the two in which he comes to trust her instincts, opinions and loyalty and she admires him as a great man.
I have a few quibbles about the story: Mary seems too terribly naive and trusting for someone who has been through what she has. It is hard to believe that nothing about Hyde seems familiar to Mary--especially when he gets so up close and personal and sneeringly asks, "Don't you know me, Mary?" After Hyde cuts his hands by shattering a teacup between them, I kept expecting Mary to notice similar wounds on Dr Jekyll's hands but that never happens. I was rather surprised that Mary was never kissed, fondled or put in a compromising position by either of the gentlemen--there were certainly lots of sparks and sexual tension. Victorian repression! No bodice ripping here.
The repetitive drudgery of Mary's household duties makes the book a bit dull at times but such is the life of the servant. However Martin overuses the device of sending Mary to stir up a coal fire to put her in the perfect spot for a conversation with the Master or to overhear others. And too many times Mary is lying awake in bed in the attic and just happens to hear a stealthy tread on the stairs which sends her hurrying downstairs in dishabille to confront the Master...or oops! Mr Hyde.
Quibbling aside, it was interesting to read the Jekyll story from one more point of view, having read the original story as well as Daniel Levine's book HYDE in recent days. This was my least favorite of the three books but Martin does a good job of incorporating the original details into her tale and has a pleasant writing style with good pacing, building the tension nicely as her story unfolds. She has created a likable, sympathetic character in Mary--even if I did want to shake her now and then and tell her NOT to fall in love with Jekyll!
Profile Image for Suzanne Fox.
19 reviews3 followers
December 24, 2013
A bit hampered in terms of suspense by its nature as a variation on an existing text, but a compelling book nonetheless. I re-read recently (looking forward to Martin's January release of a novel about the doomed ship Mary Celeste) and enjoyed it even more the second time around.

Most powerful of Martin's novel's many strengths is its voice, which is compelling, consistent and convincing. It can be tricky to narrate a book through the "journals," which can be hard to make at once novelistically effective and convincing in terms of the character ostensibly producing them. This is even more true when the character is someone from a different time with a very limited education and diction. The tendency to sentimentalize and/or oversimplify servant figures, too, can be a problem. Martin falls into none of these traps, capturing the rhythm of Victorian speech and prose as well as her protagonist's personality perfectly.

As a servant, Mary's insights about and access to not only her own employer, Dr. Jekyll, but also the entire world he represents are necessarily limited. She must spend most of her time within a confined physical space doing relatively dull and repetitive tasks. Martin uses her novelist's gifts to create a rich, vivid, and dynamic world despite this limitation. The book has the dark, enclosed feel of classic Gothic tales, yet never feels too constrained or restricted to be dramatic.

The relationships of the servants, the feel of London street life of the period, even the details of funerary customs of the poor are among the elements very accurately depicted. Yet the details never announce themselves or stick out from the story, as period research can sometimes do; the author has a gift for choosing the right details to evoke an incident authentically and economically.

It's the story that matters most in the end, of course, and that's both the heart of Martin's success and the source of her challenge here. Whether or not you know the Stevenson text this book re-imagines, the novel is absorbing to the end. As it closed, I wished I could linger further in Mary's life, even though the story itself felt well and authentically finished. When I closed the book I felt a sense of loss. That's the sign of a beautifully wrought fictional world, and a gift that this novel delivers. That said, the better one knows the source text, of course, the less true plot surprise Martin's novel delivers. The surprises are more subtle ones, but nonetheless satisfying.

I highly recommend the novel to anyone who enjoys fiction set in the nineteenth century, likes the Victorian period, is intrigued by Stevenson's classic novel, or is just appreciative of strong and resonant stories.
Profile Image for Matthew White Ellis.
198 reviews4 followers
November 13, 2017
While I enjoyed the suspense and the playful intertextuality of this novel to the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I find Mary's character to be incredibly flat and self deprecating at times. What should have been a subversive shift from the original narrative which is told by an upper class male (Mr. Utterson) to a servant class maid, is limited by Mary's lack of agency and arc.

There are a few exciting moments where Mary rejects class status and critiques her "Master" Dr. Jekyll, like when she catches the vapidity of Jekyll's philanthropy. However, these times are never spoken out loud, but appear merely as mental notes. Mary rarely calls Jekyll out on his shit.

The ending was also a huge let down. In the scene where the two are in the yard, Mary does not consent to protecting Jekyll's secret; that he is in fact Mr. Edward Hyde. However, Mary eventually DOES keep this secret anyways, thus going back on her one true moment of resistance to her "Master's" commands. Mary's agency here is limited by the author's unwillingness to commit to Mary's character.

I also found the "Afterword" to be totally unnecessary. First of all, I hated the moment where the narrator notes that in Mary's original text, she never capitalized her first person pronoun but would always capitalize "Master". What is startling about this? Why tell the story from such a marginalized view point if the author wasn't going to push it into a truly subversive narrative choice that shocks class expectations and gender roles?

Overall, I felt I was waiting for some shift in Mary's subservient behaviour, but was shocked to not see this happen in any obvious way. I could almost see her sleeping with Jekyll's corpse as a radical statement about love crossing class boundaries, as she is found by an vague "they". Is this an allusion to the J.G. Sime story "Alone"? So Mary and Jekyll spooning together may be an act of defiance towards a society that would rather not gaze on the pairing of a poor-class body and a wealthy body. This is the only moment I could say was truly startling in the entire book. Mary's character otherwise does not seem to have many surprises for us who are familiar with the story of Jekyll and Hyde.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Peter Vicaire.
13 reviews
June 11, 2013
I recently read this one back-to-back with the original "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". I was halfway through "Jekyll" when the Boston Marathon bombings took place so until I finished the book, it carried with it for me a heavier internalization of the good/evil duality of man - especially when interviews of friends on the news played the same stories over and over about how they were "nice guys" and everyone was so surprised that they could do such a thing. "Mary Reilly" ended up being a fine follow-up companion piece to the original classic - turning the story around and looking at Dr. Jekyll from the view of an enamored housemaid. Even when she started to understand what was really going on with her boss and his strange "assistant" she stuck with him out of a misguided love - just as some family and friends are still doing with the Chechnyan bombers. As such, for me, it's an interesting look at a skewed sort of love when it's so deeply mired in hate from the rest of society.
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,218 reviews376 followers
April 7, 2020
As much as I love the story of Jekyll & Hyde, I've never actually read the source material. I've heard variations of the story for years, from the Wishbone version when I was a kid to the Wildhorn/Bricusse musical and now this retelling. Every version seems to fill in a new space and add something new to the whole mythos, and I love that.

Mary's voice is very distinct, not in the least thanks to her imperfect (and sometimes inconsistent) speech and writing patterns. Early on in the book she was always saying "mun" instead of "must" and then by the end it seemed like she had dropped "mun" completely. Seeing as there was no information about her being further educated or anything like that, I found the change odd. The Afterword felt very reminiscent of the Phantom of the Opera, where the author/narrator stayed in character and described receiving Mary's papers. Overall it was nicely written.
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 22 books537 followers
January 18, 2009
I loved the chances Martin took with this plot and the characters. Most don't realize she's one of the writers who sparked the trend to write about fringe characters in famous novels.
Profile Image for D'Ailleurs.
179 reviews
August 27, 2021
Είναι άξιο απορίας πως αυτό το μικρό βιβλιαράκι έχει περάσει στα αζήτητα. Ειδικά τα τελευταία χρόνια που η λογοτεχνία τρόμου/μεταφυσικού ανθίζει στην εγχώρια αγορά, πίστευα ότι το αναγνωστικό κοινό θα εκτιμούσε την προσπάθεια της Μαρτίν να γράψει μια εναλλακτική εκδοχή της ιστορίας του "Δρ. Τζέκυλ και κ. Χάυντ". Και για να μην το παίζω έξυπνός, ούτε εγώ είχα διαβάσει το βιβλίο (δεν μπόρεσα να το βρω ποτέ) αντίθετα είχα δει την ταινία με την Τζούλια Ρόμπερτς και τον Τζών Μάλκοβιτς.

Το "Μαίρη Ράιλλυ" είναι η ιστορία της νεαρής υπηρέτριας του Δρ. Τζέκυλ, όπως την αφηγήθηκε η ίδια στο ημερολόγιο της. Και μέσα από την ιστορία της ξετυλίγεται η μυστηριώδη σχέση του Τζέκυλ με τον Χάυντ και το θλιβερό τέλος τους. Είναι μια ιστορία Βικτωριανού μυστηρίου, κλειστοφοβική, με μεγάλο μέρος να εξελλίσεται στην οικία του Δρ. Τζέκυλ, σκοτεινή με υπόνοιες τρόμου. Η Ράιλλυ, λειτουργεί ως μάρτυρας των γεγονότων αν και ορισμένες φορές αναλαμβάνει δράση συμμετέχοντας στην ιστορία.

Δεν θέλω να γράψω κάτι παραπάνω, άλλωστε η ιστορία είναι γνωστή και ίσως αυτό να είναι το μεγάλο πρόβλημα του βιβλίου: Η Μαρτίν παίρνει σαν δεδομένο ότι ο αναγνώστης γνωρίζει ήδη την ιστορία του Στίβενσον, ως εκ τούτου δεν πολύ-μπαίνει στον κόπο να περιγράψει κάποια γεγονότα αφήνοντας υπόνοιες για το τι συμβαίνει. Υπάρχει βέβαια μια κλιμάκωση, αλλά και πάλι με άφησε κάπως ανικανοποίητο: η Μαρτίν προσπαθεί όσο περισσότερο μπορεί να είναι ουδέτερη με κόστος το ίδιο της το βιβλίο. Έχει έξυπνες ιδιέες (πχ το σημείωμα της συγγραφέος στον επίλογο) παρόλα αυτά το γενικό αποτέλεσμα είναι κάπως χλιαρό.

Παρόλα αυτά αξίζει να διαβαστεί, είναι πανέξυπνη ιδέα και η εκτέλεση πιστεύω ότι θα αρέσει σε πολλούς. Είναι κρίμα να παραμένει άγνωστο την στιγμή που υπάρχει ενδιαφέρον για αυτού του ειδους την λογοτεχνία.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rhiannon Hart.
Author 6 books245 followers
December 31, 2015
A retelling of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde from the housemaid's point of view. I was hunting for a historical film to watch when I was feeling unwell recently and came across the film. The reviews said it was awful, so I didn't bother, but that the book was wonderful.

Mary Reilly is an emotionally scarred, intelligent young woman who develops a bond with her 'master' through their interactions, and begins to fall in love with him. It's beautifully written and very faithful to the original. There are shades of Jane Eyre in the social unequals/intellectual equals dynamic.

Read this on a (very delayed) flight back from Oslo and kept the dreary airport-ness of it all far away.
Profile Image for EmBe.
895 reviews20 followers
April 14, 2018
Mir hat dieser neue Blick auf eine klassische Geschichte gefallen. Keine vordergründige feministische Variante, die die Zeit, in der die Erzählung entstanden ist, außer acht lässt. Sondern ein Blickwinkel, der die "männliche" Perspektive ergänzt und am Ende dieses eher leisen aber spannenden Schauerdramas in eine pycho-logischen Sympathie für das Opfer im Täter Mr. Hyde gipfelt.
174 reviews1 follower
May 12, 2018
What fun! One of the joys of my Little Free Library is coming across gems like this. I love novels that retell famous stories from a minor character's perspective (like Longbourn), and this was a page-turner.
Profile Image for Dani.
482 reviews23 followers
January 8, 2023
Bit of a dry read. The movie was very true to this book so no big revelations.
Profile Image for Michael.
20 reviews
June 9, 2022
Downton Abbey meets Jekyll & Hyde in this very interesting and still suspenseful gothic story. Loved it.
Profile Image for Kristina.
197 reviews
January 12, 2009
I liked this slim novel told from the perspective of the maid in Dr. Jekyll's house. I loved the descriptions of Mary's work (for some reason I enjoy descriptions of housework -- which is funny because I certainly don't like doing it) and Mary's voice was very distinct -- I feel as if I can still hear it in my head (part of the reason I plan to avoid the movie). The period details were really interesting, especially about funerals (my only complaint historically is that at one point, Jekyll asks the servants to sit down so that he can tell them something, which seems unlikely to me). Much of the novel is very eerie -- I enjoyed the chilling parts very much.

I had two main problems with the novel conceptually, though. The first is that I felt it was too short. It makes sense that it's short, since Jekyll & Hyde is, but for some reason, this novel didn't feel complete to me in the way J&H does. My second problem is that I can't see how the novel would make much sense if you hadn't read J&H. While I personally enjoyed being able to follow the references to J&H, I also feel a novel like this should be more than a companion to the original; it should be a stand-alone novel. For example, The Historian (a novel I seem repeatedly to compare to other recent novels) is enriched by having read Dracula, but it's got a full life all its own (though admittedly, the intimacy of Mary Reilly does make me feel I know her character better than those of The Historian). Anyway, The Historian) is three times longer than MR, so there you go. I just felt as though there was a lot missing from many of the conversations Mary has with Jekyll. Obviously we know what his mysterious questions mean, but her wondering about them often feels too much like she's just trying to figure him out specifically rather than having it inspire deeper thoughts in her. I mean, it does the latter too, but not to the extent I would like.

However, I don't mean to bash this novel, which I truly enjoyed. The scary parts are much scarier than I would have expected knowing J&H, and the idea of a literate maid is really interesting and unlikely but not unbelievable. There's something about Martin's writing that reminds me of Margaret Atwood (who is quoted on the back of the edition of the book I have), which can never be a bad thing.
Profile Image for Autumn.
80 reviews9 followers
July 16, 2012
"Mary Reilly" approaches the hoary tale of "Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde" from a different angle: the story is told from behind the scenes, as it were, through the eyes of Henry Jeckyll's intelligent, devoted servant girl.

This novel is a fascinating mixture of historical fiction and literary extrapolation, and it works far better than any book of it's type that I have ever read (Including Geraldine Brooks' "March", which was a Pulitzer Prize winner"). From the beginning, Martin drew me in with her spot on use of believable dialect for her heroine; one can hear the faint Yorkshire air of a lower caste Londoner in Mary's improper use of 'to be' and 'mun', but Martin never stoops to giving her girl an Eliza Doolittle butchering of the language. I admired that greatly.

I was also pleased by the use of period detail. Her exposition of the difficulty of the tasks Mary attacked daily, given in Mary's own matter of fact way in her journal, lent an air of authenticity to the story. It also helped to develop sympathy with a girl who went about her daily tasks with a sense of honor and duty. I genuinely liked Mary, and I'd like to know how she fared after the events of this book.

Finally, I enjoyed the manner in which Martin deftly intertwined details of R. L. Stevenson's original narrative, giving the reader just enough information to connect the stories without a giving a feeling of slavish subservience to Stevenson's muse. It pleases me to imagine her sitting down with the classic tale and thinking, "If Jeckyll and Hyde resided in the same house, what must the servants have thought and seen?" Then the light goes on and that crucial question is asked: "What if..."(This is my own mental picture, you understand. I have no idea where Martin actually began.)

The negatives I noted were minor. If I had a 'wonder why she did that' moment, it would be in the early deliniation of Mary's sad early life and the later of-screen reappearance of her father. That plot thread just hung there, not really adding to Mary's main story or the drawing of her character; on the other hand, it did not annoy to the point that I did not enjoy the book thoroughly.

If you like classic horror, historical fiction, or even just a well-drawn story, this would be a good book to pick up.
9 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2015
In a world of simplicity, Dr. Jekyll pushes the boundaries of society and one woman has a front row seat to the tantalizing mystery that surrounds the good doctor. Mary Reilly works for well-to-do doctor who is obsessed with the secret work he does in his laboratory. He becomes fascinated with Mary's life and views of the world. They soon grow to have a deep bond of trust through meaningful, secret conversations. Mary begins to feel admiration, and maybe something more, for the good doctor but soon he starts to ask her to do him favors that would make any person question his morality. Mary, being the loyal servant, does as he asks yet her opinion of the man hardly wavers. But when the devilish Mr. Hyde walks into her life as Dr. Jekyll assistant, the world she knows quickly turns upside down. To make matters worse, Mr. Hyde takes a special interest in Mary and leaves her scared for both her and Dr. Jekyll’s lives. All she knows is that something about Mr. Hyde is not right and her curious mind will not rest until she knows the truth. As she grows closer to the truth, the stakes grow higher and higher until lives are on the line. Will Mary discover the truth about Mr. Hyde? Why would the good Dr. Jekyll bring home someone like Mr. Hyde?

This book was recommended to me by one of my teachers and true to her word, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like Mary Reilly, I cannot keep my curiosity at bay. Both her and I will not rest until we know exactly what is going on under our noses. The haunting story of the unassuming chambermaid keeps readers on the edge of their seats. This book lived up to its promise of shedding a different light on the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You should definitely read this book if you want an accurate Victorian era mystery that keeps you in suspense. Beware, this book isn't for the weak of heart. At times, the events in this story can be very disturbing and if not careful, will cause nightmares.
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