by Valerie Martin
This is one of the modern day companion books to Classics that have become a genre of their own in recent years. The main character is Mary Reilly, house maid to Dr. Jekyll from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The start of it is fairly shocking. A little girl, Mary, is treated abusively by her father, setting the tone for what she will expect from people with authority later. She is born into servitude, destined to be a house maid with little chance of any other prospect in a Victorian society.
Mary is an intelligent young lady and not unhappy with her station in life. She sees through the shallow lives of the ladies and gentlemen she serves and is happier doing honest work. Her employer, Doctor Jekyll, is a scientist and does research in a private lab where the house staff is not allowed.
The book has no chapters, but is divided into three parts and an afterword, but there are separations within these that made for convenient stopping places.
I liked Mary, though she exhausted me with her willingness to devote herself to manual work. She's an honest and respectable girl and I like the way the author gave her a story of her own rather than relying just on how she interacted with Dr. Jekyll and of course, Mr. Hyde.
The dramatic conclusion was everything you would expect of a Gothic novel and really fleshes out the events of the original, which I read last year. I wasn't that enamoured of the Afterword, which was written as if by a separate chronicler who had published Mary's private journals. The device itself might have worked okay, but I felt there was too much speculation on the part of the unknown chronicler and assumptions that took away from the effect of the story itself.
A good read overall and something I'm glad to have enjoyed.