Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mademoiselle Odile

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mademoiselle Odile by James Reese
Release Date ~ April 10, 2012
Roaring Brook Press ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9781596436848
ARC received for review from Raincoast Books
Goodreads Synopsis:
It's 1870, and a young woman named Odile is fighting to survive on the blood-soaked streets of Paris. Luckily, Odile has an advantage and a bizarre birthright. She is descended from the Cagots, a much-despised race whose women were reputed to be witches. Were they, in fact? This is the question Odile must answer--about her ancestors and herself--while she uses her talents to help a young Doctor Jekyll who seems to be abusing the salts that she gave him in a most disconcerting way.
When I first came across this book, I was surprised that there weren't very many people talking about it or who even seemed to know about it. This just seems to be one of those YA books that flew under the radar for most people

Strange Case is an interesting blend of a retelling and historical fiction, going back to explain the story behind Dr. Jekyll's transformation into Mr. Hyde by introducing another character, Odile, set in Paris in the 1870s, which was a very difficult time for Paris.

  1. A book with ambiance:

    I was really impressed with how well James Reese was able to set the atmosphere for his book with his writing. Odile has such a distinctive voice as a narrator, and the setting he uses for Strange Case in 1870s Paris is richly described and the pages give off the right sense of desperation.
  2. An interesting spin on a familiar story:

    I'll admit right now that I haven't read Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I can say that my interest in it has been piqued since reading James' Strange Case. I thought the backstory he provided to the transformation potion, as well as Odile's past and being Cagot was an intriguing and great way to add some backstory to this familiar tale.
Yet while I had a hard time putting this book down, there were a few things I didn't enjoy nearly as much as well. The writing, for one, while interesting could be confusing at times as Odile seems to jump around as a narrator. She isn't linear at all while telling her story, and hints at some event then saying she won't explain it right now. As well, there were a few times when it just wasn't entirely clear what was going on so I had to go back and reread it.

But more importantly, I wasn't impressed with Dr. Jekyll as a character at all in this story. There didn't seem to be enough of a contrast between Dr. Jekyll and his evil counterpart, Mr. Hyde, and Dr. Jekyll just came across as being slightly less evil, but still a terrible person in a more sublte way. And that just didn't seem to fit the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because they really didn't balance each other out in any way in this retelling. So while I thought that it was a great way to answer some questions that the original story leaves unanswered, I don't think it did Dr. Jekyll justice at all.

Yet I still found it an enjoyable read, and something vastly different from most books I've been reading lately so it was a nice break from those, and I enjoyed reading it althought I don't think I'll be rereading this one.

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Christina Kit. said...

The trailer is really good:)

I haven't read the original Dr. Jekyll but I too found this book's summary to be really compelling. It sounds like a very imaginative retelling, but it's too bad you didn't like the narrator's style - unless she was supposed to be unreliable?

From what you said, it seems like the Jekyll and Hyde characters needed more oomph.

ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Angkarina said...

Omg, I love the cover! I'll definitely buy this book on my next book-splurge, because I love retold tales.
I always put the retold tale besides it's 'other half' xD

Janiera said...

Wow! This sounds different and like something I would love to read. The trailer is really cool and so is the cover.
Thanks for the review!

ChristasBooks said...

This book didn't really work for me - mostly for the reasons you stated. The writing jumped around and the characterization just didn't fit. But I will give you the ambiance point. It did really feel like 1870s Paris.

franchie15 said...

It sounds a little off for me. Thanks for your honest, opinion! :)


Life's Simple Pleasures said...

Interesting review. I have never come across this book, just like you said. And I have only read the summarized version in school. Sounds pretty interesting although I must say Jekyll and Hyde aren't my fave characters in book history.

Thanks for the review though!

reviewsbyabby at gmail dot com

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