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Valerie Martin is the author of ten novels, including The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, The Confessions of Edward Day, Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property; three collections of short fiction; and a biography of Saint Francis of Assisi, titled Salvation. She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the Kafka Prize (for Mary Reilly) and Britain's Orange Prize (for Property).
This retelling of the enigmatic Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde tale deserves praise for suspense, character creation, and historical verisimilitude. Mary Reilly, a loyal, trusted servant in the household of Dr. Jekyll records in her diary the mysterious circumstances which lead to her Master's tragic fate. The hierarchy of social classes, relationships among servants and domestics, and details of language and dress enhance this marvelous re-creation with the realism of Dickens. Mary represents the apex of devotion, goodness, and honesty, in contrast to the dual nature and complexity of Dr. Jekyll, whose shadow side threatens to destroy all bounds of decency, law, and order. Less convincing is the tinge of romance between Mary and Jekyll. Most compelling is a forceful consciousness about the dual propensity of human nature and the awesome power which is ours. BOMC featured alternate; Quality Paperback Book Club selection. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/89.-- Addie Lee Bracy, Beaver Coll. Lib., Glenside, Pa.
From its startling first scene to the final, provocative paragraph, this highly original view of the Jekyll and Hyde story is a feat of narrative engineering. Mary Reilly is a housemaid in the Victorian London home of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a thoughtful, silver-haired scientist who, in the eyes of his servants, often overexerts himself in his nearby laboratory; nor are these worries assuaged when ``Master'' announces he has hired Edward Hyde as an assistant. Mary's remarkable self-possession and intelligence are matched by a commitment to the duties of her station and her devotion to Master, whose weariness seems to worsen. Drawn to her wit and forthrightness, Jekyll establishes a more personal relationship with Mary. Her growing attachment to Master, her ever-so-slowly dawning realization that something is dreadfully wrong and her determined belief in her own good judgment propel the plot with unobtrusive forcefulness. Spare and atmospheric, this story is a dark, absorbing symphony; Mary Reilly is an unforgettable character. Martin's ( The Consolation of Nature ; A Recent Martyr ) striking imagination grows more powerful with each of her accomplished novels. BOMC featured alternate; QPB selection; film rights to Guber-Peter/Warner Bros. (Feb.)
"The generosity with which Mary Reilly is imagined, the elegance of Martin's writing and the depth of her engagement with her title character make it a memorable and absorbing experience." --Chicago Tribune "Valerie Martin creates memorable characters: the pompous butler...an unctuous landlord...and the utterly convincing Mary, with a housemaid's eye, a servant's rigorous sense of place-and a sufferer's hard won dignity." --Newsweek "Mary Reilly is an achievement-creativity skating exhilaratingly on thin ice." --The New York Times "Mary is a remarkable character.... A marvelous performance." --USA Today "Haunting.... Powerful.... Mary Reilly's voice...casts a spell from the beginning: we turn the pages, furiously compelled, because we must know more about her." --Chicago Sun-Times "Entrancing and elegant.... A seamless retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde story that is both a compliment and a complement to the original." --The Orlando Sentinel "Mary Reilly is intensely cinematic, highly dramatic, suspenseful, stirring and entirely absorbing.... Mary Reilly is magnificent." --The Kansas City Star "Mary Reilly is a virtuoso work, a meticulously crafted, resplendently written story.... Authentic in its abundance of historical detail, it is also unbounded in Martin's imaginative exploration of the psyche of a young girl." --Daily News