Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
1886, 97 pages
Everybody knows the story, right? Dr. Jekyll is a nice guy, but sometimes he turns into the evil Mr. Hyde. But no, you don't know the story: what I outlined is the central premise, yes, but the story was very different from what I expected. I assumed that the story would be told from the point of view of Jekyll, and probably Hyde as well - but it's not, it's told from the POV of a lawyer by the name of John Utterson who works for Jekyll. And we all know that Hyde is this huge, hideous creature ... Wrong again. Hideous, perhaps, but small. Jekyll is a large guy, and Hyde is of significantly smaller stature. But that idea doesn't play anymore, doesn't seem threatening enough, so modern representations make him physically large.
The most obvious theme mentioned is good vs. evil - the split between those parts of our personality, and that's probably what Stevenson was aiming for. But another theme that seemed very obvious to me was drug addiction - but Wikipedia doesn't even mention it (I didn't look further afield for confirmation). Here's a guy who initially uses a drug to get himself ready to party. But in a few months, he's dependent on the drug to get him back to his normal self (fairly literally). That's a modern drug allegory - but may not have been a common idea when this was written.
The prose is very Victorian, as is the morality. Jekyll's cravings that drive him to create the potion are implied to be relatively minor, but still not acceptable in his social circle - and still too risqué to mention in a Victorian novel. But of course Hyde's lack of self restraint causes him to do worse things. It was regarded as truly petrifying horror on its release, but by modern standards it's simply mildly creepy - and you're only going to get through it if you're okay with the distinctly old-fashioned prose. I enjoyed it, and it was also worth reading as one of the most influential books ever written.