Horan, who brought Frank Lloyd Wright and his wives to life in “Loving Frank” (2007) , has now done the same for Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) and Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson (1840-1914).
Their life together was tumultuous and passionate; they inspired each other. It was a dramatic romance as all young romances are.
Fanny had been married before to a serial philanderer. She grew up in Indianapolis and moved to California for one of her husband’s prospective business ventures.
After finally accepting that he would never change she took her children abroad for a European education, first meeting Stevenson in France. Horan provides a sensual description of love, art, food, wine, and parties in 1870’s Paris.
The fictional biography of Mr. & Mrs. R. L. Stevenson is an international love story.
Booklist aptly calls it, “an exhilarating epic about a free spirited couple who traveled the world yet found home only in one another.”
The pair travels for experiences that will inspire their artistic endeavors and for Mr. Stevenson’s health which is very fragile and mercurial.
He seems to suffer from a type of tuberculosis. In spite of his frailty, his spirit was optimistic.
When creating for young minds, he felt “writers should find out where joy resides and give it a voice.
Every bright word or picture a piece of pleasure set afloat.” This point of view in addition to his great talent are two characteristics which have made his works classics.
Louis came from a well to do Scottish family of engineers whose amazing feats were lauded in “The Lighthouse Stevensons” (2010) by Bella Bathhurst, which is also worth reading.
He was the literary brother, largely supported by his parents even after his marriage as they were happy to see him with Fanny and knew his writing was exceptional. “Treasure Island” came from stories he liked as a child, games he played, and adventures his boy self wanted to have.
Just as readers are keen on vicarious experiences so are many of our favorite authors.
He read and enjoyed poetry and thus came “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” but it was “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” which brought him to a new level in the adult literary world.
It was philosophical, explaining the dual nature of all humans, the ongoing battle between good and evil, person versus himself or herself.
Most serious writers explore those borders looking for that balance between romance and realism and he did it superbly.
The title comes from the poem Stevenson wrote when contemplating his own death, the last two lines of which were read at his graveside.
“Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”