Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny

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Overview

First published in France where it caused a literary sensation and became an instant bestseller, this is Alexandra Lapierre's celebrated, award-winning biography of Robert Louis Stevenson's wife. One hundred years after his death, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of such classic novels as Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, remains an ever fascinating figure. This is the remarkable story of his wife Fanny, the American woman eleven years his senior who influenced every facet of his life and work, and who ...
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Overview

First published in France where it caused a literary sensation and became an instant bestseller, this is Alexandra Lapierre's celebrated, award-winning biography of Robert Louis Stevenson's wife. One hundred years after his death, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of such classic novels as Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, remains an ever fascinating figure. This is the remarkable story of his wife Fanny, the American woman eleven years his senior who influenced every facet of his life and work, and who remains in her own right one of the most truly independent and free-spirited women of her generation. Stevenson was to devote his life to this woman: he crossed continents in search of her; scandalized his family to marry her; built a life in the Pacific with her; survived tuberculosis because of her; and was encouraged and inspired in his writing by her. He was an unknown twenty-five year old Scotsman when he came across Fanny for the first time in the artists' colony of Barbizon near Paris. A mother of three, Fanny had left her unfaithful husband to come to Europe with her three children to learn how to paint. No greater abyss could have separated the young Stevenson from this eccentric American; and yet, it was love at first sight. Fanny's influence on the novelist has long been recognized but is often reduced to stereotype: either she is written off as an overpowering woman who controlled Stevenson or caricatured as a kind of angel who saved him. For the first time, in this acclaimed biography readers are given a clear, accurate portrait of the woman behind the genius who led a fascinating existence both before and after her marriage to Stevenson. ("She was the only woman worth dying for" is how Fanny's last lover described her in 1914; she was seventy-four at the time, he was twenty-eight.) Alexandra Lapierre spent five years tracing Fanny's life, from her early tumultuous years in America to her days after Stevenson's death. The author's relentless
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Robert Louis Stevenson's biographers are sharply divided over his American wife Frances (Fanny) Van de Grift (1840-1914), depicting her either as a muse, a saintly martyr or a dominating shrew. In this spellbinding biography, which is written like a romance novel, French novelist Lapierre portrays the Indiana-born farmer's daughter as an intrepid woman of rash energy, courage, violent emotion and charisma who sublimated her career as a painter in her possessive love for the tubercular Scottish novelist, children's writer and poet. They met in a French artists' colony when RLS was 25. Fanny, 10 years his senior and the mother of three, was separated from her first husband, Sam Osbourne, a gambler and womanizer whom she had blindly followed from a Nevada silver mining camp to San Francisco. Fanny's 14-year quest to restore the frail Robert's health, a quest which took them from London to Switzerland and Monterey, Calif., then to Hawaii and Samoa, makes this an intensely moving, colorful epic. Though some readers may demur at the highly novelistic approach and effusive prose, Lapierre provides ballast by creating dialogue from lines taken from the couple's letters and Robert's essays. FYI: The author is the daughter of Dominique Lapierre (Is Paris Burning?). This biography was a bestseller in France.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Robert Louis Stevenson's biographers are sharply divided over his American wife Frances (Fanny) Van de Grift (1840-1914), depicting her either as a muse, a saintly martyr or a dominating shrew. In this spellbinding biography, which is written like a romance novel, French novelist Lapierre portrays the Indiana-born farmer's daughter as an intrepid woman of rash energy, courage, violent emotion and charisma who sublimated her career as a painter in her possessive love for the tubercular Scottish novelist, children's writer and poet. They met in a French artists' colony when RLS was 25. Fanny, 10 years his senior and the mother of three, was separated from her first husband, Sam Osbourne, a gambler and womanizer whom she had blindly followed from a Nevada silver mining camp to San Francisco. Fanny's 14-year quest to restore the frail Robert's health, a quest which took them from London to Switzerland and Monterey, Calif., then to Hawaii and Samoa, makes this an intensely moving, colorful epic. Though some readers may demur at the highly novelistic approach and effusive prose, Lapierre provides ballast by creating dialogue from lines taken from the couple's letters and Robert's essays. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Apr.)
Patricia Hassler
The winner of "Elle" magazine's Grand Prize for 1994 has sold nearly a quarter million copies in Lapierre's native France and is now available in an English translation. Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson's claim to fame has been her marriage to Robert Louis Stevenson. Here, Lapierre shows her as more Johnson than Boswell. The derringer-toting, cigarette-smoking Fanny captivated men with her dark skin and gypsy clothing. A lover of vagabonds and dreamers, she was a courageous, passionate, devoted blend of Annie Oakley and Hester Prynne who crossed the Isthmus of Panama with her young daughter, Belle, to follow her first husband to the Nevada gold mines. Later, she would defy Victorian standards by moving to France with her three children to study art. There she met and married Stevenson with whom she trekked the continents in search of a climate to safeguard his fragile health. For Stevenson, Fanny was adventure. For Fanny, Stevenson was all artistry. Lapierre offers a superbly passionate rendition of truth that flows with the pace of fine fiction. All dialogue in the book was taken directly from Robert and Fanny's essays and letters, and where necessary, Lapierre injects first-person clarification in a manner that is enlightening rather than intrusive. A captivating blend of scholarship and style.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780766953192
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/22/1995
  • Edition description: 1st Carroll & Graf edition
  • Pages: 556

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2002

    Great book

    Very good book. Fanny led such a incredibly interesting life. I can't believe anyone could have so many adventures in one lifetime. A long book but worth the read.

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