From 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. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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. Patricia Hassler