Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny

Alexandra Lapierre, Author, Carol Cosman, Translator Carroll & Graf Publishers $26 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0127-8
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.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1995
Release date: 02/01/1995
Hardcover - 581 pages - 978-2-221-05804-6
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