This is a fictionized biography of Robert Louis Stevenson told through the life story of his wife, Fanny. Louis and Fanny meet after Fanny has brought her family away from America to Europe to start a new life away from her philandering first husband. They begin a very difficult and romantic life together, he overcoming his poor health and she overcoming her own personal tragedy. They travel the world in search of climate that supports his health and it is clear that their experiences shape Louis’s writings.
The writing in this story is excellent, if a bit long. It also appears to be well-researched, based on a number of books about the lives of both Louis and Fanny, as well as from their journals and the writings of their family members. There are a number of colorful characters, but none more so than Louis himself. He is both gregarious and private, both warm-hearted and self-indulgent — a true artist in every sense of the word. Fanny’s character is a bit sadder, as she sacrifices a great deal to be the caretaker and the loving wife of such a great man. (I wonder how they would fare if they were alive a century later, as Fanny seems to have suffered loneliness because of how independent she was for the time in which she lived.)
All in all, it makes for an appealing novel from which I felt I learned a great deal.