books: Bizarre life of a literary legend.
Louis: A Life of Robert Louis Stevenson by Philip Callow (Constable, pounds 20)
Stevenson's Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are great parts of British literary history.
But the bizarre life of the man behind these tales and many lesser-known writings makes a fine story in its own right.
Philip Callow, who grew up in Coventry, has written other biographies of greats, including Van Gogh and DH Lawrence, and now turns his attention towards the 19th century writer.
It's a highly-readable story, focusing on the fascinating details of Stevenson's own life and skimming over his literary influences and creations.
The contradictions are what makes his life so interesting. He was a man constantly travelling, yet also always battling illness, so much so that the captain of a boat he chartered made preparations to carry out a burial at sea.
Callow sticks up for Stevenson's often-maligned wife Fanny, 10 years older than him and who got a scandalous divorce so they could marry, and says her nursing care helped prolong his fragile life.
Stevenson might not be a fashionable author, but Callow has brought this great Victorian adventurer to life.
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|Publication:||Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2001|
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