Kidnapped - Catriona - The Master of Ballantrae - Weir of Hermiston
These four great novels take us deep into Robert Louis Stevenson's imaginative and bitter-sweet relationship with his native country.
Kidnapped, and its sequel Catriona, are renowned the world over as supreme stories of adventure and romance. On another level they also explore the subtle divisions of Scottish history and character in the eighteenth century, and (some would say) the present day.
The Master of Ballantrae takes a darker and more disturbing turn, with its tale of rival brothers caught in a webof hatred, obsession, love and betrayal which draws them to their end in the frozen wastes of North America.
Stevenson's fascination with the divided nature of the human self (most obviously demonstrated in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) appears again in the Weir of Hermiston with its terrible confrontation between a father and his son.
With an unsurpassed combination of physical adventure and psychological insight, The Scottish Novels have moved and thrilled readers and writers from Stevenson's contemporaries to the present day.
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Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) was born and educated in Edinburgh. He was a sickly child, and most of his adult years were to be spent travelling in search of a climate which would do least damage to his lungs. Following the family tradition in civil engineering, he went to Edinburgh University in 1867. More interested in literature and the bohemian life, he changed to law and qualified as an advocate in 1875. Thereafter he gave himself to his creative ambitions, with frequent visits to London and to France, where he met Fanny Osbourne, a married American woman who was to become his future wife.
Stevenson began with essays, short stories and travel writing, most notably Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879). He went to California to marry Fanny in 1880. The journey nearly killed him, but he wrote of his experiences in Across the Plains (1892), The Amateur Emigrant (1895) and The Silverado Squatters (1883). He is, perhaps, best remembered for his first novel Treasure Island (1883), and his early reputation was made with this and other examples of adventure fiction, not least The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which appeared as a paperback thriller in 1886. The great Scottish novels followed, with Kidnapped (1886), The Master of Ballantrae (1889), and Weir of Hermiston (1893), which was left unfinished at his death. Catriona (1893), was always planned as the immediate sequel to Kidnapped, but had been delayed in the writing.
Stevenson spent seven years in the South Seas, settling for the last five on the island of Upolu in Samoa, where he died suddenly from a cerebral stroke at the age of forty-four.
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