John Carson, his landlady’s husband, is a longtime maritime man, and as they warm themselves by the fire and amble along the hilly streets, Carson recounts episodes from his adventurous life––a subject the historical Stevenson had planned to write about, but never did.
With abundant wit and mellifluous prose, expressed using generously long sentences, Doyle transports readers to diverse lands, including the Borneo jungle, Sydney, war-torn America, and a haunted Irish village. He also perceptively imagines the young Stevenson, a man soaking up new friendships and life lessons while sharpening his talents.
It’s a wondrous sort of paradox that a fiction nested inside another fiction can convey many poignant truths. Doyle’s irresistible novel, which practically begs to be read aloud, is a triumphant ode to the power of storytelling.
The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World is published tomorrow by Thomas Dunne, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, in hardcover and ebook. I wrote this review for Booklist, and the final version appeared in the 2/1 issue.
Some other notes:
- This review assignment arrived last October, at which point I hadn't heard anything about the book. I don't always have the best luck with novels about explorers or adventurers, so it was a pleasant surprise. There's a lot of story and wisdom included in this comparatively short novel (it's 240pp long).
- Unfortunately, I don't find the cover art all that inspiring; maybe the paperback will be an improvement.
- This novel would be a good fit for admirers of Stevenson's own works, as well as anyone who enjoyed Nancy Horan's Under the Wide and Starry Sky, which covers his relationship with his wife, Fanny Osbourne.