The Master of Ballantrae takes a deep, disturbing turn after Kidnapped and Catriona, with its tale of rival brothers caught in a web of hatred, obsession, love and betrayal which draws them to adventures in frozen wastes of North America. Stevenson’s fascination with the divided nature of the human self, so famously demonstrated in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, recurs in Weir of Hermiston with its awful father-son confrontation.
The real life adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson rival those of his famous fictional characters. Born into a strictly religious, middle-class Edinburgh family, he later rebelled and refused to follow his father into the lighthouse construction business. He opted instead for a literary career and marriage to Fanny, the love of his life and a crack-shot American divorcee. His travels took him to France, America and the South Pacific. Stevenson was an atheist and free spirit - in Samoa, where he died, he fought in a civil war for independence.