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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Weir of Hermiston

Oh the joy and pain of an unfinished work. 
I wonder what Nabokov (would have) thought about Stevenson’s last unfinished work Weir of Hermiston
Stevenson’s novel is to me a pleasant surprise. The prose is very much his, with its beauty and rhythm, but the book is unlike Stevenson in a way. Take The Master of Ballantrae for example, for all of its depth of psychology and themes, and its lifelike, complex characters, the book still has adventures, duels, deaths and resurrections, pirates, savages, treasure…, all that may be called the stuff of boys’ fancy. Weir of Hermiston is, for lack of a better word, serious. Or as my friend Himadri put it, Stevenson’s other works are essentially children’s novels, even The Master of Ballantrae, while Weir of Hermiston could have been the one “major full-length novel aimed specifically for an adult readership”. It’s about the relationship between The Lord Justice-Clerk Adam Weir, a harsh judge, and his estranged son Archie Weir, about their different temperament and worldview, and their difference of opinion on capital punishment.
Another surprise is that Stevenson tends to avoid depicting women, but in Weir of Hermiston, not only writes about women, but writes them well. He even writes about love! The older Kirstie is to me the more interesting. By the way, did anyone else in the 19th century write about a middle-aged woman’s love for a young man? I don’t think I’ve come across that before. 
Pity he couldn’t finish the book. 

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