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The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World: A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  260 ratings  ·  83 reviews
The young Robert Louis Stevenson, living in a boarding house in San Francisco while waiting for his beloved’s divorce from her feckless husband, dreamed of writing a soaring novel about his landlady’s adventurous and globe-trotting husband—but he never got around to it. And very soon thereafter he was married, headed home to Scotland, and on his way to becoming the most fa ...more
Hardcover, 229 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books
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3.90  · 
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 ·  260 ratings  ·  83 reviews


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Peter Z.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What we have here is not so much a novel of adventures as a novel of storytelling, characters, and relationships. As the reader, you are challenged to accept this as first-person work that RLS could and might indeed have written himself. You're treated to stories, yes, but more importantly, to artful storytelling by Carson. He deftly and artfully leaves you on the edge of your seat at just the right moments. The writing is delectable. Carson occasionally breaches the fourth wall as Stevenson and ...more
Dianah
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brian Doyle, beloved Oregon author, discovered that Robert Louis Stevenson once referred to a book that he'd (Stevenson) like to write one day: The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World. Stevenson never did write that book, and scholars never did find a trace of John Carson. Brian Doyle, huge Stevenson fan that he is, could not resist writing that missing novel for Stevenson.

Full of rollicking and adventurous stories, cameos by such literary luminaries as Joseph Conrad and M
...more
Vanessa
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was definitely entertaining. This is a story within a story. The narrator is Robert Louis Stevenson and he recounts the stories as told to him by the people he meets in San Francisco where he was living briefly, waiting for Fanny's divorce to be finalized. The author takes real people and uses source material to create the story. It's an interesting concept and the author's ability to channel RLS, even down to his narrative style is pretty impressive.
Doug Wells
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My five stars is a posthumous homage to a brilliant writer, Brian Doyle. This is a lovely book about Robert Louis Stevenson, and Doyle's final published book. It's hard not to read the words of tribute to one of Doyle's favorite writers, and the utter joy that they both approach story-telling, and wonder if he knew that his time here was soon ending.
Alan
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Gentle men, genteel ladies, and adventurers of every possible stripe
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work and force of personality
I was lucky enough to hear Brian Doyle speak in person more than once in recent years, and each time came away impressed anew by his grace and charm, his easy wit and humble eloquence—characteristics which are all in ample evidence in The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World: A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Although written in the voice of Robert Louis Stevenson as a young man in 19th-Century San Francisco—before being married, before becoming the celebrated author of Tre
...more
Kathy Ding
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a 3.5 star review. I received a copy as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

Some specific examples of what I liked about this book:
-a few really well-written "zingers" of high caliber. These I had to re-read because they were so witty and fresh!
-the cover art is awesome and appropriate

Okay, to be entirely honest, this was a hard book for me to get through; so was Treasure Island, but that's a genuine compliment to the author for crafting RLS's voice just right. The story was just flat--it simp
...more
Debbie
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Summer bingo-By an author who died last year
I don't know how to describe just how wonderful this book is. It's a book that drew me into the world of San Francisco in 1880, to a boarding house, next to a fire listening to John Carson tell his stories to a young RLS. These stories are not simply adventure stories, but are about journeys, life, friends, faith, love, and all the things that make for a full and meaningful life. Although it isn't a long book, I read it slowly because I wanted to savor
...more
Celia
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-read
Fantastic book. It was slow going at first, but ended so well!!

Ironically, I have never read a book BY RLS. But now I have read two novels of his life. Obviously the next step is to read a book that he is written.

As for Brian Doyle's book, it is three love stories: John and Mary Carson, RLS and Fanny Osbourne AND (most importantly) STORIES. Yes, this book is like an ode TO stories. Awesome concept.

Here is my favorite quote (from page 192): Stories, among their many virtues, are messages from fri
...more
Marco
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A tender-hearted look at the fictional life of author Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Adventures of John Carson..." is a feel-good book about life, love, and family.

We start with struggling writer Stevenson in ill health and wanting to be married to the love his life Fanny, settling in to a "rooming house" with Mary Carson and her husband John Carson. From there, we gets tales of adventure and see Stevenson struggle with his future as a writer, a soon-to-be father to children who are not his, and h
...more
Rose
May 08, 2017 marked it as abandoned
You'd think this would be my kind of book - I love Brain Doyle and I love Robert Louis Stevenson - but I'm just not getting into this book. It may just be bad timing, I may try it again in the future.
Peggy
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Backstory:
My husband was driving thru a commercial area and saw a battered book lying in the street. Altho a non-reader, he respets books and knows how I love them. So. He parked, dodged traffic, and dashed out to rescue the book. He noticed the author, recognized the name from hearing me rave about this guy for thepast 5-10 years, and brought it home to me.
And I just finished reading it!
It's a very quirky sort of memoir-ish book by my just-about favorite-ever-author, Brian Doyle, a genius who d
...more
Mary L
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish I would've read the Afterword @ the end of this book before reading the novel because all of the incidents were true and real that he described in the book, it made the book even more interesting. Stevenson lived in San Francisco for almost 2 years with a couple, the Carsons, whose adventures he writes about but never published in a book. Doyle reveals to us the myriad tales of the Carsons and makes us feel and almost smell the streets of San Francisco in RLS's days.
Jackie
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this story. As the author intended, it has made me want to read Stevenson’s books & also learn more about his life. The fact that the sweet spirit of Brian Doyle will no longer be writing stories such as this, truly makes me sad. Thankfully I am a late comer to his words, so I have several books still to be enriched by.
tonia peckover
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not what I expected...lovely and kind and good-hearted.

"I hear the disconsolate reviewers say, who so wished for headlong adventure, and a narrative arc, and dark villains vanquished, and tumultuous hearts, and mysterious heroes and heroines slowly becoming aware of their deeper selves...Are we to read all the way through these pages and find nothing but the brave and courteous Mr Carson, and the gentle and remarkable Mrs Carson, and the idyllic Fanny Osbourne across the bay...Trust me, I feel a
...more
Barbara
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sweet little book of tales within a tale. The characters are perhaps a bit too perfectly lovely and saintly, but it was a welcome diversion from the real world.
Rick
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book that has become one of my favorites, which I am sure I will return to in the future. Partly a fictionalized biography of a period in the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, told in the first person, and partly a collection of short stories -- "adventures" -- as told to Stevenson by the characters he ecounters in the city of San Francisco in 1880, it is also a tale of two touching love stories. But what makes the novel so memorable for me is the exuberant flow of the narrative and de ...more
Marigold
I went to a community memorial tribute to the late Brian Doyle here in Portland, and picked up this book there. Doyle loved the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson, and found that Stevenson had told a friend he wanted to write a book about "the adventures of John Carson", a sailor and world traveler. But Stevenson never wrote it, so Doyle wrote it in Stevenson's voice. More a collection of stories than a novel, this book brings RLS and John Carson to life. Focusing on the time period when RLS live ...more
Suzanne M
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have a confession to make: I haven't read any of the novels penned by RLS. Of course I am familiar with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as Treasure Island, but never got around to reading them. I suppose this is where I have to trust that the writing style of Brian Doyle is like that of RLS...elegant and extravagant wording and descriptions stretching from page to page. I thoroughly enjoyed the tales of Mr. and Mrs. Carson's adventures but found the long-winded declarations of "RLS" tedious at ...more
Dick Thies
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a rambling tale of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s days in San Francisco with Carson’s short stories mixed in. I have enjoyed Stevenson's books and I wanted to like this one, but I lost interest half way through. I discussed this with my local book seller and he commented "Brian Doyle's writing is an acquired taste. I enjoy hearing him read, but reading him can be tedious. Not all like his stream of consciousness style." It did not work for me.
John
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Normally I could have finished a short book like this in less than two days. This took me a week to read. Whilst reading it, I always found something else to do which would be more rewarding than plowing through another chapter in this book. I finally finished it and my boredom is relieved at last.
Jenn
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-won
I won a copy of this book.

I totally enjoyed this book! Such a literary gem.
Corinne
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"-novels where I could, at one level, tell a roaring tale of adventure and skullduggery, but at other levels perhaps hint or suggest things we know about ourselves and our lives but do not often, if at all, bring up into the light to examine: our deep inarticulate love for our friends; the ways that we are both dark and light in our hearts, and ever the two sides struggle for mastery..."p82

"...could it be that the words we choose to have resident in our mouths act as a sort of mysterious food, a
...more
Chris Wharton
Subtitled “A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson,” this well-imagined first-person narrative in Stevenson’s voice recreates, in a beautiful classic prose style, several months of the author’s life as a renter in the Carson boarding house high atop Bush Street in San Francisco during 1879 and 1880, awaiting his marriage to Fanny Osbourne of Oakland. Carson was a seafarer who finally landed in San Francisco with his hard-won wife (and wonderful cook, especially of anything oysters) Mary, with adventur ...more
Linda Gaines
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-cat-s-table
I absolutely love Brian Doyle and this book using a title that RLS was going to write as a novel is just wonderful. John Carson, Mrs. Carson and RLS tell of many adventures in a style that mimics Stevenson. Some of the better descriptions: "I was a roaring boy with a tankard in one hand and a maid in the other... did shout against what my family wished--engineer, lawyer, pillar of Presbyterianism"
"You being an author--isn't that why you write books...to speak openly in print of the things we not
...more
Mark
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent book and lovely ode to RLS and San Francisco. I hope this book introduces a new generation to the life, personality, and works of Robert Louis Stevenson.

My only frustration with this book is rather technical. This year I have been studying Stevenson's use of rhetorical figures, specifically in his many essays, so I have become familiar with Stevenson's voice. As a result, the disconnect between Stevenson's voice and the voice of Stevenson presented in "John Carson" has rubbed me wro
...more
to'c
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves words
"Of course there is a story. There is a story in every thing, and every being, and every moment…"

This is a book of stories and a story book. This is a not-quite biography and a historical fiction. This is a love story and a love story. And another love story, just for good measure. This is beginning to rank, in the back of my mind, as the best work Mr. Doyle has gifted us with.

I was always eager to pick this book up and always reluctant to set it down. But I wanted to savor it with a fully awake
...more
Carl
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although it’s been more than 50 years since I‘ve read any of Stevenson’s fiction, a few years ago I read and enjoyed Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. So, hearing of this book, I was intrigued. I found it to be a mostly entertaining mashup of:
-A fictionalized memoir of RLS’s stay at a boardinghouse in San Francisco, prior to marriage and fame (and IMO the author does a good job of channeling RLS). Gets a bit drawn out at the end.
-A series of adventure stories, with Scherezade-like teasing
...more
John Walker
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Based on fact that Robert Louis Stevenson spent time in San Francisco, fell in love with a married (soon to be divorced) woman, and lived in a boarding house run by Mr & Mrs John Carson.

Brian Doyle takes on the journeys of John Carson, who travelled all over the world with some exciting and dangerous tales. Equally Mrs. Carson has a harrowing tale all her own, which in the end, mirrors one of Mr. Carson's tales.

This is a short but enjoyable book, full of adventures. plus a wonderful view of
...more
Martha
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Perhaps it is that I've just finished reading the book within days of the sad death of the author that has me hearing his own voice every bit as strongly as that of RLS, the purported author. I read of the love of Stevenson and his beloved Fanny, and that of John Carson for Mrs. Carson and heard Brian Doyle speak of his wife, his children, and his world. It was as if Mr. Doyle was using the book to send all the messages of his too short life outward to those of us who will miss him, and those wh ...more
Morgan
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Since the sadly and recently late Brian Doyle is my current 21st-century favorite author, I loved this book. I love everything written by Doyle! But since Mink River is my all-time favorite book, and this does not quite reach that level of amazingness, I gave it a four-star rating--it probably deserves a five. It's downright edible in its adorableness. If you love authors who love great literature, life and are amazed to be alive on an amazing planet, but who clearly see the foibles, tragedies a ...more
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Doyle's essays and poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The American Scholar, Orion, Commonweal, and The Georgia Review, among other magazines and journals, and in The Times of London, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Kansas City Star, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Ottawa Citizen, and Newsday, among other newspapers. He was a book reviewer for The Oregonian and a contributing es ...more
“I am no heroic figure, but a man like any other, capable of selfish and selfless at once, of light and dark, courage and cravenness; all men are two men, always at war with each other, isn’t that so? We don masks, we perform parts, we adopt personas, but we are never one sort of man, and not another. Even the greatest among us knows this to be so; perhaps the wisest among us are those who admit it most easily.” 1 likes
“He paused, for a while, and then smiled, and apologized for waxing philosophical, which is one of the lesser vices, and a habit that Mrs Carson, bless her perspicacity, said he would be wise to break; he was trying assiduously, he said, to only wax philosophical on Tuesdays, and so reduce the sin to a weekly thing, like whiskey or cigars, best enjoyed in parsimonious dosages. He paused again, lost in thought;” 0 likes
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