Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

February 4, 2016 Whitney Review 3 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy HoranUnder the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
Published by Ballantine Books on January 21, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley

The passionate and turbulent story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and a nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair to a quiet artists' colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent and opinionated belle Americaine.

A woman ahead of her time, Fanny does not immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature, and who would eventually write such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson's charms. The two begin a fierce love affair, marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness, which spans decades as they travel the world for the sake of his health. Eventually they settled in Samoa, where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried underneath the epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

(Requiem, Robert Louis Stevenson)

First Impressions

Nancy Horan once again brings life to a woman behind a famous man. In Under the Wide and Starry Sky Fanny Osbourne is drawn vividly with a tapestry of a story to tell.

Impressions While Reading

What I liked about Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny’s courtship was that not only did they value each other as equals. Also, the relationship did not immediately start after her son’s death. Instead it had a “Ten Things I Hate About You” beginning. You knew they would come together but the chase and understanding of one’s feelings are what makes it interesting.

I absolutely enjoyed reading of the life they made together and the struggles regarding Louis’s health as well as his successes. Although, I did feel sorry for Fanny as I felt she never rose to her full potential. She was a woman lost in the shadow of their significant other is always tragic. Nancy Horan expertly showcased Fanny’s acceptance and disappointment, echoing the reader’s own.

Final Impressions

Under the Wide and Starry Sky did not have a house fire fast-paced ending. The plot went at its own speed with an enjoyable stroll to the novel’s conclusion. Like Loving Frank, Nancy Horan spins a beautiful story commanding the reader’s attention to the end.


3 responses to “Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

  1. Vaishnavi Rajendran

    Robert Louis Stevenson has been one of my favourite authors since childhood. I think I will definitely check out this book. Thanks for the review!

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