Marcia F. (Batavia, IL)
Under The Wide and Starry Sky
Being Welsh, I loved "Loving Frank" Horans first novel which was so enjoyed by my book club. Therefore, I eagerly signed up to review "Under The Wide and Starry Sky". Horans' second novel did not disappoint. Her research of the time period was right on and the journey of the relationship between Fanny and Louis - their struggles, happiness, hardships - drew me right in. Her wonderfully written descriptions of all the places they traveled put me right there in that time period and made me feel as though I was there with them. This is a wonderful love story about a famous man and his Indiana wife and should be a perfect book for book clubs.
Barbara H. (Richmond, IN)
A Second Book Success
When as a reader you have enjoyed an author's first book, Loving Frank, it is so pleasing to find the author has written a second book as well-written and enjoyable as her first. Under the Wide and Starry Sky was a surprise, not because it was good, but because it was about Robert Louis Stevenson. I knew his books, but his life was a total surprise. So, first of all, thank you Nancy Horan for educating me. Secondly, both Fanny and Louis came to life as characters. I could feel her grief and guilt at the loss of her son; I could understand her willingness to give up so much to keep him alive and well. His needs were foremost for him and for her. He recognized her dislike of sea travel, but his health improved at sea and in Samoa where they finally stayed. He needed a place to write and solitude in which to write. He found it difficult to find these two together. The author used many quotations from journals and letters the two wrote since they were both prolific writers. RLS's interests were many and so were Fanny's. In Samoa both bordered on being obsessive; he, with politics; she, with creating a farm. It was an adventure. In it's own way, the story of the love and life of Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson was as exciting as some of his novels.
Sheila S. (Supply, NC)
A Child's Garden of Verses, Treasure Island, and Kidnapped were favorites from my childhood, but I knew nothing about the author aside from his nationality. Now thanks to Nancy Horan's wonderful new book, that has been rectified. Robert Louis Stevenson is a fascinating topic for an historical novel. He is frail and sickly, yet can light up a room with the force of his personality. He finds the perfect partner in Fanny de Grift Osbourne, an independent and adventurous woman. Together they travel the world, largely in search of healthy climates for the invalid Stevenson. I enjoyed the book immensely and will recommend it to my book club. Loving Frank was one of our favorites, and I think this one will be too.
Shirley L. (Norco, LA)
A Flesh and Blood Love Story
I usually enjoy historical fiction about real people, and this book was especially well done. Other reviewers commented negatively about the length of the book, but I never was bored nor tempted to skip sections. This was a multi-dimensional telling of a life-long love story and I would not have wanted any part of it to be cut short. In addition to this very interesting tale of the Stevensons' life there were many ideas to ponder such as the meaning of home, the proper role for woman, the nature of the artist, colonization of native lands, and the ingredients of a successful marriage. Robert comes to see that his wife Fanny was indeed an artist and her greatest work was the way she lived her life. What a pleasure for the reader to be invited to share in learning about this life.
Phyllis R. (Rochester Hills, MI)
Fanny and Louis Stevenson
As a lighthouse enthusiast, I knew about the Stevenson Lighthouse Building Engineer Dynasty and that Robert Louis Stevenson had a sickly childhood and thus became a writer. This historical fiction focuses on Frances Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson. Just as in the author's first novel, "Loving Frank", Nancy Horan has done extensive research using Fanny's diaries and journals to detail her nomadic life with RLS. Fanny was an opinionated, tempestuous America Hoosier who meets RLS in France. Their passionate love and his fragile health (tuberculosis, consumption, pneumonia, pulmonary hemorrhaging) led them to the South Seas and Samoa where they lived with their extended family and worked until his death (cerebral hemorrhage) in 1904. The title comes from a RLS poem and is his 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."
Melissa P. (Greenville, NY)
Under the Wide and Starry Sky
I loved Horan's first book, Loving Frank, and was excited to read this one. Again, Horan's writing style is complex and interesting. She brings these people to life through her writing. I found the love story between Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny to be real and memorable. I enjoyed this read.
Cynthia D. (Germantown, TN)
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Most avid readers know Robert Louis Stevenson's vast array of publications-- and they're so diverse! Poetry to Pirates plus Jekyll & Hyde!
Under the Wide & Starry Sky reveals Stevenson's highs and lows of creativity, issues with health, poverty, romance & marriage to a feisty American, Fanny. Although Horan provides a superb look at the lifestyle of writers, the vivid narration of disagreements with his friends became tiresome (in my opinion).
Overall, I am DELIGHTED to have read this book and intend to discover Stevenson's work that I've missed.