Famous Men – and the Women Next to Them: Background information when reading Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

by Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan X
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2014, 496 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Famous Men – and the Women Next to Them

Print Review

Ruth MalloryAbove All Things, Tanis Rideout's debut novel, is about a man, his wife and his other great love – a 29,000 foot mountain. Rideout explores Ruth Mallory's point of view in Above All Things; her love for George Mallory, her acceptance of his passion for Mount Everest and her deep grief at losing her husband to the hulking mountain. Why did Rideout choose to tell her story from Ruth's perspective? "George Mallory was so interesting, she (Ruth) had to be interesting, too," says the author.

Rideout's opinion is part of a growing trend among writers. The women behind – and, more often, next to – famous men are popular subject matter for many recent novels. Part of the reason for this is, as Rideout says, that they are fascinating people in their own right. Think of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. Think of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. These women stood tall all by themselves. Often, too, these women were just as creative as their male partners. Think Fanny Stevenson. She is one main character in Nancy Horan's Under the Wide and Starry Sky. (The other is, of course, Robert Louis Stevenson) Fanny was a painter, but put aside her aspirations to take care of her ailing writer husband.

Fanny StevensonThis subject matter is not new, by any means. Women who are intimate with famous writers, movie stars, musicians, politicians and athletes have always fascinated the public. Besides being interesting subjects themselves, these women are also often very persuasive voices echoing in their men's ears. In a 1995 article in the LA Times, Suzanne Gordon wrote, "feminist biographers and historians are now documenting the fact that these women were often extremely influential – if not partners – in their mates' creative process." She is writing in reference to Alexandra Lapierre's book, Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny (1995), but, again, the same can be said about many of these women hidden in the shadows of their male counterparts' fame and success.

Is there another reason why these women are so compelling, though? Tanis Rideout says it well again: "Ruth [Mallory]'s viewpoint lets the reader 'look at the man in a different way, to deconstruct the mythology" about such a heroic figure.'" Yes, George Mallory was an extraordinary human being. He accomplished feats that are out of the purview of most humans. But in the end he was, still, only human. We know this – of course we do – but it is easy to forget. The points of view of the women who knew these men so intimately, and in all of their myriad of human ways, bring us back to this truth.

Goodreads has a great list of books about the wives of famous men. And here, at BookBrowse, we have highlighted many of them:

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife, by Paula McClain - about Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin - about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Charles Lindbergh

Loving FrankLoving Frank by Nancy Horan - about Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan - about Fannie Stevenson and Robert Louis Stevenson

Above All ThingsAbove all Things by Tanis Rideout - about Ruth Mallory and George Mallory

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler - about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald



first image of Ruth Mallory from Goodreads
second image of Fanny Stevenson from Wikipedia

This article was originally published in January 2014, and has been updated for the September 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Story of Arthur Truluv
    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg
    Elizabeth Berg's heartwarming novel scored an an impressive 4.4 average rating from the 48 members ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Ballad
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    Ella May WigginsA hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.