Write your own review!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Melissa P. (Greenville, NY)
Under the Wide and Starry Sky
"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."
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!
Elizabeth K. (Glenshaw, PA)
Under the Wide and Starry Sky
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.
What an adventure Fanny lived! She fled to Europe with her 3 children to escape a bad marriage. She fell in love, and eventually married a man 10 years her junior. The story gives us insight into the life of Robert Louis Stevenson...his life long struggle with a fibroid lung disease, his dreams that resulted into his wonderful stories, his continuous struggle with finances and his devotion to Fanny.
Linda P. (Rockport, ME)
Under The Wide and Starry Sky
Anyone reading this will find himself immersed in the travels and lives of Fanny and Robert.
Nancy Horan understands the irresistible charm of the independent woman and once again has captured the essence of a fascinating personality, a woman loved by a younger man, adored by her native Samoan neighbors, and scorned by Victorian contemporaries who hadn't the foresight to appreciate her Bohemian spirit.
Fanny Stevenson summarized her life as "a wild ride on the crest of a wave that rolls and never breaks." Her wild ride begins as she leaves her unfaithful husband and ferries her three children off to France with the intent of enriching their lives and hers through art. By the end of the first chapter, you know that she is a "woman who could run the world if she chose to" (as Louis Stevenson's uncle George describes her later in the novel). During her sojourn in Paris she meets Stevenson, a struggling sickly writer, eleven years her junior, and thus a remarkable love story begins. From France to the United States, Scotland, England, and the South Pacific, readers ride the crest of the wave that was Fanny and Louis Stevenson's loving, sometimes troubling relationship.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky will appeal to those who enjoyed Loving Frank and other recent biographical novels about remarkable women who lived under the shadow of famous men. Writers, I believe, will especially enjoy eavesdropping on the everyday routine of two artists, who strive to balance family needs with the demands of their literary lives.