Reader reviews and comments on Under the Wide and Starry Sky, plus links to write your own review.

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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

by Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2014, 496 pages

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There are currently 27 reader reviews for Under the Wide and Starry Sky
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Power Reviewer Betty T.

Surprisingly Delight
When I received the Advance Reading Copy of this book from The Random House Publishing Group, I really did not expect to like it. Imagine my surprise when Nancy Horan’s delightful story enchanted me. This is the story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s courtship and subsequent life with Fanny van de Grift Osbourne. Fanny was definitely a woman far in advance of her time. I read a quick bio of Stevenson’s life to determine how accurate this story was. It actually follows very closely to the facts of his life with Fanny. Obviously Ms. Horan did extensive research in preparation for her book. The book is beautifully written with the right mix of narrative and dialogue. I have to mention one portion of the book that really stuck with me – “In the end, what really matters? Only kindness. Only making somebody a little happier for your presence.” How lovely! This book was such a delight that I had to buy her earlier book, “Loving Frank”. I am sure now that this will be another delightful stroll through history.
Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)

RLS and Fanny: home is the sailor, home from sea
"Under the Wide and Starry Sky" is a novelized biography of Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny van de Grift Osbourne. RLS, plagued by chronic lung disease and Fanny, fleeing a disloyal husband and death of a child, find each other in France, opposites attracted like a proton and electron. Their lives, before and after marriage, are uprooted, a scramble of travels in search of health and a home and each other. Nancy Horan's telling is more than a good read; it is a kind of Life Simulator, allowing us to hear the hacking coughs, feel the hard seats of Victorian-age travel, and smell the flowers of Samoa. I'm going to re-read "Treasure Island" and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with new eyes, as if I had known the author and his family.
Judy (Marysville, OH)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
Horan's book brings the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny van de Grift Osbourne to vivid life. The tales of their travels across the globe, ever in search of places where R.L.S., an off-and-on-again invalid all his life, can be nursed to health or kept healthy by Fanny's forceful and devoted care, are as adventurous and fascinating as the books R.L.S. wrote. And in his turn, when Fanny has a complete mental breakdown later in their marriage, R.L.S. looks deep within and finds the kindness, love, and understanding he needs to nurse her back to health.

The outward manifestation of his gentle therapy is the poetry he writes for her. He pins poems to her bed curtain where she sees them when she wakes up each morning. Besides conveying the adventurous lives and bigger-than-life personalities of the Stevensons with great gusto, this book is tender and moving. At the end, it leaves us almost as bereft as Fanny when, after living many more years of life than he ever expected, her beloved Robert Louis Stevenson dies.
Alice W. (Sacramento, CA)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
This book is long and fascinating. R.L.Stevenson's wife is not at all what one would expect. She is ten plus years older than he. Who would guess? She is a pistol and he is at once kind, generous, sickly and willing to live on the edge...with her of course. He desperately needed her as a wife and lover, although I was suspicious that he needed a mother.

The development of both characters is fascinating as is his creative technique. Perhaps some of it came from her input, but I found that hard to believe.

The author of "Loving Frank" has once again spun a wonderful tale of love...this time a love shared by both parties. Perhaps I felt a little sorry for Fanny. As a woman it had to be difficult to be so much older and so much heavier than her husband. Sigh.
Brenda D. (Lincoln, CA)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
Another success for author, Nancy Horan, in creating this wonderful "historical fictional" account of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny. She fully fleshed out the characters -- their strengths and weaknesses -- and led us on a journey from Europe to California, and ultimately Samoa in an attempt to find a climate that would be conducive to Stevenson's health issues. Taking into account the time frame of the late 1800's, they had an amazing life. Fanny was complex, creative, strong-willed and courageous and felt the frustrations of being a woman in the time period. Stevenson, for all his medical problems, was remarkably cheerful, compassionate, and well-loved by most everyone he came in contact with. A thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and educational read.
Sarah W. (Lufkin, TX)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
When one reads UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY, one realizes that Nancy Horan has a gift of making the reader feel as though he is a part of the story, living with the characters as one of the family. In this book she draws the reader in as she tells the fictionalized story of Fanny van de Grift Osbourne who leaves her philandering husband and takes her children to Europe where she meets her future husband, the soon to be famous Robert Louis Stevenson, a sickly, bachelor ten years her junior, and the life they will eventually share together. After they married the two become like nomads because Louis's illness "pushed them around places they didn't want to go and pulled them out of places they loved."
The author draws you into the lives of two very dominant people, artists in their own way, who love fiercely, who circle the globe looking for and eventually finding a home where Louis can live without the illness which he has had from birth. She tells of the ups and downs of their lives before and after they eventually settle in Samoa where they live until Louis dies.
Horan has done extensive research and travel using parts of letters and biographies, For her story of the lives of Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson.
I would recommend this book to libraries and book clubs because it is one which gives unusual insight into the lives of two famous people.
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.
Laura M. (Huntsville, TX)

Another winner from a great author!
This fictional account of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny is moving, beautifully written and almost poetic. Ms. Horan's story captures you right from the start. I was looking forward to this book eagerly, and started it the minute it arrived on my doorstep. The author takes her time describing scenes and people, yet the story never drags. It is like a nice warm drink by the fire, to be savored and not gulped. I am sure this is another best seller, perfect for book clubs, definitely more of a woman's book than a man's, probably not as appreciated by the young adult audience as by someone who has lived, and suffered, and loved.

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