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
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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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Teresa M. (Naples, FL) (12/14/13)

Under the wide and starry sky
I was a huge fan of the author's first book, Loving Frank. Is this book as good? No,and here is the reason why: the lives of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny, although interesting were certainly not as dramatic as the lives of Frank Lloyd Wright and his partner, Mamah Cheney, the subjects of Horan's previous novel. How could the author ever top the ending of that book?
That being said, I thought her latest offering was a good read. I thought the author did a good job of illuminating the lives of another famous artist and the woman behind him, his long, suffering wife.
Fanny, a very strong woman with her own mental health problems, continuously sacrificed her health to care for Stevenson, who had very daunting and chronic physical health issues. Together they weaved together an unconventional life in the arts, full of adventure and global travel and were able to sustain a deep connection and passion for each other.
I love the author's writing and storytelling abilities, and look forward to her next novel.
Power Reviewer Betty T. (12/12/13)

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) (12/04/13)

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) (11/30/13)

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) (11/26/13)

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.
Florence K. (Encino, CA) (11/23/13)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
Such an odd couple! The unlikely romance and marriage of frail Louis (RLS) and feisty Fanny make for a read that could have been faster-paced. The travels and travails of the couple are well written and well-researched. I was much more interested in how the writings of Stevenson came to be than in the many conversations he had with his friends and the many accounts of his frequent illnesses. Fanny sublimated her talents to that of her husband and I admired her no-nonsense attitude. I liked the book; I didn't love it, and I don't think I'll suggest it to my book club.
Rosemary K. (Saginaw, MI) (11/23/13)

a bit too wide/not enough stars
Nancy Horan's Under the Wide and Starry Sky reveals the enthralling story of Robert Louis Stevenson's life with Fanny van de Grift Osbourne.

Those who are aware of Stevenson's masterpiece works, such as Treasure Island, have probably imagined the author--if they thought about him at all--as being a strong, rugged individual capable of participating in his own action tales. But the opposite was true. Stevenson was an invalid prone to attacks that threatened to shorten his life. Living in the tropics seemed to ease his pain, and so he and Fanny spent years in the South Seas.

Horan describes the slow process by which the two became involved. Fanny had left her unfaithful husband in order to study art in Belgium, bringing along her three children and their nanny. She met Stevenson, and after some time, their affair began.

This historical novel is full of detail--at times, it's too much. I would be getting into the story, but then there would be endless pages of seeming repetition. But then my interest would return, until I again grew frustrated with the vast amount of endless descriptions that didn't move the story along. Some sections of the book could have been improved by sharper editing.

And yet, when I consider the book as a whole, I basically enjoyed it. But had about 50 pages been cut, the book would have been a stronger piece of writing.
Elinor S. (Naples, FL) (11/21/13)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
I loved "loving Frank" and must admit after reading this I was disappointed. I felt it dragged. I liked Fanny's grit and it was a nice love story in the beginning, but after the first half of the book I truly wanted to finish so I could read a new book. Maybe if it had more about his actual works it would have been more exciting to me.

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