Nancy Horan is the renowned author of LOVING FRANK, one of my all-time favorite novels. I have been waiting for years for her to bring us another remarkable work of fiction based on a famous person. And here it is!
UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY is a novel that celebrates the life of the author Robert Louis Stevenson and his much older wife Fanny. Their story is quite tempestuous and full of world-wide travel. All this back in the very late 1800’s. Traveling the high seas was almost like shooting yourself off to the moon, although, I must say, the moon might have been a smoother ride.
The story begins at the end of a torturous trip across the Atlantic. Fanny Osbourne has fled the life she barely tolerated with her then husband Sam. She left taking their three small children with her. What was the plan going forward? Fanny planned for her daughter Belle to study art. Fanny would also be a student. They landed in Belgium with much hope. The hope soon becomes dashed. And the plans change. But there is no going back for Fanny.
After reading UNDER THE DARK AND STARRY SKY by Nancy Horan, you will never be able to think of the writer and poet Robert Louis Stevenson again without thinking of his other half: Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. They met in Europe where Fanny was living with her children. The term opposites attract could not be more apt to describe their circumstances. Fanny was an American born woman with a mind of her own. Robert was a Scotsman born and bred. He came from an upper crust family who had plans of their own for him. Although Robert’s health was fragile, he managed to travel around the world and live in primitive areas. He and Fanny managed to travel from the artists’ colonies of Europe to the mining camps of Nevada to the healthy mountains of Switzerland and on to Samoa.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of the places he traveled. Fanny also wrote. This, at times, caused much friction between the two. There was room for only one great writer in Stevenson’s household, and that would be Stevenson himself. This novel makes me want to go back and reread all the Robert Louis Stevenson library. I will certainly get an entirely new perspective on it.
Horan definitely challenges the cultures in her novel. Try to picture the life of a Scottish author in the late 1800’s. Then take a look at strong woman from American. Way different. Their friends were different. Their upbringings c0mplete opposite. But, still, it is a great love story. One that has not been told before.
My review copy came from Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. Thank you so much.