Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy HoranUnder the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 1/21/2014
Source: TLC Book Tours
Pages: 496
Buy from IndieBound

After years of watching her husband enjoy the company of other women, thirty-five year old Fanny van de Grift Osbourne packs up her children in San Francisco and sails for Belgium, hoping to study art. But a family tragedy forces Fanny to seek the solace of a quiet village in France, where she stumbles upon young writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his band of wayward artists. 

Though Louis is instantly charmed by the older, independent woman, Fanny can find little appealing in return. Soon, however, she opens herself to the creative mind of the writer who will go on to write Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Their love affair carries them across continents and decades, eventually causing Fanny to give up much more than she expected in support of Louis, his writing and his health. 

“Maggie Stevenson eyed her son, her pretty features tortured. She had not spoken up for Louis; these days she rarely did. It did not surprise him. His parents had long enjoyed their own society, and even as the adored only child, he often felt left out. Her silence simply confirmed what he’d known for some time. My mother is my father’s wife. And the children of lovers are orphans.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky starts strong, tracing the whirlwind meeting and romance of Fanny and Louis and their early days together. Yet, as the novel progresses, Horan seems to get lost in a desire to account for every moment of the couple’s life together, an aim that becomes particularly noticeable as chapters are cut down to three or four-page jumping snapshots. Though the need to tell a complete story is admirable, the book begins to feel underedited and overlong in the second half.

Despite the novel’s overstretched feel, Horan’s research and attachment to her characters is clear. The dynamics between Louis and Fanny as Stevenson’s popularity soars become increasingly complex and Horan raises interesting questions about Fanny’s role in Louis’ writing. Those who are seeking a detailed, deep look at the relationship between the pair will certainly find it in Under the Wide and Starry Sky