At the age of thirty-five, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium—with her three children and nanny in tow—to study art. It is a chance for this adventurous woman to start over, to make a better life for all of them, and to pursue her own desires. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her children repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. Emerging from a deep sorrow, she meets a lively Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who falls instantly in love with the earthy, independent, and opinionated “belle Americaine.”
Fanny does not immediately take to the slender young lawyer who longs to devote his life to writing—and who would eventually pen such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair—marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness—that spans the decades and the globe. The shared life of these two strong-willed individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any of Stevenson’s own unforgettable tales.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky is the first book I’ve read by Nancy Horan, although this is her second novel. I will certainly be reading her first as I really enjoyed this story of the love affair between Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne.
I didn’t know much about RLS aside from I knew he was the author of some great works and I knew even less about Fanny. Reading this book made me want to know more about both and that’s always an important test for me when reading historical fiction. Their relationship was complex, to say the least, but sometimes the best relationships are. And they always make the best stories! Nancy Horan does an amazing job of bringing their story to life. Even the secondary characters are written with care and they add a lot to the story.
The book is long at 496 pages but not long in the sense that it didn’t drag at all. Every chapter and paragraph was written with great care and added to the greatness of the story for me. I didn’t find anything that felt ‘thrown in’ for the sake of book length. Nancy Horan is a wonderful writer who seems to pay a great amount of attention to detail.
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.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
(Requiem, Robert Louis Stevenson)
Many Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours for including me in the book tour. To check out other stops on the tour, click the banner below.