Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Signed Book)

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Overview

From Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes her much-anticipated second novel, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.
 
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 ...
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Overview

From Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes her much-anticipated second novel, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.
 
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.

Advance praise for Under the Wide and Starry Sky
 
“Fanny and Louis are wild-hearted seekers, and Nancy Horan traces their incredible journey fearlessly, plunging us through decades, far-flung continents, and chilling brushes with death. Ambitious and often breathtaking, this sweeping story spills over with spirited, uncompromising life.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
 
“It’s one thing to bring the past to life. It’s quite another to bring it back rich in all its glorious complications. Nancy Horan has done it again, capturing the entwined lives of Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson so uncannily, it reads like truth—and better. I loved every minute I had it in my hands.”—Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
 
“Maybe it goes without saying that it’s a hard thing to chase a book as successful as Loving Frank with a second novel. For one thing, you worry it was an accident the first time around. The good news is that it wasn’t (an accident), and Nancy Horan is back with another beautifully crafted story, and no signs of a sophomore slump.”—Pete Dexter, author of Paris Trout, winner of the National Book Award
 
“Fans of Loving Frank will adore this authentic, richly detailed, and utterly captivating new novel from Nancy Horan. Under the Wide and Starry Sky is a globe-spanning literary wonder—the perfect book for those who read fiction in search of the truth.”—Jamie Ford, author of Songs of Willow Frost
 
“What an extraordinary story! Throughout the novel, I felt I was right there with Fanny and Louis, sharing their hopes and hardships as they traveled the world. The portrayal of their lives on Samoa was especially gripping. Nancy Horan has transformed everything I thought I knew about Robert Louis Stevenson, and in Fanny—his passionate, independent American wife—she has created a woman whose struggles continue to haunt me.”—Lauren Belfer, author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804177375
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/21/2014
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 73,329
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Horan
Nancy Horan

Nancy Horan, a former journalist and longtime resident of Oak Park, Illinois, now lives and writes on an island in Puget Sound.


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 48 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2014

    The concept of reading a fictionalized tale of actual people and

    The concept of reading a fictionalized tale of actual people and their lives always fascinates me. I requested a copy of this novel to review from Net Galley based on the description on the book jacket. This story covers the turbulent lives of the acclaimed author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde and his eccentric, american wife, Fanny. I casually began this story one afternoon, thinking I would read for a bit, and found myself having difficulty putting the book down hours later. The author did an amazing job bringing these people to life and painting their extremely chaotic life. Fanny had a difficult life prior to meeting Louis...she went from Indiana to Nevada with a horrible husband, bore children early in life, ended up in California and then some how, picked up and took her children to Europe to try to be an artist. The story is so fantastic that it's hard to believe these were real events. Fanny and Louis meet as she is trying to survive a tragic event in her life and their connection is so charged...it feels almost wrong to spy on their intimate encounters. Their lives are not easy...they struggle with her her husband, money, where to live and most importantly, Louis' health. Their relationship was an absolute roller coaster of ups and downs that eventually leads them to Samoa. Throughout their time together, Louis publishes the two works he is famously known for, though unfortunately, it seems true fame only came after he had passed away. I am not sure if Fanny was bipolar or simply suffered from the stress of her life events, but I immensely liked her depiction and truly admire her strength and spirit. This was a story dominated by a great love between husband and wife. This was truly an engaging and enjoyable read and now I need to get my hands on Horan's first book, Loving Frank. If I enjoy that half as much as I enjoyed this story, then I am in for a real treat.

    I received a copy of this title from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Author Nancy Horan has penned a beautiful love story about Rober

    Author Nancy Horan has penned a beautiful love story about Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne Stevenson. It is a story about a strong woman who was not afraid to pursue life despite enduring a humiliating marriage with a philandering husband. The author does a wonderful job of bringing to life the late 1800's with excellent descriptions and details of day to day life. Like most biographical novels, there are times when one's life is not full of excitement or problems. And this is the case with Fanny and Robert's life.  The author manages this very well, and although the story is very slow at times, the result is a full and thorough accounting of their lives together. I especially enjoyed learning more about Robert Louis Stevenson, his failing health, and his determination to write works of the highest quality. 

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2014

    Haunting But Slow.

    Haunting But Slow. I wanted to like this novel far more than I did, unfortunately. Moran is a fine writer, and the research is impeccable. When the novel is fixated on Robert, Fanny, and their personal relationship (s), it is engaging and engrossing. Like she did in 'Loving Frank,' the author exposes the life, desires, and struggles of a woman completely overshadowed by the man she loves. Fanny Stevenson desperately wanted to be an artist, a creative force, in own right, but was constantly defeated by the time she lived in and the men controlling it. Passionate, clever, hardworking, and eccentric, Fanny embarks on a chaotic, often tragic, trajectory in her pursuit to be an independent and artistic woman. Engaging in some highly questionable parenting choices, she drags her family around the world to escape a brutish first husband and find herself. While finding Robert Louis Stevenson seems to offer her new possibilities...it offers adventures beyond their wildest dreams, but very real consequences as well. However, those travels, while fascinating to consider, become, for me, the slowest part of the novel. A great deal of time is spent detailing their lives in multiple houses, cities, countries, multiple sea voyages from one place to another, the years in Samoa with its politics and cultural difficulties. I can't help thinking that a bit less of the travelogue details would have kept this moving at a more engaging space. I found myself bogging down multiple times, putting it aside, and only coming back to the book once I had finished other reading. Overall, this is a look at a woman not known to most of us and a portrait of RLS that most of are also not aware of: even if we know the basics of his work, his Scottish heritage and his years in the South Pacific. It is just not always consistently engrossing. A side note: one of the loveliest covers I have recently seen on a book--beautiful.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Under the Wide and Starry Sky

    UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY is a historical fiction novel telling a new generation the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny van de Grift Osbourne. From beginning to end, the story removes the reader to another time and place allowing him to see how things could have been in a time when divorce is a sin, while rank and privilege has both advantages and disadvantages. If you enjoy the works of Sharon Kay Penman or Wilbur Smith, you won't be disappointed with this story. Much like these authors, Nancy Horan has the ability to place the reader within the pages as Robert and Fanny live their lives day to day. They are not only historical people, but people the reader comes to care for.

    The story begins with its' focus on Fanny van de Grift and her early life. It tells of her life as a child, then her marriage and her eventual move to Paris, where she finally meets Robert Louis Stevenson. Then, she returns to the USA and the story begins to introduce the famous author, his friends, attitudes and travels. Eventually, Robert Louis Stevenson arrives in the states, where he manages to find Fanny once more. Along the way, the reader gets to see places and lifestyles hard to imagine in today’s world of computers, televisions, automobiles and instant gratification.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The sweeping proportions of this story are almost incredible. We

    The sweeping proportions of this story are almost incredible. We see these two through their travels across England, America, Europe and even the South Seas, where they eventually wind up on the island of Samoa. The amazing amount of miles they covered - together and separately, both on land and on sea - are even more astonishing when you consider that most of their lives the two of them were desperately poor. All of this, together with the startling number of bouts of illness that Louis suffered through as well as Fanny's emotional breakdowns seems like something that could only happen in an epic novel.

    This is probably the reason why Horan chose this subject. The scope here is so enormous that there is plenty of drama. With so much of the facts available, clues to what might have been were probably bursting at the seams. It is no wonder that Horan's imagination could easily fill in the gaps and turn an ordinary biography into a piece of historical fiction. It is also not surprising that it took almost a full 500 pages to properly tell this tale.

    Of course, this does beg the question if Horan didn't bite off a touch more than she could chew, by not limiting herself to only a certain period or few periods in their lives. The problem with that, of course, is trying to decide which periods to keep and which to be left out. While I initially balked at the length of this book, I personally couldn't find more than a few paragraphs here and there that could possibly have been superfluous. Taking those out would maybe (and I repeat, only MAYBE) have reduced this by only 50 pages at the very most. Not a huge difference, so I'm guessing Horan decided it wasn't worth further editing. However, I'm positive there are many things that didn't make the final cut.

    What keeps this lengthy story from becoming a tiring tome is Horan's writing. The fluidity of her prose has been carefully matched to the era of the story, making it feel as if Fanny and Stevenson are writing it themselves. Of course, that's the whole point. If you can't make a fictional account of real writers sound like they do in their own works, you've taken on the wrong subjects. So in this Horan succeeds in spades, which does a great deal to keep the story moving ahead, despite all the details that needed to be included. We are enchanted by the poetic feel of these two people and are carried away to their harsh and exotic worlds. Horan's prose is simply gripping, as if we're reading one of Stevenson's adventure stories, and we become that anxious to find out what comes next (despite knowing the outcome from the start).

    Horan has given us an ambitious work that brings a beloved writer and the love of his life out of the dusty pages of literary history and into the bright light of day. We become familiar with the man behind the words and the woman who kept him alive long enough to make them available to the public. For this, we are thankful that Fanny was there with all her Indiana stubbornness to keep him going. What's more, she allows us to discover not only the parts of these two people that endear them to us, but also their darker sides with all their demons.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2014

    What I¿ve learned is having faith is a truly rare gift, and that

    What I’ve learned is having faith is a truly rare gift, and that even if I’m filled with that much faith, or confidence, that I still have my doubts, those moments where it feels like it will all go to hell, but it won’t really matter because no one is paying attention anyway, and I can make whatever mistakes I need to make, and that ends up being another great gift: the opportunity to fail miserably without the whole world watching. Just when it seems like I’m at my lowest point, and there’s no way I can move up from the bottom of the glass, I realize that people really do care, that they are paying attention, and maybe I can’t measure it, or quantify it, or even extrapolate it and place it on a graph, but it’s there just the same. And while encouragement from others is a great and wonderful and beautiful thing, the best strength comes from within.

    What I took away more than anything else from UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY is a sense of faith (not the religious kind): faith to stay in a relationship, faith to experiment with your writing, faith to scrap an entire story and burn it in the fiery embers of wood and ash, faith to realize that life will come to an end and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, faith to travel and live around the globe, faith to get married, and faith to stay married through the trials and tribulations of daily living.

    Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson may not have had what might be considered a normal relationship, but then normal is defined as it relates to you, and the creative process is about as far from normal as you can be. Having two writers in the same household practically puts you on another planet altogether, so they did have that going for them, even as Robert’s health faded.

    Despite all this mojo working in its favor, I never really felt myself become one with this novel. The dialogue never really flowed like a river; the descriptive passages never really allowed me to become fully immersed in the tale; the characters resembled more ethereal creatures hovering in the distance; and the ending left me a bit unfulfilled.

    I received this book for free through NetGalley.

    Robert Downs
    Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator

    2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    Great read

    This was a well written and moving book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    500 plus

    This is story of the woman behind the man, author Stevenson who wrote DR Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A wonderful story of life and love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    I found the story fascinating and Nancy Horan's writing elegant

    I found the story fascinating and Nancy Horan's writing elegant and lyrical, yet easily readable. It's a romantic tale of love and adventure, laced with historical fact. It does exactly what historical fiction should do - educate while entertaining. This work is a cut above . . . it is literature.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2014

    THE CLUB

    WELCOME TO THE CLUB -FAWN

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2014

    Froststorm

    He padded inn "Hello." He meowed

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2014

    Snowpaw

    Pads in ad says fawnheart hi um and says i know ur kits fangpaw and lilykit um me and fangpaw r friends we r in the same clan but yea and lilykit tooo she is fine i just wanted to tell u

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2014

    Fawnhaert

    Hello she mewed shyly

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    StarClan Property

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2014

    Evie

    Back one. Sorry I have apps counted here too

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2014

    Cyrus

    'Kay

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    Recommend

    If you like historical fiction you'll like this. Covers a lot of ground. I didn't know anything about Robert L. Stevenson so I enjoyed learning about his life of adventure. Was easy to read and kept me engaged.

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  • Posted May 27, 2014

    I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for this re

    I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for this review.

    It's always a challenge to write historical fiction, especially when you're centered on 1 person or 1 family. This is historical fiction based on the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, through their courtship, marriage, and his eventual death. Stevenson wrote such classics as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He was from Scotland, she was from America, and several years older than he was. He was in poor health, suffering from a variety of lung ailments. (Note: these aren't spoiler alerts; this information is all available on Wikipedia.) The book follows them as they travel from France, where they met, to Scotland, California, Hawaii, Sydney, and Samoa, where Stevenson lived the rest of his life. Reading the book, you can feel how Stevenson's illness affected him. You also feel sympathy for Fanny, who wound up being his nurse for most of his life, and later suffered bouts of mental illness. The book dramatizes the writing of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It discusses the origins of Long John Silver (no, he didn't start out owning a restaurant chain), as well as phrases such as "Shiver me timbers!" It also shows how Stevenson wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and some of the underlying meanings that people even at the time it was written were reading into it. The title comes from a poem that Stevenson wrote to his wife. I almost wonder what would have happened if Stevenson had been in better health, would he have written more. Even though it is not a factual biography, the author uses quite a bit of source material to make it sound as authentic as possible. Obviously, sections where she discusses what the characters are thinking, as well as some of the conversations, are fictionalized for dramatic effect. One thing I noticed was that some chapters had the year on top, to indicate when time moved ahead, especially by a few years. I would have liked to see that on all the chapters. I only received an ARC, so I'm not sure if this was in the final copy, but I would have liked to see pictures in the book, to know what some of the people looked like. All in all, though, a good book. Also, this would be a good introduction to Robert Louis Stevenson, and those who think pirate adventures begin and end with Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Carribean movies. I'll have to start reading Treasure Island again.

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  • Posted May 21, 2014

    And finally I finished reading this book. I started reading this

    And finally I finished reading this book. I started reading this book in January and I just keep stopping, and read anything else. Why? Well, it was kind a boring. But I’m glad that I didn’t give up and I finished because the ending was speechless.

    At the first pages it is kinda captivate you. You will find the world of Fanny. That sick world when you married young and have children and then you find out that your husband it is cheating on you. And more, that everybody knows and you can’t do anything about it. That’s how the story begins. Fanny wanted so much to do something with her life, to became someone, so she goes with her children in France. And that’s when everything it is going to change.

    I love so much that character of Fanny. For the type of woman of that era, she is the most strong and the most brave woman in that entire world. She is that woman that is a perfect mother and most of it a perfect female. The struggled and the fights that she make, that whole role of putting everyone first and forget about her needs… And more, how she take care of Louis. She was the perfect woman for him.

    So Louis… That guy that fall in love with beautiful, strong Fanny.He was that guy who disappointed his father by becoming a writer instead of a lawyer. He was that sick boy/man who doctors didn’t give him so much hope for living. But with Fanny’s strong and warm care, he lived a beautiful life.

    I like this book. Not loving, because like I sad there were some parts boring. But you know, that doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have a beautiful, true story. And because it is a based on a true story makes her more beautiful an d more unique to read.

    That awkward, powerful era, of 1880 has something in it that drives you crazy, and keeps you in the book. Those beautiful worlds that are describe in this book, the world and how the things are going. The love and the hate between Fanny and Louis, those obstacles and that hate that everybody has on Fanny, just gives you that power to continue reading the story and enjoying it.

    So just grab the book and start reading it. It is something worth it.

    Favorite Quotes:

    "It was the stories read to him, and those that he eventually read himself, that had saved him from the worst of the loneliness."

    "To write is to give the soul. Truth comes from this place."

    "My mother is my father’s wife. And the children of lovers are orphans."

    "Louis once used the word “atheist” to describe himself when, in fact, “agnostic” was more accurate. But “atheist” was more hurtful; it was the juice of a lemon in his father’s wounds."

    "In the end, what really matters? Only kindness. Only making somebody a little happier for your presence."

    "If he could go back to that day on the North Bridge and alter the years that had intervened, he would change a few things. But not this woman."

    "There is not a life in all the records of the past but, properly studied, might lend a hint and a help to some contemporary.”

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2014

    To Black

    Clover scuttled in, her white nose twitching. "Are there any more queen spaces open?"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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