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Under the Wide and Starry Sky
By Nancy Horan
In the same vein as Loving Frank, this next novel by Nancy Horan proves that sometimes the truth is a lot more interesting than fiction. In her latest novel, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Horan mixes the truth with some of her own interpretations to tell the story of the marriage of Robert Louis Stevenson to Fanny, his American wife 11 years his senior.
We are initially introduced to the relationship through Fanny, who has escaped to Europe with her children to put some distance between herself and her philandering husband. Fanny tries desperately to provide her children with a life steeped in the arts. She sees herself as an artistic soul and is not dismayed when she is told that the local art school does not accept women. It is among a group of ex-pat artisans that she is introduced to Stevenson.
Enter Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson comes from a family of successful lighthouse designers and builders. Louis is the only child of Thomas and Maggie Stevenson, and Thomas does not consider 'writer' to be an appropriate career choice for his son. However, spending much of his childhood sick in bed, Louis became dependent on story-telling and sought adventures to write about. It was returning from one of these adventures where he meets Fanny.
While Louis was enamored of Fanny from the get-go, Fanny was not impressed. Under the Wide and Starry Sky (a line from a Louis Stevenson poem) chronicles the courtship of the couple, Fanny's divorce and their subsequent marriage. Along with the ordinary trials and tribulations of marriage, Louis and Fanny navigate his writing career, Fanny's creative endeavors, drama with her children, travels and finding a home, all while attending to Louis' chronic illness.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky is an engrossing read; packed with enough fiction to appeal to readers who enjoy a good story, and enough facts to engage any non-fiction reader. As much an adventure story as it is a love story. As much a journal as it is a journey. Although slow through the middle, this anticipated new work is sure to be a best seller!