Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel
by Nancy Horan
Paperback- $9.99


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  "Under The Wide And Starry Sky" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 02/16/14

Fanny Van de Grift was married to Sam Osbourne. She married young, at age 17, and bore him three children: Belle, Sammy (Lloyd), and Hervey, who died at an early age. Her husband, Sam, was a philanderer. He did not respect his marriage vows and Fanny was unfulfilled and dissatisfied with her life. She was a high-strung woman, outspoken, decisive, strong and fearless, in most circumstances. There were few things she could not do if she put her mind to it.
When in her thirties, not much older than her own daughter Belle, 16 at the time, she convinced her husband to allow her to go to Belgium to study art. She often behaved irresponsibly with her new found freedom. She neglected to find out in advance that women were not allowed to study in the art school she planned to attend. She was uncertain about her finances since her husband’s support was often unreliable. She took somewhat thoughtless chances and made compulsive decisions when she encountered obstacles, but she overcame most. Unable to remain in Belgium to study art with Belle, in a proper school, she hastily moved to Paris, with the three children in tow.
She met many interesting people along the way, one of whom was (Bobby) Robert Stevenson, cousin to Robert Louis Stevenson, who calls himself Louis. She and Bobby became great friends and through him she met Louis. At first their relationship was rocky. He was more than a decade younger than she, but he was smitten with her, and soon, she was in love with him. She was a woman in a man’s world and she was often fighting for her place in it. Recklessly, she and Louis began an affair.
From the beginning, Fanny was welcomed into his family, although she was darker skinned than their Scotsman’s heritage and more than a decade older than Louis. Margaret, his mother, was older than Fanny by just about the same number of years that Fanny was older than Louis. Margaret didn’t mind at all. She was overjoyed that there was someone to help care for her son who had often been confined to his bed with a variety of illnesses.
The imagined love story between Louis and Fanny soared. Their relationship was defined by loyalty and devotion, as well as turmoil. After her divorce from Sam and a suitable amount of time had passed, they married. Louis was often seriously ill, even near death. The responsibility of returning him to health fell upon Fanny’s shoulders and she rose to the occasion each time, for the entire time they shared their lives. She was often called upon to move about the world, from location to location and climate to climate, for his well-being.
When the sea air was discovered to be a balm for his diseased lungs and a cure for his hemorrhaging, Fannie took to the seas with him, for months at a time, even though she did not tolerate sea voyages well. When he responded to the Samoan climate, she moved there with him, and when forced to spend months in a sanitarium, for patients with tuberculosis, she also accompanied him there, staying with him and eventually sending her son Sammy to a private boarding school to remove him from that environment to a more suitable one for a young boy. She was like a chameleon, taking charge and easily adjusting to the constantly changing lifestyle. However, deep within her mind and body, the stress was registering in its own way, only to surface later as emotional breakdowns.
As time passed, Fanny, usually stalwart, suffered from mood swings and feelings of dejection. Living in Louis’ shadow was difficult for her. She, too, wanted to be a writer. As he gained success, she wanted it too. Fanny catered to Louis, acting as his nurse, his confidant, his critic, but soon she began to feel shut out, a bit neglected and unappreciated by him and his friends. She wanted to develop her own talent, but because she had to help Louis develop his, there was little time for herself, and she received little encouragement. Louis often resented her control over his life and his writing, but she did this to keep him alive, and deep down, he appreciated it, even as she grew wearier and he grew weaker. She rode out each storm with him and witnessed his eventual success and bursts of good health.
Louis and Fanny were drifting apart and after a time, life simply overwhelmed Fanny. The demons she had kept at bay were reborn. She saw things and heard things that were not there. She behaved like a madwoman, breaking things and racing off without regard for safety, often causing injury to herself. Her son Lloyd, who was originally called Sammy, (he changed his name when his father died), and her daughter Belle (with 7-year-old grandson Austin), were living with her on the island, and between them and Louis, they attempted to care for her when she had these delusions, delusions which were so violent, it was sometimes necessary to tie her down to restrain her and prevent further injury to herself.
Louis became depressed. He couldn’t work. Overwhelmed, he thought of running away, leaving the island to find the inspiration to write again. Fanny, his muse, was no longer able to inspire him. His creative ideas used to simply come upon him, but they had stopped coming; his imagination was no longer fertile. Finally, though, Fanny improved, they reconciled and they grew closer again.
The author managed to weave many famous quotes from Stevenson’s works, into her narrative. Although the story was hard to get into, in the end, I was profoundly moved by the care and genuine affection the couple had for each other, throughout their turbulent life together. Although the prose sometimes felt clipped and staccato-like in nature, perhaps the author did this deliberately to show the erratic nature of their lives and their chaotic relationship, with both of them often being uprooted at a moment’s notice for one reason or another.
The short chapters, while easy to tick off, distracted me and I felt as if I was reading anecdotal parts that never quite connected to the whole. Eventually, I downloaded an audio version which enabled me to finish the book and then decide, after all, that I did enjoy it.

  "A Woman's Place" by retiredreaderNE (see profile) 03/26/14

The book present Robert Louis Stevenson as author and as a man battling to stay alive. His wife, Fanny, is the force behind him. She sacrifices her own creative yearnings to foster his genuis.

  "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by margharg (see profile) 05/07/14

As a child, I always loved the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson\\\'s \\\"A Child\\\'s Garden of Verses\\\". It was interesting to learn about the life of the man behind those beloved poems - and what a life it was! In spite of his health problems, he was able to travel the world and offer his insights on the areas he visited/lived in. Although I knew of the novels he has written, I have never read them. I will definitely put them on my list of \\\"must reads\\\". I thought the book was a little lengthy, but all in all, it was well worth the time to read it.

  "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by seashell723 (see profile) 06/20/14

Excellent book...beautifully written story of the romance and marriage of Fanny to husband and author Robert Louis Stevenson. Horan has made the characters come alive, and she has created some very strong femaie characters that reflect the repression of women in the late 1800s. The book gives us insight into the minds and lives of the authors and artists of the day, as they gathered in their salons and traveled to exotic locales. Fanny and RLS overcome the stigma of marriage between a younger man and older woman...their relationship is real, gritty, and loving...an unconventional and exciting partnership. Everyone in our book club loved this one!

  "" by stacey3150 (see profile) 10/15/14

  "Flat account of a fascinating couple" by CleoM (see profile) 01/08/15

Boring and disjointed. A bland account of a fascinating couple. I’ve rarely felt so disengaged from a book. Horan moves from one event to another rather abruptly. Very few emotionally involving transfers over 90 short choppy chapters. Haven’t read Loving Frank, but everyone I know who read that book loved it and everyone I know who has read this book were very disappointed. Given the outline of RLS and Fanny’s lives, it would seem that it would have been easy to knock this out of the park, but whether it was rushed to print or the breadth of their lives was such that the writer couldn’t get a handle on it, it is a very pedestrian effort. I finished it because I always finish a book no matter what, and the only interesting aspect was how often I was surprised that the author was unable to inject life or suspense into the account. Our 8 person book club was unanimous in our dislike for the writing style.

  "Under a Wide and Starry Sky" by Marian_Saur (see profile) 01/12/15

A whole new description of "Robert Louis Stevenson, a strange, but loyal love between Robert and Fanny.

  "" by clearwater1 (see profile) 04/10/15

  "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by bkmnmpl (see profile) 04/15/15

While I found parts of this novel interesting, it moved very slowly. I feel that some of the minute details could have been left out in exchange for the larger retellings of the love, life, & travels of Robert Lewis Stevenson and Fanny Stevenson.

  "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by Kimby1103 (see profile) 05/12/15

This book is NOT recommended for book clubs. It was interesting at first but ultimately lost its way and steam about 100 pages in. Although it was well written it did not make a good discussion.

  "Under the Wide and Atarry Sky" by anngage (see profile) 06/15/15

.........researched in depth, but perhaps too much detail. At times, I found the book to be 'dark and difficult', but also, enlightening.

  "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by wlreader (see profile) 06/16/15

Most found it interesting; many were really glad about reading it, but a few couldn\'t relate to it. It did produce a good discussion and an interest in rereading RLS\\\'s books.

  "" by alice57b (see profile) 09/12/15

  " Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by Bunni (see profile) 10/20/15

Very informative about the life of RLS and his wife Fanny. Very good read

  "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by smokey1 (see profile) 11/18/15

Very long and laborious to get through, more like homework. Was interesting about the life and wife of Robert Louis Stevenson.

  "" by tex2flo (see profile) 02/25/16

  "Nothing Happened" by MarlaTapper (see profile) 03/01/16

Kept waiting for something exciting to happen...like watching paint dry

  "Under the wide and Starry Sky" by losipv (see profile) 10/20/16

Well written and in keeping with the facts.

  "under the wide and starry sky" by suz15 (see profile) 10/24/16

I knew nothing about robert lewis stevenson or his wife and I found their tale and life so interesting. It caused me to follow up and find out what happened to the children and grandchildren. Where life took Belle was a happy story.

  "" by KarenUK (see profile) 10/27/16

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/11/20

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