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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  17,295 ratings  ·  2,885 reviews
The passionate and turbulent story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and a nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair

Hardcover, 474 pages
Published January 21st 2014 by Ballantine Books (first published January 2014)
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Kim If they did, I have a feeling it would be a rare exception to the "the book was better" rule.…moreIf they did, I have a feeling it would be a rare exception to the "the book was better" rule.(less)
Helen The paperback edition of this book from Ballantine books, has a "Questions for Discussion" in the back of the book that should be just what you are looking for.

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  17,295 ratings  ·  2,885 reviews

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Kim Overstreet
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The historical fiction sub-genre featuring characters who actually lived has become a favorite of mine (e.g. The Paris Wife, The Aviator's Wife, Loving Frank, Z, etc...) This fictionalized account of the relationship of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his spunky, older American wife Fanny is my favorite so far. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, this novel met all of my criteria for good historical fiction:

1) Atmospheric - Time, place, and emotion are wonderfully recreat
Gail Strickland
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
You know those books you just can't put down? The ones you are so into that everything else just goes by the waste side? This isn't one of them. ...more
Kate Forsyth
As soon as I heard about this book, I grabbed hold of it and read it. There were two reasons for this. One: I really enjoyed Nancy Horan’s earlier book ‘Loving Frank’, about the passionate love affair between Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright. Two: the novel tells the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wild, strong-willed American wife, Fanny. I have had a soft spot for Robert Louis Stevenson since I was given his poetry to read as a little girl. In particular, his poem ‘The Lan ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I began Nancy Horan's Under The Wide Starry Sky with high hopes, but ultimately liked the idea that behind the piece more than the reality. Though I found the narrative offered interesting perspective on Stevenson's personal life, the structure of the novel left much to be desired. Be warned, possible spoilers ahead.

For one thing, I found the pacing of the novel particularly troublesome. I lost interest in the first few cha
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine books.

I have to confess that I am not fully on board with the recent trend of books narrated by the spouses of historical figures. It makes me cringe a little bit to think of these women, long gone and unable to defend themselves, having words put in their mouths and motives ascribed to them that may not be remotely accurate. And invariably, it seems that these stories take on a "chick lit" flavor
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm so glad this book is over. I really didn't like Fanny Stevenson. She made me gnash my teeth and scream to myself, "Oh no. She can't be saying that or doing that." She was quite the narcissist and put herself above anyone else. She uprooted her children from Oakland to Belgium and then to Paris. She thought she was an artist but when her daughter proved to be a better artist, the lessons started. When her son falls desperately ill, she doesn't reach out to her husband for help until it's alm ...more
Linda Hart
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a historical/biographical novel about two very lively and difficult personalities: the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous wife, Fanny deGrift Osbourne. It is a little slow at times but still a very interesting tale oft this well-known author and his colorful wife. I knew RLS wrote Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Child's Garden of Verses, but I knew nothing about him as a person or about Fanny, and I found their individ ...more
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 ...more
Connie G
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny van de Grift Osbourne had a marriage that was both supportive and stormy before they were finally laid to rest "under the wide and starry sky" in Samoa. They met in an artists' colony in France in 1876, and Louis fell hard for the exotic American woman. Fanny had come to Europe with her children to study art and leave her unfaithful husband. Louis, a decade younger, had finished a law degree but wanted a life as a writer. Louis had trouble with his lungs, but had ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Phew - just finished this. It feels like I've been reading this book for months. There was nothing distinctly bad about it, just nothing all that notably good about it, either. It just felt like it went on and on and on, and nothing notable ever really happened.
Except that's not true at all. The two main characters led pretty extraordinary lives, particularly for their era. They were respected, famous people in their lifetimes, who lived very unconventional lives. And yet... something in the wr
David Kinchen
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
BOOK REVIEW: 'Under the Wide and Starry Sky': Intriguing Novel/Biography of Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson


Stevenson had always wanted his 'Requiem' inscribed on his tomb:

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 hil
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan This novel is brought to us by the lovely woman that wrote Loving Frank. Although not quite as phenomenal as her debut, her sophomore piece, also a biographical fiction, again about the wife of a great, this time an author rather than an architect. Frances Van de Grift Osbourne, the determined, fierce, loving, vivacious wife of the renown Robert Louis Stevenson, is quite the woman behind the scenes.

At almost five hundred pages, spanning several decades, and an impressive cast of characters,
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Not as good as “Loving Frank”

I wanted to read “Under the Wide and Starry Sky” because I liked “Loving Frank” so much. While I liked “Under” I didn’t feel it was as compelling as “Frank”. It’s about the author Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing and his relationship with his wife Fanny. Because of Stevenson’s health (he suffered from tuberculosis) they traveled to many exotic locales in hopes his health would improve. Besides his native Scotland they lived in Paris and Switzerland and most notably i
Diane Barnes
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
I never really got invested in this book, and it was WAY too long.
BEFORE READING Under the Wide and Starry Sky:
Will this be as good as Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny? I definitely recommend Alexandra Lapierre's book.

AFTER READING Under the Wide and Starry Sky:

This and Lapierre's book complement each other. I recommend reading both. I recommend reading Lapierre's non-fiction first so you know the truth of the events. Lapierre's book has more historical details covering political and cultural events occurring in the many different pla
Krista Claudine Baetiong
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 long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

- “Requiem”, Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the Wide and Starry Sky tells the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne and the life they built together as husband and wife. Their love story had been a whirlwind
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"And so begins a turbulent love affair that will last two decades and span the world..."

That's the concluding line for the blurb about Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. So provocative and alluring, right?

It's a somewhat-fictional take on the romance between Fanny Osbourne and the prolific writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. Admittedly, despite being a Literature major, I didn't know much about RLS, particularly something as appealing as a romance that dashed through the world. It all sou
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was interesting in the beginning but was way too long to hold my interests for the duration of the novel. Can't recommend this book. As I told someone else look on Wikipedia for a few facts about the lives of the husband and wife but then take the time to read one of his works. I think that would be time well spent. ...more
This novel covers nearly thirty years in the lives of Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson and their family. I don't think I've read a single one of Stevenson's books but I found Nancy Horan's tribute to his life compelling. While the Stevenson's travel adventures were interesting what I enjoyed most was reading about the couple's relationship and Louis's relationship with his parents. Thomas Stevenson was not very supportive of his son's career choice, he wanted him to build lighthouses or study la ...more
At times this feels too much like a biography; it’s as if Horan couldn’t bear to leave out a single detail about the relationship between Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, so she threw it all in: every journey, every house, every book – and there were lots of each. I occasionally wondered if a first-person voice might have made Fanny a more sympathetic character, but the omniscient narration allows us access to Stevenson’s thoughts and was probably necessit ...more
The first book I remember owning as a child was A Child's Garden of Verses- given to me by my kindergarten teacher. It was a prized possession and one of the few mementos I have from childhood. It is surprising that I never went on to read any more of his books but that is going to change. Nancy Horan is making a living off of the phrase " behind every great man stands a woman." The author of Loving Frank tells us the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his great love Fanny Osbourne. Fans of The ...more
Miranda Lynn
I decided to stop reading this book at 46%.

This book had so much potential. I was excited to read about a whirlwind love affair between a famous writer and a bull-headed divorcée...but that wasn't what I got. I dragged myself through the first half of this book for days and days, not wanting to pick it up, but knowing that I needed to at least try to get through this. I gave it a really good shot, but this book and I just didn't click. Maybe it was just me, but it was so hard to get through.

Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Under the Wide and Starry Sky is an historical novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny. It’s divided into three Parts. I found Part One to be a bit cumbersome. It’s a book club read, so I soldiered on (which I wouldn’t have done otherwise). Part two was far more interesting, as was part three. However, I felt it was written “passively” so as a reader, I wasn’t really engaged or part of the book.

On the plus side, I did learn about Stevenson’s life. Prior to this novel, I knew he wa
Aug 27, 2013 rated it liked it
The love story between Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne is one of those it would be hard to make up. They met in the French countryside when Fanny was recovering from the death of her son and Louis was visiting his cousin. She was American, older than him, and married to a philanderer in San Francisco. She also had two young children. He was already ill with tuberculosis but nonetheless striving to become a writer, not the doctor his family expected.

Their courtship was certainly not ea
JoAnne Pulcino

Nancy Horan

UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKIES is the fascinating life and love story of Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson and his unconventional wife Fanny. Fanny runs away from America with her three children to escape her philandering husband. She and her three children go to Belgium where Fanny and her daughter plan to study art.

After a personal tragedy Fanny needs the respite of a quiet artists’ colony In France. While recovering the lively Robert Louis Steven
This was a book club read and I probably would not have picked it up on my own.... it was a fictional account of author Robert Louis Stevenson and his relationship with his spunky American wife fanny.... I have never read a book by RLS, Probably never will, but he sure did live in interesting life: not to mention he had a very interesting personality.... this book took you all over the world America, France, England, Scotland, Samoa, Hawaii when it wasn't part of America.... something that reall ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
''Under the Wide and Starry Sky,' by Nancy Horan is considered historical fiction, but Horan has taken the time to do in depth research on the lives of Robert Louis Stevevson and his wife, Fanny. Both Louis and Fanny were avid letter writers and Fanny kept diaries and journals of their travels while Louis spent many hours writing from his sickbed. Having many documents from which to draw her studies of the two Stevenson's, Horan evokes lives that were lived on the edge, sometimes of money, and s ...more
RoseMary Achey
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was ok

Robert Louis Stevenson
This book was oversold and under delivered...although one can hardly lay blame on the author. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote several great works however his life the relationship with his wife Fanny, was difficult to turn into a piece of historical fiction. RLS was very ill throughout most of his life and the book spent a great deal of time recounting his illnesses or the quest to find the perfect climate to encourage Stevenson's health. If you are a RLS fan you may find this
Nov 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a bit hard for me because I loved the author's first book called Loving Frank. I wanted to love this book just as much even more so since it's actually longer. However, I found that that is exactly what actually caused me to not like it as much as I wanted to - the length. Not that I'm afraid of long books or don't enjoy them, but this one in particular could have been written with less detail. I feel that not only would this have saved time, but it also would have made the story so much ...more
Valerie Best
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is . . . worth reading, above all else. It's . . . this hit a lot of vulnerable spots for me, but, man alive, is this a good story. It's Stevenson's story, of course, and his unpredictable path to success. But it's Fanny's story, more than anything else. She is such a remarkable character--strong and talented and creative and smart and just so, so, so broken by everyone's unwillingness to see all she is, or see her as anything other than Stevenson's wife.

It's heartbreaking in amazingly cat
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Nancy Horan is a writer and a journalist whose work has appeared in numerous publications. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her husband and two sons. Loving Frank is her first novel.

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