Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

A Novel

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:

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.

Praise for Under the Wide and Starry Sky
"A richly imagined [novel] of love, laughter, pain and sacrifice . . . [Fanny Osbourne] kidnapped Robert Louis Stevenson's heart." -- USA Today
"Powerful . . . flawless . . . a perfect example of what a man and a woman will do for love, and what they can accomplish when it's meant to be." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Spectacular . . . an exhilarating epic about a free-spirited couple who traveled the world yet found home only in one another." -- Booklist (starred review)
"Horan's prose is gorgeous enough to keep a reader transfixed, even if the story itself weren't so compelling. I kept re-reading passages just to savor the exquisite wordplay. . . . Few writers are as masterful as she is at blending carefully researched history with the novelist's art." -- The Dallas Morning News
"A classic artistic bildungsroman and a retort to the genre, a novel that shows how love and marriage can simultaneously offer inspiration and encumbrance." --The New York Times Book Review
"Nancy Horan has done it again, capturing the entwined lives of Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson so uncannily, it reads like truth." --Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
"Horan has a distinct knack for evoking the rich, complicated lives of long-gone artists and the women who inspired them." -- Entertainment Weekly
"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
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, c2013
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780345516534
Characteristics: 474 p


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
ontherideau Sep 26, 2019

The unusual life of Robert Louis Stevenson and wife Fanny is portrayed as a never ending adventure. They went from almost starving to owning a huge estate in Samoa, luckily much of their funds along the way came from the Stevenson family. I agree with other readers, parts are slow, overall though I enjoy historical fiction of women behind famous men.

Jul 27, 2018

I was drawn to read this because I really thought her first novel "Loving Frank" was well written. This book , about Robert Louis Stevenson and his American divorcee wife, Fanny Van De Grift Osbourne and their adventures traveling the world, needed about 100 pages edited it out. It lacked clear focus. While I enjoyed the alternating chapters from Fanny's point of view then from Stevenson's point of view, I never really felt like either character was fully rounded. I was struck by the enormous sacrifice Fanny made for Stevenson including spending two years on the high seas while sea sick every day. I was equally struck that Stevenson seemed oblivious to that sacrifice. I appreciate Horan's attempt to shine a light on the lives of the women connected to famous men and I loved the Fanny that decamped from her philandering husband and move to Europe with her children to study art. I just couldn't understand the Fanny who gave up herself in devotion to Stevenson.

Oct 21, 2017

Unfortunately, I did not care for this book at all. I was excited to read it as 'Loving Frank' is one of my favorite books. I found this book dull and slow paced. I just couldn't get into this one!

May 31, 2016

A page-turner biographical novel of a pair of complex characters - physically, emotionally, and creatively - who lived in many interesting locations during their two decades together. Also an interesting study of a variety of cultures at a tipping point in history. The reader encounters little gems of wording by the author that add enjoyment.

cmlibrary_canderson Jan 12, 2016

I enjoyed this. The middle was slow reading, but at the end, I felt I had learned a lot about Robert Louis Stevenson and - even more so - the challenge of being a creative woman during a time when women were mostly kept in the background. The final years in Samoa were fascinating.

Feb 08, 2015

I looked forward to reading this book, as I had read the author's "Loving Frank". I learned a lot about Robert Louis Stevenson, but I felt that the author rambled on too long in the last part of the book about their time in the South Pacific. She could have eliminated nearly 100 pages by consolidating some of that material. All in all, I did enjoy the story.

Aug 02, 2014

lyrical and entertaining

dairyqueen May 09, 2014

Love affair of Robert Louis Stevenson (Author) and older divorcee woman Fanny Van DeGriff. Really enjoyed reading about this time period and the nomadic life they lived.

ehbooklover Feb 20, 2014

I chose to read this based on my love of Horan’s first book, “Loving Frank” despite the fact that I knew next to nothing about Robert Louis Stevenson. I enjoyed it a great deal more than I expected to. An interesting read that examines the many highs and lows of Stevenson’s relationship with his American wife, as well as his struggle to achieve literary success. I may just have to pick up a copy of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” or “Treasure Island” in the future.


Add a Quote
Jun 01, 2016

R.L.S.: "Obviously, I am not afraid to write about cruelty or violence. But for a writer to feed the reader great dank heaps of ugliness in the name of realism is dispiriting. ... Writers should find out where joy resides and give it a voice. Every bright word or picture is a piece of pleasure set afloat. The reader catches it, and he goes on his way rejoicing. It's the business of art of send him that way as often as possible. I have to believe that every heart that has beat strongly and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in this world. If I cannot believe that, then why should I go on? Why should anyone go on?"

Aug 09, 2015

What kind of friend would not give another friend the truth?

Aug 09, 2015

It had been a joke among them that Henley had the tact of a pachyderm. “I reserve the right to insult my friends,” Henley used to say when they confronted him.

Aug 09, 2015

“She came by the hotel a week ago. She is almost stone deaf and poor as a church mouse. He left her with nothing when he disappeared.”

Aug 09, 2015

Tribute Robert Louis Stevenson wrote to his wife:
Teacher, tender, comrade, wife,
A fellow-farer true through life,
Heart-whole and soul free
The august father gave to me.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SMPL

To Top