Book Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

February 17, 2014

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan is a fictionalized account of the relationship of famed author Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne . This is Ms. Horan’s second novel, her first, Loving Frank, was a bestseller and well received.

The pub­lisher is giv­ing away one copy of this book –to enter fill out the Raf­fle­copt­ter form at the end of the post.

Book Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy HoranMy rating for Under the Wide and Starry Sky2
Buy this book in paper or in elec­tronic format*
More Books by Nancy Horan*

I was really looking forward to read Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan, as a big fan of Stevenson’s novels I wanted to know more about him and his life. The novel mainly focuses on Mrs. Stevenson and her relationship with this strange genius. Mrs. Stevenson also wanted to be an artist, but she never reached the fame of her younger husband.

The book started off with a bang, describing Fanny as an independent woman running away, with her 3 children, from an abusive relationship to pursue art studies in Europe. Fanny meets the young Robert Louis Stevenson, soon a long lasting, tumulus, relationship starts,

The book, wonderfully written, has some great sections (my favorite is when Stevenson was walking around trying to come up with kid friendly curses for Treasure Island) and enlightening. The author describes the couple’s relationship as part of a creative process, which I would guess is almost every marriage these days.

However, the book never really captured my interest. I found myself putting it down, picking it up and never really taking interest in Louis or Fanny. The narrative wasn’t flowing and the day-to-day trials of the relationship didn’t capture my imagination and left me unmoved.

Despite the many literary strengths in the book, as well as interesting protagonists, there is no overreaching story line and the pace crawls – that might work in biographies, but does not work for me in historical fiction. If you’re interested in Fanny or Robert Louis Stevenson’s life, this book is accurate, descriptive and will give the reader an insight into the famous couple’s relationship.


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.

Buy this book in paper or in elec­tronic format*
More Books by Nancy Horan*


  • Give­away ends: Feb­ru­ary 19, 2014

  • US/Canada Ship­ping Addresses Only

  • No PO Boxes

  • Win­ners will have 24 hours to write back with their address, oth­er­wise an alter­nate win­ner will be picked

Congratulations: name as email

TLC Book Tour for Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan:

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free fromTLC Book Tours.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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  • Freda MansFebruary 18, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    No form to enter. 🙁

  • techeditorFebruary 19, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I read this book. I was disappointed because I thought the book would concentrate on Robert Louis Stephenson, which it did not. As a matter of fact, for almost the first half of the book, he’s barely mentioned.

    • techeditorFebruary 19, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      I meant to also say that I notice from your rating of 2, you and I felt pretty much the same.

  • Sharon HenningFebruary 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    RLS is a favorite author of mine-especially his short stories. (The Imp in a Bottle is my favorite.) Thanks for the honest review of this book. I’m not sure I’d like to read it. Do you like his poetry? The composer, Ralph Vaughn Williams, has put a lot of his poetry to music and it’s very beautiful.

    • Zohar - Man of la BookFebruary 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

      I haven’t read The Imp in a Bottle but I’ll make a point to do so. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • RhiannonFebruary 20, 2014 at 7:22 am

    I just discovered your blog yesterday and have added it to my reading list and blog roll. I personally loved this book but it was longer than most books I read.

  • Heather J @ TLC Book ToursFebruary 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Darn, I’m sorry that this one didn’t turn out to be a favorite for you but thanks for being on the tour.

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