Nancy Horan had great success with Loving Frank, a fictionalized account of Frank Lloyd Wright. Now she takes her skills and entertains us with Under the Wide and Starry Sky starring Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a love story, a writer story, and a tale of fragile health. Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, a tempestuous American, came to Europe to study art, escape a philandering husband, and find her own identity. She meets Robert Louis Stevenson – a Scot, ten years younger, weak lungs, no money, and a gift for telling a tale. He’s a lawyer who hates the law and decides to devote himself to writing, despite his father’s misgivings. Together the odd couple embark on a love affair and marriage that “spans 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 unforgettable tales.” (cover blurb)
As a writer, it was fun to read about his slow success in magazines and finally books. In the late 1800s, writers depended on the mail for letters of success or rejection. He was often down to his last penny when something would pay off. His success with Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde cement him as a classic author. He also had a winner with A Child’s Garden of Verses. He was close to death many times and seemed to find health on the high seas and finally in the South Seas islands. Fanny nursed him, fought for him, and also wrote and published. She recognized his genius and had to live with his peculiarities. Nancy Horan captures the personalities and we root for Fanny – her passion, her self-esteem, her pride, her American identity, and her love for RSL. This is a smooth enjoyable read as Robert Louis Stevenson and the woman behind him come alive on the page.