Saturday, March 08, 2014

Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

I enjoyed Under the Wide and Starry Sky quite a bit.  This is the story of Fanny Osbourne and her relationship with Robert Louis Stevenson. 
Before reading this, I didn’t know much about Robert Louis Stevenson, other than what he’d written.  This story though paints such an attractive picture of him as a young, determined writer.  He was the only son of parents with very high, specific expectations for him.  Being a writer was not part of their plan for him. 
Stevenson met Fanny after she left her philandering husband in America and moved to Europe with her children.  She was there to learn art.  She wanted to live a creative life because she’d already spent too much of her life being trapped in a miserable marriage. 
She’s older than Stevenson, with a daughter closer to his age than she is, but that doesn’t seem to bother either of them. 
Their story is very romantic.  I told my friends as I was reading this that I was developing quite the crush on Robert Louis Stevenson.  He’s so sincere and devoted to Fanny.
But after a while, reality sets in, and things are far from perfect.  But throughout it all, I think despite any problems they had, the two remained devoted to each other. 
I felt like the author did a very thorough job with her research, following the couple from the time they met until Stevenson’s death.   As I was reading this, I felt like I knew these characters and understood what they were going through.  At times, I felt that maybe they weren’t entirely good for each other, that maybe they’d have been better off if they had tried to go their separate ways early in the relationship.  (Actually they did go their separate ways, but Stevenson nearly died trying to make his way to her as soon as he got the word that she wanted to see him again.)  Seeing the flaws in their relationship though is what made this story seem so real.
My only complaint is that toward the end, I felt as if we got too much information.  I didn’t need to know every conversation and every island they visited and outfit worn and all that.  The details got boring.  I was more interested in the emotional turmoil that was brewing below the surface of their seemingly happy relationship. 
Overall though, I liked this book a lot, would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in Robert Louis Stevenson and the time period during which he lived.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

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