Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Under the Wide and Starry Sky - Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
This post has a giveaway at the bottom! Don't miss your chance to win a free copy of Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan!

Is anyone else out there just so completely ready for spring? I am so sick of snow and feeling cold. I barely remember what it's like to be genuinely warm. I would kill for tank top weather.

Last week, This American Life did a great episode focused around beach stories. The motivation behind this idea was that all of us stuck in the Midwest are sick of cold and needed to be reminded of summer days. I loved it.

In a similar way, Nancy Horan's Under the Wide and Starry Sky had a similar effect for me. At least, the chapters about the Stevenson family living in the South Pacific did.

Horan's novel is historical fiction based on the real lives of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny. The book covers the time period from just before they met to Robert's death.

Horan obviously did a great deal of research for this work. Her narrative is very detailed and, without doing my own research, I never would know which details were fact and which were fiction. She even pulled old diary entries and letters to include.

I knew very little about this "celebrity" couple before reading the novel. I really enjoyed how Horan made history come to life. I am usually wary of books that fictionalize real people or events. I tend to want to stick to the true story.  For these subjects, however, I think my ignorance as to their real story helped me to fully enjoy the imagined aspects. 

The most enlightening part of the book, for me, was realizing how sickly Robert Louis Stevenson was throughout his life. I had known vaguely that he struggled with his health, but I never realized the extent to which his frail body plagued him. Knowing that, his time spent at sea and in the Pacific makes much more sense to me now.

It was also interesting to see the dynamic between Louis and Fanny. They certainly had a fiery relationship. In some spots, I felt Horan could have let the emotion of the moment bleed through a bit more, rather than obscuring it with the more formal language of the time. Still, you cannot miss the unique personalities this couple had. They were definitely one of a kind in their era. I particularly appreciated that Horan did not just share their passionate love. She shared their highs and lows, as any marriage has.

Horan did get a little long-winded at times. In the interest of pace, I would have preferred some passages to contain less details. But, one cannot fault her for being thorough. This is, after all, based on the real lives of two people. I can hardly imagine someone deciding what the important parts of my life story are and only including those.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky is a fun read. It takes you all over the world in time when world travel was available to few put the rich. You see Louis and Fanny in the best of times and the worst, rich and poor, in sickness and in health. If you are interested in turn of the century history, literary history, or just a good relationship story, you will enjoy this book.

Don't miss your opportunity to win a free copy! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. You can enter today, tomorrow, and Friday. I'll announce the winner on Facebook on Monday!

Pages: 496
Date Completed: February 15, 2014

*to read others' thoughts on Under the Wide and Starry Sky, check out the full tour schedule*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Her selflessness and her kindness. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. My mom's thoughtfulness and determination. Just found your blog- looks good!

    1. Welcome, Jenna! Always glad to have a new reader!

  3. I'm really looking forward to this book since I love Stevenson but don't know anything about his personal life!

    Thanks for being on the tour.