Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry Sky tells the love story between the free-spirited, American-born, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne and Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, their adventures around the world, Fanny's editing and guiding of Stevenson's writings,  and how she nursed him through ill health so that he could continue writing. The couple eventually settled on the island of Upolu in Samoa with their family and there they built a home called Vailima. The book incorporates details from letters and journals from Fanny and Robert and family and friends.

 It's fascinating to read about the medical treatments from that time, the late Victorian era, the literary friendships that Fanny and Robert had with famous writers such as Henry James, and the setting for many of Stevenson's famous novels such as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The title comes from the poem, Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Under the wide and starry sky, Dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will. This be the verse you grave for me: Here he lies where he longed to be; Home is the sailor, home from sea, And the hunter home from the hill." Under the Wide and Starry Sky is like the novel Loving Frank also by Nancy Horan.

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