Monday, March 10, 2014

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Title:  Under the Wide and Starry Sky
Author:  Nancy Horan
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2013. 474 pages.
ISBN: 0345516532 / 978-0345516534

Book Source:  I read the book based on how much I enjoyed another of the author's works, Loving Frank.

Favorite Quote:  "When you have a gift, it isn't yours to keep to yourself. It's the reason you're here. It's your purpose."

"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."

So reads the inscription on the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson. The Scottish writer is buried on  the mountain top of Mount Vaea on the island of Samoa. The path leading to his grave site is called the "Road of Loving Hearts."

This book tells the story of the love of Stevenson's life and the tumultuous path of his relationship with Frances (Fanny) Matilda Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson.

It begins with the story of how Fanny comes from America to Europe in the 1870s to study art, and what circumstances lead her to the quiet artist's colony where she meets Robert Louis Stevenson. From there, the book charts the course of their relationship until Stevenson's death in 1894.

Fanny comes to Europe with her children to get away from her philandering husband. The relationship between Fanny and Stevenson flourishes even though she is married. The book follows their relationship. Does Fanny return to her husband? Does she stay in Europe? Does the relationship last? To what lengths will both go to be together? You can do a simple search on either person and get the answer or read it in this book as a beautiful story.

Parallel to their love story runs the story of Stevenson's writing career. He comes from a family of lighthouse designer. Upon deciding that is not for him, he studies law. Ultimately, he decides - against his family's wishes - to pursue writing. He does not meet with much success early on, but goes on to pen books that are now considered classics.

I was not familiar with the historical events before reading this book. I found myself doing research online to learn more about each of them and their children as I read the book. The book is fascinating because along with their story, it tells the story of the art community in 1800s Europe and draws a picture of a time and place.

However, I did not find this book quite as compelling as Nancy Horan's first book. This book is also about 100 pages longer than that first book. This book, while a wonderful story, just seems a little too long.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment