Under the wide and starry sky Robert Louis Stevenson Nancy HoranJANUARY 16 2014

From Nancy Horan, the New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes the improbable love story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.


Ambitious and often  breathtaking, this sweeping story spills over with spirited,  uncompromising life.’

Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife

     ‘A marvellous gift: an entirely new appreciation of Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne.’

Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure

‘Fans of Loving Frank will adore this authentic, richly detailed, and utterly captivating new novel from Nancy Horan. Under the Wide and Starry Sky is a globe-spanning literary wonder—the perfect book for those who read fiction in search of the truth.’   Jamie Ford, author of  Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Robert Louis Stevenson, his mother, his wife Fanny in Samoa

Robert Louis Stevenson and his family in Samoa (1891).

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium to study art – with her three children and nanny in tow. It’s a chance for this adventurous woman to start afresh, to make a better life for all of them, and to pursue her own desires. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her children repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who falls instantly in love with the earthy, independent, and opinionated belle Américaine.

Fanny, wife of Robert Louis Stevenson

Fanny, wife of Robert Louis Stevenson

Fanny however, doesn’t immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature rather than the law. In time though she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair – marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness over their almost two decades together.

Fanny becomes his wife, companion and muse – as Louis writes his classics, such as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The shared life of these two strong-willed individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any of Stevenson’s own unforgettable tales.

See Nancy talking to the New York Times here.

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.

Robert Louis Stevenson


~ ~ ~


‘Fascinating . . . a novel that shows how love and marriage can simultaneously offer inspiration and encumbrance.’—

The New York Times Book Review

‘Fanny and Louis are wild-hearted seekers, and Nancy Horan traces their  incredible journey fearlessly, plunging us through decades, far-flung  continents and chilling brushes with death. Ambitious and often  breathtaking, this sweeping story spills over with spirited,  uncompromising life.’

Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife

‘As she did so magically in Loving Frank, Nancy Horan brings to life a distant time and faraway places populated by characters at once familiar and delightfully new. By widening her lens to shine a light on the lives of those whom history usually ignores – the wives of famous men – Horan gives us a  marvellous gift: an entirely new appreciation of Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne.’

 Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure


‘It’s one thing to bring the past to life. It’s quite another to bring it back rich in all its glorious complications. Under the Wide and Starry Sky is that rare good thing, a novel that follows the voyage of a passionate and complicated marriage across the years, a marriage between two unforgettable questing spirits, nonetheless bound by the skeins of their time. Nancy Horan has done it again, capturing the entwined lives of Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson so uncannily, it reads like truth–and better. I loved every minute I had it in my hands.’

Sarah Blake, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress

‘Horan’s second novel (following Loving Frank) again mines the true story of a famous man and equally remarkable woman of history to impressive effect. This time, instead of Mameh Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright, the central couple is Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson … This beautifully written novel, neatly balanced between its two protagonists, makes them come alive with grace, humor, and understanding. Horan’s empathy for both Louis and Fanny allows her to capture their life together with all the complexity and nuance of a real-life relationship.’

Publishers Weekly

‘Horan’s spectacular second novel (following book-club favorite Loving Frank) has been worth the wait. Brimming with the same artistic verve that drives her complicated protagonists, it follows the loving, tumultuous partnership of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his Indiana-born wife, Fanny Osbourne … Equally adventurous and colorful, Louis and Fanny could each command the story singlehandedly. Together, they are riveting and insightfully envisioned … An exhilarating epic about a free-spirited couple who traveled the world yet found home only in one another.’

Booklist (starred review)

‘What an extraordinary story!  Throughout the novel, I felt I was right there with Fanny and Louis, sharing their hopes and hardships as they traveled the world.  The portrayal of their lives on Samoa was especially gripping.  Nancy Horan has transformed everything I thought I knew about Robert Louis Stevenson, and in Fanny – his passionate, independent American wife–she has created a woman whose struggles continue to haunt me.’

Lauren Belfer, author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light

‘Maybe it goes without saying that it’s a hard thing to chase a book as successful as Loving Frank with a second novel. For one thing, you worry it was an accident the first time around. The good news is that it wasn’t (an accident) – and Nancy Horan is back with another beautifully crafted story, and no signs of a sophomore slump.’

Pete Dexter, author of Paris Trout, winner of the National Book Award

~ ~ ~

Nancy Horan

Nancy Horan is the author of Loving Frank. She lives and writes on an island near Seattle. Her first novel, the story of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, was a New York Times bestseller and a Richard & Judy Book Club pick.

More photos of Fanny & Louis on our Pinterest board 

5 responses to “UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY – Nancy Horan”

  1. Elizabeth Schmoyer says:

    Loved the books . Read both for book club. Looking for a discussion guide for Under the Wide and Starry Sky.

  2. This is my very favorite book of 2014. I read a tremendous number of books…but rarely does the quality compare…the words inspire…not the joy unfolds…as in this one of a kind book which makes history come alive at the same time as our appreciation for the written word explodes. Kudos to Nancy Horan!…and many thanks for your rare talent.
    Michele Flood

  3. Christine jones says:

    I want to say how much I have enjoyed Nancy Horan’s two novels. I received ‘Under The Wide And Starry Sky’ for Christmas from my daughter-In-law and after reading it, went in search of ‘Loving Frank’. I appreciated the author’s rigorous research and subsequent sensitive nature towards both stories. Having passed both books onto my daughter, who also enjoyed them, it generated much discussion between us on so many levels! A heartfelt thanks for such superb work on two very different journeys.

Leave a Reply

Two Roads is an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.
Two Roads is a trademark of Hodder & Stoughton.
© 2011 - 2019 Hodder & Stoughton Limited.
Registered in England and Wales with company number 651692.
Registered address: Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ.

Privacy Notice|Terms & Conditions|Cookie Policy