26 October 2013

Under the Wide and Starry Sky; Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry SkyUnder the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Loving Frank so was interested in Horan's latest historical fiction look at an artistic figure and their life - that it was about Robert Louis Stevenson, an author I'd enjoyed as a young 'un, was icing on the cupcake.

There was much I didn't know about him beyond his being Scottish and dying in the Pacific. Apparently he had serious health issues, possibly tuberculosis (one doctor says yes, one says no), throughout his life. He also seems to have suffered from what I think we call "artistic temperment", that blend of selfishness and generosity that we forgive because of the end product. Fanny, an American married women with three children, flees her serial-cheater husband and goes to Paris where one son dies; distraught she takes a vacation in the French countryside where she meets first Bob Stevenson (not the author) and then Louis Stevenson (the author - they're cousins and it takes a little time to figure out which is which).

Neither are really likeable, and their relationship is fraught with ups and downs, complicated by finances, Louis' illness and what I'm guessing was bipolar disorder for Fanny. The descriptions of their lives together, the travels, health scares, good times and bad times are so well done it's clear that much research went into this. The author admits to inventing dialogue, which explains why they sound a little modern at times. That quibble aside, this could get younger readers more interested in an author they probably only know from Treasure Island.

ARC provided by publisher.

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