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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Nancy Horan's second novel – recently chosen for the “Today” show book club – examines the marriage of “Treasure Island” author Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, American Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne.

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Under the Wide and Starry Sky,
by Nancy Horan,
Random House,
496 pp.

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Nancy Horan’s first novel, “Loving Frank,” delved into the tumultuous relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, his lover and muse. It also is credited with kick-starting a subgenre of historical novels focusing on the almost-famous spouses of famous men.

In the six years since, we’ve had stories about Hemingway’s wife, Edgar Allan Poe’s wife, Charles Lindbergh’s wife (who, it must be said, was an author in her own right), and Everest mountaineer George Mallory’s wife.

Now Horan's follow-up novel, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, which was recently chosen for the “Today” show book club, examines the marriage of “Treasure Island” author Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, American Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. The couple cover more miles than a pirate ship under full sail as they search for a climate where Stevenson, who was an invalid most of his 44 years, could breathe.

The two meet in France in 1876. She is 35, unhappily married, and a mother of three. He is a decade younger and in ill health. For him, it is love at first sight. She, on the other hand, prefers his tall and handsome cousin (also called Robert Stevenson, just to keep things confusing).

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