Fanny, an aspiring artist still tied to her unfaithful first husband when they meet in 1875, is fiery, courageous, and the mother of two living children. Louis, a younger man whose frailty belies a joyous, energetic spirit, dreams of writing full-time. While he perfects his craft, she becomes his protector and editor-collaborator, accompanying him across Europe and America and finally to Samoa in hopes of healing his weak lungs.
This is more than just another novel designed to honor the unsung accomplishments of a famous man’s spouse, though. Equally adventurous and colorful, Louis and Fanny could each command the story singlehandedly. Together, they are riveting and insightfully envisioned, with moving depictions of how their relationship transforms over time. Horan also explores relevant social concerns, such as cultural imperialism and xenophobia, and how Stevenson’s life influenced his literary themes.
An exhilarating epic about a free-spirited couple who traveled the world yet found home only in one another.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky will be published by Ballantine in January (hb, $26.00, 496pp). I wrote up this starred review for Booklist's October 1st issue, then I reread the novel a second time in order to interview the author for next February's Historical Novels Review. This is a long book, and it took me a good week and a half to read initially, time very well spent; I discovered many additional nuances upon a second reading.