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Un­der the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Ho­ran

Serve Daily - - NETWORKING LIGHTS - By Deb­bie Bal­zotti

Ihave two hob­bies that go to­gether well – travel and read­ing. When I’m headed to a new place I look for a good his­tor­i­cal fic­tion book to add to the ex­pe­ri­ence and bring the past to life. I could choose a dry, bor­ing text to get the facts, but that’s not va­ca­tion read­ing for me.

I read Un­der the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Ho­ran as part of a visit to Ed­in­burgh in May. We didn’t ex­actly take the road less trav­eled, but did veer off the Royal Mile to visit Lady Stair’s home ded­i­cated to the Scot­tish writ­ers Sir Wal­ter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Steven­son. All long-dead lit­er­ary celebri­ties as fas­ci­nat­ing as the char­ac­ters they im­mor­tal­ized.

Robert Louis Steven­son comes to life in Ho­ran’s book. This is the au­thor who wrote the fa­mous clas­sics: A Child’s Gar­den of Verses, Trea­sure Is­land, Kid­napped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

She writes the story of Steven­son and his wife Fanny Os­bourne. Their love story is far from tra­di­tional or pre­dictable. A 35 year old Amer­i­can woman, flee­ing a phi­lan­der­ing hus­band, meets a 25 year old Scot who wants to give up be­ing a lawyer and be­come a writer.

The story starts in 1875 with an in­tro­duc­tion to Fanny as she and her two chil­dren sail the At­lantic to­wards Bel­gium. A few months later Fanny and Louis meet, but it will be a few years be­fore they ac­tu­ally marry. The novel ends with the death of Louis in Samoa in 1894.

If I ever travel to Samoa, I’ll bring this won­der­ful book along with me to read again. It trav­eled by ship, train and bus with me from across Eng­land to Ed­in­burgh and was a great com­pan­ion.

Ho­ran writes, “Un­der the Wide and Starry Sky is a novel in­spired by ac­tual events in the lives of Robert Louis Steven­son and Fanny Van de Grift Steven­son. Their letters and pub­lished works, along with those of their fam­i­lies and friends, pro­vided the main sources for this book. In at­tempt­ing to bring to life these ex­tra­or­di­nary char­ac­ters, I have oc­ca­sion­ally put into their mouths their own writ­ten words. That said, nu­mer­ous letters and diary en­tries are in­vented.”

I en­joyed Ho­ran’s last book, Lov­ing Frank, which was an­other well re­searched his­tor­i­cal fic­tion love story about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borth­wick writ­ten in 2007. When I saw that she had fi­nally pub­lished an­other book in 2013, I knew it would be a good one.

By Nancy Ho­ran

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