Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Request Book Kit

Book & Author

The Book
Wait…Robert Louis Stevenson had a love affair with a woman 10 years older than him?  He loved her so much he followed her to California, even though she had gone back to her slandering husband?  Yes–it’s all true and the basis for this book.  Read it to find out more.

The Author
How was it that Nancy Horan, a native Midwesterner who moved to Puget Sound because of her husband –an “outdoors fanatic”–came across the story of Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson?  This interview that aired on The Today Show contains the answer to this question and many more:

Quote from the book

In the end, what really matters? Only kindness. Only making somebody a little happier for your presence.

Discuss

Here are some topics from the book that will stimulate your group’s conversation:

  • Younger man, older woman, different nationalities–at first glance Fanny and Robert Louis seem like an very unlikely match.  What is it that draws them together?
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous literary legacies.  Are there Jekyll and Hyde elements in Louis, Fanny or the other characters in this book?
  • Many of us feel the need to shape a story out of the facts of our lives.  Do RLS and Fanny do this, and in doing so do they create mythical stories about themselves or each other?

More discussion questions are available from Reading Group Guides.

Enhance

The artist John Singer Sargent did a portrait of Stevenson entitled aptly Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife.  Have the group members examine this portrayal of the couple and discuss how it relates to what they know about RLS and Fanny from the book.  While I posted an image of the painting below, I highly recommend checking out the book Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends by Richard Ormand which includes an illustration and entry about the painting.  It wasn’t until I looked at that book that I realized that Fanny isn’t just covered up by a bunch of blankets–she’s actually wearing an exquisite Indian Sari.  It’s available in the Arts and Crafts section of the Library at 759.13 ORM.roberl-louis-stevenson-and-wife

Here’s a fun snack idea: Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem Fairy Bread seems to be the 54f65f6e3b196_-_fairy-bread-sandwiches-del0114-xlargeinspiration behind a popular snack in Australia.  These fairy bread sandwiches would be a lovely and colorful addition to your meeting.

Interact

Have you or your group read Under the Wide and Starry Sky?  Would you recommend it to other groups?  Comment on this post and let us know your thoughts.