Thursday, March 27, 2014

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

Fanny’s life is anything but ideal for beneath the surface of what on the outside looks like a normal marriage is a husband who can’t keep his pants on. Fanny and the children escape to Belgium because Fanny’s pride cannot stand a philandering husband plus it will give her a freedom she has never known. But Fanny’s plans to study art goes bust when the art school that she and her daughter, Belle, wanted to attend declared that they don’t allow in women. Their stay in Belgium soon turns into a trip to Paris in search of a good doctor for Hervey the youngest of Fanny’s children has become quite ill. The women get to study their art and as Belle’s artistic flourish blossoms, Hervey’s health declines. Unspeakable tragedy ensues and Fanny finds herself on the way to the Hotel Chevillon, in the French countryside, to ease her mental breakdown brought on by such a tragic loss.

Unbeknownst to Fanny her life will be forever altered by this mental vacation for in the glorious beauty of the French countryside is where she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, whom everyone calls Louis. Louis is absolutely besotted with Fanny from the get-go but Fanny is not quite sure how she feels at first about this loud, adventurous Scotsman. Friendship soon sets in for Fanny and Louis, even though Fanny knows she should stay away from Louis to discourage his infatuation with her, but she cannot help but be drawn in by his love of life and his wonderful soul.

{This is one of my favorite parts of the book, that first hint of new love and even better yet a forbidden love. Fanny and Louis proceed cautiously in their new feelings for each other which teases the reader by building up the suspense of when the “magic” will happen!}

An affair begins and Fanny and Louis try to keep it a secret for as long as they can to avoid scandal because Fanny is still a married woman but a love that burns that brightly cannot stay secret for long. Fanny returns to Paris and is surprised by a visit from her husband, Sam, not long after she returns to the city. Afraid that Sam will find out about Louis they decide not to see each other while Sam is in town and even though this is tortuous for them they know it is a sacrifice that needs to be made. Sam eager for his family to return to the U.S. gives Fanny an ultimatum, either return with him or risk losing her children in the divorce. So of course as any mother would do she returns with Sam.

{Oh what a low-down thing for Sam to do, thank God times are different now but this seemed a common occurrence in those times when men would keep their wives in unhappy marriages by using the children as pawns.}

Devastated by the news that Fanny has returned to the U.S. with Sam, Louis soon finds himself on a ship headed for the same destination; but will he make it there alive with his health being so poor? Near death Louis is able to find Fanny and after much protestations on Fanny’s part about whether or not she would be able to divorce Sam or not Fanny finally decides that she cannot live without Louis.

{AAHHH! So romantic Louis is. His health has always been poor but he didn’t care if he died he had to get to Fanny. (Sigh!) Fanny is a little irritating in this part because here is the man you love who risked death for you yet you are not sure to the possible last second if you are right for each other or not. So even though I find this irritating it was a good move on the author’s part for it draws out the suspense of what Fanny is going to choose to do.}

I could go into great detail about what follows but I won’t I am just going to touch on the big events in hope that you will get to enjoy the little morsels I have left out.

Fanny and Louis obviously stay together for this is their love story! Against adversity and the tribulations that followed them all their lives, Louis and Fanny’s love is so enduring that it withstands all. I am not saying their marriage is perfect but when it is weighed down with issues that cause their marriage stress their marriage bends where others would break.

They live an adventurous life which is full of spirit and love.By the end of the book I was face deep in tissues sobbing like a baby and I felt that feeling you get when you read a really great book and you sigh out loud because it enchants your soul!

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