Sunday, 11 May 2014

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

I greatly enjoyed Nancy Horan's novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, "Loving Frank", and was sure that Robert Louis Stevenson's life would be just as fascinating in Horan's new book, "Under the Wide and Starry Sky".
The connecting theme between the two books turned out to be the women who loved these men. Both Mamah Cheney and Fanny Osbourne fell so deeply in love with these men that they gave up everything, including their children.
Fanny Osbourne was married with three children when she fell in love with Stevenson. She left her home in San Francisco to live with him in France.  When her youngest son died, she returned to the U.S.A. to try to put her marriage back together, but when she sent a message to Stevenson "I'm lost and sick- need you", he dropped everything in Scotland and traveled to California- almost dying in the process.  When he arrived she was healthy and still married.  He wandered off and nearly died.
However, eventually they married and traveled the world to find a healthy climate for his fragile health.
They finally settled in Samoa, where they built a huge house and brought all their fine furniture (including a piano), paintings and china.  That is where Stevenson died at 44.


                                                                            Robert Louis Stevenson. 1850–1894

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.


Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, an American, married Robert Louis Stevenson in 1880.CrI was prepared to love this book, but it took a long time to really get involved in the book.  I considered quitting often.  By about page 150, I began to get so involved that I didn't want to put it down.

I expected to love this book, but really struggled through the first 150 pages.  At that point I became totally engrossed and didn't want to put it down. But the book is long and by page 400, I was again losing interest.
Much of the story seemed improbable but I know that the author had many resources to rely on and tried to pack all the details into the story.
It is often mentioned that they had no money, but they traveled constantly- England, Scotland, U.S.A., Switzerland, France.  They lived in fine hotels and rented private ships.  They were looking for a good climate for Louis' poor health.
There is great detail about his writing and the reactions of his friends in the literary community.  I think overall, my problem with the book is that too much was jammed into it.
Stevenson's most famous writings were: "Treasure Island", "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde". and "Kidnapped".  He also wrote "A Child's Garden of Verses".

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.


No comments:

Post a Comment