Skip to Main Content

Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by Nancy Horan

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by Nancy Horan

  1. Love and Sacrifice:

    • How do the central characters, Fanny and Louis, demonstrate their love for each other throughout the novel? Discuss the sacrifices they make for their relationship and how these sacrifices shape their lives.
  2. Artistic Inspiration:

    • Both Fanny and Louis are artists in their own right. How does their creative process influence their relationship and their individual pursuits? How do their artistic endeavors intersect with their personal lives?
  3. Gender Roles and Expectations:

    • Fanny defies societal expectations of women in the late 19th century by pursuing her own interests and desires. In what ways does she challenge traditional gender roles? How do other characters react to her unconventional behavior?
  4. Travel and Exploration:

    • The novel takes place in various locations, including Scotland, France, and the South Pacific. How does the couple's nomadic lifestyle shape their relationship and their understanding of the world? How do the different settings contribute to the themes of adventure and discovery?
  5. Illness and Resilience:

    • Both Fanny and Louis face significant health challenges throughout the novel. How do they cope with illness, and how does it affect their relationship? Discuss the theme of resilience and the ways in which the characters overcome adversity.
  6. Literature and Legacy:

    • Robert Louis Stevenson is known for his literary works, including "Treasure Island" and "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." How does the novel explore his writing process and the creation of his famous works? What impact do Fanny and Louis's experiences have on their artistic legacies?
  7. Colonialism and Cultural Exchange:

    • Fanny and Louis's travels take them to places influenced by colonialism, such as the South Pacific islands. How does the novel address the complexities of colonialism and cultural exchange during this time period? How do the characters navigate their own identities within these contexts?
  8. Marriage and Partnership:

    • Fanny and Louis's relationship is central to the novel. How does their marriage evolve over time? Discuss the dynamics of their partnership, including their moments of conflict and intimacy.
  9. Historical Context:

    • Explore the historical backdrop of the novel, including the social, political, and cultural events of the late 19th century. How do these historical factors influence the characters' lives and decisions?
  10. Adaptation and Interpretation:

    • "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" is a fictionalized account of real historical figures. How does the author balance historical accuracy with creative storytelling? Discuss the challenges and opportunities of adapting real-life events into a novel.

Nancy Horan is an American author known for her historical fiction novels based on the lives of real historical figures. Born Nancy Ann King on May 1, 1953, in Washington, D.C., she grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. Horan earned a degree in English and journalism from Indiana University and later pursued graduate studies in English and creative writing at Southern Methodist University.

Before embarking on her career as a novelist, Horan worked as a journalist, editor, and teacher. She wrote for various publications, including newspapers and magazines, before shifting her focus to fiction writing.

Horan gained widespread acclaim with her debut novel, "Loving Frank" (2007), which tells the story of the passionate and scandalous relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. The novel was a New York Times bestseller and received numerous awards and nominations, including the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction.

Following the success of "Loving Frank," Horan continued to write historical fiction novels inspired by real-life figures. Her second novel, "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" (2014), explores the love story between Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. Like her debut novel, "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" was also well-received by readers and critics alike.

In addition to her novels, Horan has contributed essays and articles to various publications. She is known for her meticulous research and attention to historical detail, which brings her characters and settings to life.

Nancy Horan currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, where she continues to write and explore new subjects for her fiction. Her works have garnered praise for their vivid storytelling, rich historical context, and compelling portrayal of complex relationships.


Westwood Public Library

Main Library

660 High Street
Westwood, MA 02090
Email Main Library

Islington Branch

273 Washington Street
Westwood, MA 02090
Email Branch Library