Books

Nancy Horan's historical romance is latest TODAY Book Club pick

Jan. 23, 2014 at 8:51 AM ET

Video: A compelling read and mix of fact and fiction, author Nancy Horan takes readers on a journey into the dramatic relationship between “Treasure Island” author Robert Lewis Stevenson and his wife Fanny Van de Grift, detailing how she helped Stevenson find his voice.

The third TODAY Book Club pick is "Under the Wide and Starry Sky," the second novel by Nancy Horan, the celebrated author of "Loving Frank." Share your thoughts about Horan's windswept romance by joining the TODAY Book Club community, a fresh and interactive digital discussion series. RSVP to the Google Hangout with Nancy Horan, happening Thursday, March 6 at 11 a.m. ET., follow @TODAYsBooks and stay up to date with the TODAY Book Club newsletter. 

Book worms, get ready for a little romance: TODAY Book Club’s latest pick is Nancy Horan’s historical fiction, “Under the Wide and Starry Sky.”

Remember the old adage, behind every great man, there’s a great woman? In Robert Louis Stevenson’s case, it was true. Horan’s sweeping book centers around the famed “Treasure Island” author’s life with his wife and muse Fanny Van de Grift.

“I am led to great women by first becoming interested in the men, the artist,” Horan told TODAY’s Natalie Morales.

That was the seed for her first novel, “Loving Frank,” the best-selling portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright’s complicated relationship with one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Both were married when they met.

Horn uncovers a similarly complex and unconventional love affair in her latest book, which delves into the profound impact Van de Grift had on Stevenson’s writing.  

“They had a remarkable romance that truly led to some great creations of literature that are still influencing our lives today,” Marissa Schleicher, executive director of the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, told TODAY.

At the start of the novel, 35-year-old Van de Grift, a mother of three, leaves her philandering husband behind in San Francisco — an incredible feat for a woman in the 1870s. She travels to Europe, where she eventually meets the young but sickly Scottish writer. Once divorced, she moves around the world with Stevenson, from Switzerland to New York to Australia. Van de Grift becomes one of her husband’s toughest critics — but Stevenson wasn’t always receptive to his modern wife’s criticisms.

“She was adventurous. She was game,” Horan said. “She had a lot of grit. She was very inventive.”

Horan drew heavily from the couple's letters and Stevenson’s writings to paint a realistic portrait of their relationship, based on both fact and fiction.

“What I did with this book and also with the previous book is take the journey with these couples,” she told Morales.

Published by Ballantine Books, “Under the Wide and Starry Sky” hit bookstores on Jan. 21. Join in on the conversation by tweeting your thoughts with the hashtag #TODAYBookClub, and RSVP for a Google Hangout with author Nancy Horan and Natalie Morales on Feb. 27.

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