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Laurie Lico Albanese Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Lynelle By the Sea (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Miracles of Prato (With: Laura Morowitz) (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
Stolen Beauty (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon
Hester (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir (2004)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Calligraphy In Ten Easy Lessons (1984)Description / Buy at Amazon
Resumes For Successful Women (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon

Laurie Lico Albanese is an American author of historical and literary fiction books. Her 2022 novel Hester is a prequel and retelling of the classic novel The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her book Stolen Beauty tells the story of Viennese women whose fates are tied to Klimt and his painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Albanese also co-authored The Miracles of Prato, a book about a renaissance painter named Fra Filippo.

The Scarlet Letter was one of the books that most American high school students were forced to read. It’s a book that most American readers know all too well and inspired Laurie Albanese to write a story along similar lines.
Hester is a beautifully written book with scenes which are so detailed and easy to imagine. It’s set in 17th-century Scotland, and we meet four-year-old Isobel Gowdie as her mother teaches her how to create letters with a needle. The letters are supposed to be black, but Isobel has been cursed or blessed, depending on your viewpoint, with multiple sensory experiences/ synesthesia. She sees words as colors and stitches the letters according to her vision. When her mother smacks are knuckles, Isobel can already see fear in her eyes because her mother doesn’t want people to call her daughter crazy and a witch. During this period, witches were either burned or hanged.

A century later and we meet Isobel Gamble, the descendent of Gowdie is hired to a needlework shop by her mother, a place without colors. But Isobel wishes to be a pattern-maker but has been taught to fear anything linked to witchcraft. She accepts the proposal when she encounters a man who promises her a sewing room. But that’s just a promise, and the man’s poor decisions see them bound for America.

As they arrive in America, Isobel sees opportunities, rekindling her dream of embroidery pattern making. But each day in Salem haunts her as anything linked to witchcraft doesn’t get spared. She crosses paths with that Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the two feel attracted from their first encounter.

Isobel is a well-woven character you will easily connect with. She lives in a time when women were supposed to depend on a man, but despite this, she envisions the New World as an opportunity for her. She is clever, and her boldness comes out easily though she needs to keep her temper in check.

This enthralling story is wrapped in a mystery, with the underlying topic of safeguarding one’s remarkable skill, which at the time was considered witchcraft. The narrative tackles the captivating theme of synesthesia, a specific unique condition in which letters are paired with certain colors. And Nathaniel Hawthorne is tormented by the history of his ancestor, a judge in the 1692 Salem witch trials when he encounters a young woman who is an exceptionally talented needleworker. This thread is interwoven with an intriguing story. Nathaniel Hawthorne desired solitude to devote himself to being a writer after college, yet evidence indicates that he was more of a rule-breaker in college. Did the change occur so abruptly, or was there more to it?

Stolen Beauty is a story for those who love Gustav Klimt’s paintings. It is an enjoyable and exciting book as Klimt, his work and the society depicted through his art are all vividly brought to life through the perspective of fictionalized Adele Bloch-Bauer.
It’s no doubt that Adele knew Klimt since one of his most famous artworks is of her. He created two portraits of her, and she is commonly believed to be the inspiration or the model behind at least one other completed work of art. At the same time, it has been widely debated whether Klimt and Adele were lovers. There is no solid evidence, so there is plenty of chance for the author to bring the characters to life, and Albanese does this well.

Adele is depicted as an intellectual, spirited young woman who is as well-schooled as any woman of her time (the late 1800s to early 1900s) and a prominent member of Viennese society. In addition to being a major supporter of the arts alongside her much older husband, she was a social hostess. She hosted salons addressing the most contentious issues of the day. As vivid as the portraits of Adele and Klimt, the portrayals of early Viennese society brilliantly set the stage for understanding the origins of the Vienna Secession art movement. Also, the depictions of Vienna before the empire’s fall are pretty intriguing. This book contains much of the history of that region of Europe.

This novel is centered not just in Adele & Klimt’s world but also in the world of Adele’s niece Maria Altmann, who is settling into married life with her loving husband some forty years later. Sadly, the year is 1938, and her narrative begins as Hitler’s army marches into Vienna. As Jews, even non-practicing ones, are tormented in the streets, forced to flee the nation, and robbed of all their possessions, we attempt to bond with Maria as we see the art being stolen and removed from its rightful owners. In another thread of the book, we observe the work created during the Nazi era, generating a visceral and unpleasant reaction.

The struggle for the return of Klimt’s artwork, which occurs at the end of the book, is exciting and focuses on the legal side of things; it is written lightly and is not too involved for people who aren’t overly immersed in courtroom dramas. This chapter is written quite eloquently and is very well edited, resulting in a unified but not excessive exposition of everyday life and fairly recent events that led to the return of the artwork to the descendants from whom it was stolen.

Their experiences are presented in alternate storylines. After examining a little of history, it appears that the author did much research on the story of this artwork and these women. It may seem to some that the art looted by the Nazis is insignificant compared to the unfathomable number of lives lost during the Holocaust. Still, it reflects the fact that in addition to the agony and loss of life, everything was also taken. Taking her case to the courtroom was a means of justice for Maria. Highly recommended for historical fiction enthusiasts. A superb novel that will capture your attention from beginning to end. It depicted Vienna and the era so well and provided an insightful look into the lives of the very wealthy of the day.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Laurie Lico Albanese

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