“Stolen Beauty,” by Laurie Lico Albanese, is the book you want to immerse yourself in right now, sink deep within its enticing pages, and get very comfy. Because you will not come up for air anytime soon.
Two years ago “The Woman In Gold” was a movie. It was all the rage. Everyone saw it. We all love Helen Mirren. And what a story. After all, the movie was based on a true story. The non-fiction book had been written called “The Lady In Gold” by Anne-Marie O’Connor. Lots of oohing and aahing over that one.
Now, Laurie Lico Albanese brings us a novel about the woman in gold. “Stolen Beauty” is this novel. It’s quite simply amazing. For those few of you out there who may not know what I am talking about; there are bound to be a few, the subject of a very important painting by the brilliant artist Gustav Klimt was a Jewish woman named Adele Bloch-Bauer. It was her portrait that drew hordes of art lovers to Vienna to see it up close. This novel tells her story in two voices: her own and her niece. The time frame goes from 1886 until 2006. It’s a stunning telling and one not to miss.
What I absolutely adored about this novel is that so much is factual. So much research went into this wonderful book. But, since it’s a novel, Albanese was able to get into the minds of the characters and put words into their mouths, literally. I think it truly makes the story pop. This is not something you can do with a bio. Adele and Maria come alive right before our very eyes.
Who was Gustav Klimt?
An Austrian painter who went on to become a legend. He was a lover, a womanizer, and father to many illegitimate children, and the man who painted one of the most famous portraits in the world: The Woman In Gold.
Beginning in 1938 Maria’s story starts the novel. She was a love-struck newlywed when Hitler came to Austria. She being the niece of Adele. Adele being the subject of one of the most famous paintings in the world. Maria is about to have the shock of her young life as will the entire Austrian country. War is coming, and soon. People are suddenly preparing to flee…
The second chapter is Adele’s and starts with her childhood. We get to see how she lived and how well-off they were. And how very strong she was even as a young person. She marries young to a much older man. She does it for a reason. She wants her freedom and her father keeps her strictly under his rule. She makes a pact with her soon-to-be husband; one he keeps. Marriage, but with an understanding.
The scenes of Adele being painted by Klimt are sensuous and daring. Albanese has certainly caught the moment and then some. My interest in Klimt has been peaked. Not only his art, but his life. I will forever picture him in his old brown robe with a paint brush in hand.
Albanese has managed to capture the essence of the story in such a way that I feel like I know these people. Immigration is a big issue here. Many Europeans fled to this country during the way. Our country is filled with them. And now we are experiencing similar times. Each family that fled brings with them their own personal story. We are a country constructed of immigrants. And this story is one I am happy to know.
Even though I knew how the story would end, I found my heart beating faster as the pages neared the end. I loved learning about an important master artist. And I loved finding out Adele’s story.
You are going to want to put this novel on your TBR list this year. And bookclubs rejoice: this is perfect for you!
I received a gorgeous finished hard cover of “Hidden Beauty” in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely LOVED it! Thanks Atria Books.