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Stolen Beauty: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2017
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"Albanese artfully weaves Adele’s story with Maria’s harrowing life under the Nazis, and reflections on marriage and fidelity. But it’s hard to read Stolen Beauty without seeing ugly echoes in today’s headlines, with the clarion call of 'America first' and immigrants singled out as 'the problem.' Seven decades after World War II, have we learned nothing?" (USA Today)
"This sensual and mesmerizing novel brings to vivid life Gustav Klimt and his greatest muse and model, Adele Bloch-Bauer. For fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Paula McLain's Circling the Sun, Stolen Beauty is a must-read. I tore through the pages." (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train)
"Laurie Lico Albanese has given us a powerful and important tale of love and war, art and family. Filled with lush prose and vivid historical detail, Stolen Beauty is a work simultaneously intimate and sweeping in its scope. I was transported; I loved being swept up into the glorious, golden era of fin de siecle Vienna." (Allison Pataki, New York Times Bestselling Author of SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN)
“Satisfying…Fans of romantic suspense with an art historical bent will appreciate the vigor of Albanese's reimagining of the family saga behind the masterpiece long regarded as Vienna's Mona Lisa.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“With her opening sentence, Albanese draws readers into a world of glamour, art, intrigue, power and fear…In this complex yet utterly readable novel, historical characters are brought to life against the setting of a city on the verge of artistic greatness and societal collapse. Albanese treats thorny moral issues with clarity and depth. Fans of Philippa Gregory, Tracy Chevalier, and those who enjoyed the film Woman in Gold won’t be able to put it down.” (Library Journal, starred review)
"With Stolen Beauty Laurie Lico Albanese has effected a perfect marriage between the Vienna of the early years of the 20th century and the Vienna of the Anschluss and the Nazi Occupation. This is particularly remarkable because the mood and tone of the alternating chapters are so different. One wants to dwell or linger on the rich pleasures of the earlier period; one is held in frozen horror by the author's realization of Nazi brutality...Ms. Albanese understands and powerfully shows how people can be comfortably blind to the realities of others' resentment and hatred...you cannot read this book without being made aware of the recurring, perhaps never wholly absent, corrupting power of greed, envy and hatred, a deforming hatred which allows us to see others as objects, not people. Stolen Beauty is a work of art itself--one that is simultaneously alarming and comforting." (Wall Street Journal)
"Stolen Beauty is painfully topical, reminding us in excruciating detail what happens when prejudice wins… an irresistible story, we're taken from the refined worlds of classical music, exquisite gowns and sumptuously appointed homes to the hate-fueled politics that ravaged Austria … Too often when books alternate between different characters and different times the result is jarring and tiresome. Though each woman is nuanced enough to support an independent novel, the intertwining makes for a stronger, more compelling story.” (NJ Star Ledger)
“Readers will be swept away by the depth of feeling and sensuous writing; whether depicting the salons of Vienna or its slums, the ballroom dances of debutantes or the takeover of a textile factory by German troops, Klimt fervently sketching, or the relaxed atmosphere of a coffee house, Albanese’s prose brings the people and the times to life. This novel is a bonanza of information about art history, philosophy, feminism, war, and love.” (Historical Novel Society, Editor's Pick)
“Albanese has written a gripping historical novel that revolves around the lives of two extraordinary women who live in extraordinary times… The well-paced stories of both women, told in alternating chapters, are presented in clear, crisp language, beautifully described settings, and credible dialogue that moves each woman’s story forward, compelling readers to keep the pages turning, as do the historical elements of the novel…With all the elements of a good novel—love, sex, tense relationships, events spiraling out of control, family dynamics, personal conflict as well as war—coupled with real people and true history, this accessible novel of strong women, self-discovery, evolving social mores, artistic challenges, and a rapidly changing world makes for satisfying reading, whether one’s interest is primarily women, history, art, or life in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities in the time of Freud and free love.” (New York Journal of Books)
"Incredibly delicious to read...[Stolen Beauty] uniquely delivers intelligent plot, literary substance, and emotional impact...Albanese’s dazzling descriptions depict each moment’s contemporary arts movements and real-life artists of the time, following these characters into the new center of Western culture...Stolen Beauty colors and enhances the true drama of the life of Adele Bloch-Bauer, known to the world as the Lady in Gold." (Jewish Book Council)
“Impeccably researched.” (The Jewish Voice)
"Albanese’s novel will appeal to readers interested in such themes as love, self-discovery, and women’s empowerment and to fans of the historical, art-based fiction of Susan Vreeland and Tracy Chevalier." (Booklist)
“Powerful, dynamic storytelling.” (RT Magazine)
“Courage and beauty are the banners waving over the double heroines of this truth-telling novel. Adele's suspenseful story and the terrifying narrative of her niece, Maria, capture both fin-de-siècle Vienna and the rise of Nazism. Like the paintings of Klimt, Stolen Beauty both glitters and darkens in its presentation of vibrant life and dreadful death.” (Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife; Abundance, a Novel of Marie Antoinette; and The Fountain of St. James Court, or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman)
“Stolen Beauty is the most stunning depiction of the creation of a work of art—situating it in personal and political history—that I've read since Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy. Albanese's portrait of the brutality of the Nazi occupation of Austria and its seizure of art is unmatched.” (Louise DeSalvo, author of The Art of Slow Writing)
“Stolen Beauty is one of those rare, captivating novels that flies us through time, transports us across continents and oceans and challenges us to imagine the unimaginable, to reckon with the cruel forces of history and to marvel at the perseverance of the human spirit in the face of it.” (David Anthony Durham, author of Pride of Carthage)
About the Author
Laurie Lico Albanese has published fiction, poetry, journalism, travel writing, creative nonfiction, and memoir. Her books include Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir, Lynelle by the Sea, and The Miracles of Prato, co-written with art historian Laura Morowitz. Laurie is married to a publishing executive and is the mother of two children. To learn more visit her at LaurieLicoAlbanese.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
The impact of the highly creativeSecession art movement in the waning years of the Hapsburg Empire is the opening for a poignant double story featuring fascinating people who lived in the artistic, creative Vienna of the early 20th Century. The primary story line involves Adele Block-Bauer, art patron and Muse of Gustav Klimt, the painter at the centre of the period's Viennese art world. The second story line involves Adele's niece Maria, who carries the story from the Holocaust to the present day. Both story lines are united by Klimt's masterpiece "Woman in Gold". Alternating chapters contrast the emergence and success of both these strong women in the male-dominated societies of their times.
Stolen Beauty blends historical fact with highly believable imagined conversations derived from extensive research, transcending the usual art novel genre. If you've seen the wonderful movie "Woman in Gold," this novel provides the back story and emotional setting for its protagonists. Superbly written, Stolen Beauty has enormous power and emotional impact, and is highly recommended.
Sometimes referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of Vienna, the golden portrait completed in 1907 had a tumultuous history: stolen from its Jewish owners by the Nazis, it wound up after World War II in Vienna’s Belvedere art museum. A protracted legal suit returned it to Adele’s family in 2006, who subsequently sold it to the cosmetics company magnate Ronald Lauder for $135 million. You can see it today at Lauder’s Neue Galerie in New York.
While the movie focused most of its attention on the legal fight, “Stolen Beauty” tells the story of Adele and her niece, Maria Altmann. (Maria’s battle to wrest the portrait from the Belvedere is covered in the last 35 pages of this 300-page book.) Alternating chapters, told in first person by Adele and Maria, paint vivid portraits of Belle Epoque Vienna and the horrors the Nazi Anschluss perpetrated on the Jews of the city beginning in 1938.
Adele Bauer is portrayed as an intelligent woman whose only escape from the “box” of her family’s social constraints is to marry a much older but sympathetic man. (She was 19 when she wed 35-year-old Ferdinand Bloch.) She is mesmerized by the work of Gustav Klimt, and agrees to be the subject of a painting he is planning of the Biblican heroine Judith, who decapitated the Assyrian general Holofernes.
Although she is married, Adele’s sexual awakening begins with Klimt: “He touched the gold necklace at my throat. I noticed bits of blue paint under his fingernails. Up close he smelled of the turquoise air in the countryside, blue water and snow, and the suggestion of animals waking from hibernation.”
Maria is a more conventional woman who feels like a fairytale princess when she marries handsome Fritz Altmann, a man whose kisses tasted “of cinnamon and stars” and who “moved like a panther in his tuxedo as he crossed the room toward me.” But shortly after their marriage, the Nazis are welcomed into Vienna. Fritz’s family’s textile business is confiscated—or “Aryanized,” as the Nazis put it—and they lose everything. As her husband withdraws into depression, Maria “began to remember the darker Grimm’s stories: the ones where the children died.”
Maria draws on resources she didn’t know she had in order to escape Austria and eventually come to America. It is only after Fritz’s death, when she is a widow in her 80s, that she begins pursuing the stolen painting.
Laurie Lico Albanese is a master at this niche genre of art history fiction, where the story of the creation of a masterwork is described, as well as the humans who painted it, inspired it and craved it. (Fortunately, a copy of the Adele Bloch-Bauer portrait is placed on the end paper of the book.) She does a marvelous job explaining the social upheaval that preceded World War I, the horrors of World War II and the sorrow and bitterness of refugees who can never return home.
Historical fiction, provides insights into the emotional responses of its characters to the events that affect their daily lives. This story vividly portrays in stunning contrast how one can have everything one day (wealth, prestige, family) and be stripped of it the next. We learn as much from STOLEN BEAUTY, as from history books.
STOLEN BEAUTY is a compelling story, told in a compelling way, by a gifted writer.
She does it.
The story of Adele and Klimt and making of the now famous painting is intriguing and nicely told.
The story of the family member escaping Germany and then fighting for the painting to return to the family is suspenseful.
The writing is almost spare and always lively, and even though most everyone who knows the the Woman in Gold story knows how it ends, the closing is still powerful.
Right at the top among my favorite books I have read this year.