Laurie Lico Albanese
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“A powerful and important tale of love and war, art and family…I was transported.” —Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author
“Albanese artfully weaves Adele’s story with Maria’s harrowing life under the Nazis, but it’s hard to read Stolen Beauty without seeing ugly echoes in today’s headlines. Seven decades after World War II, have we learned nothing?” —USA TODAY
From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.
In the dazzling glitter of 1903 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also troubled by a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism as political hatred simmers in the shadows of Adele’s coffeehouse afternoons and cultural salons.
Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their stately home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her loved ones—and their history—alive.
Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazi rule? And what will become of the paintings for which her aunt sacrificed nearly everything?
Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Stolen Beauty juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.
The story bounces the reader back and forth between Adele Bloch-Bauer in the late 1800s-early 1900s and her niece Maria, in the 1930s-1940s. This device makes for a disjointed reading experience. Then the book jumps to Maria's life momentarily in the 1960s and then to the 2000s, when the art restitution struggle is recounted briefly. So the flow and pacing is at best awkward. Overall, the most impactful part of the book is the author's recreation of the fin de siecle life of the Bloch-Bauer clan and especially of Adele's dalliance with Klimt. All of this a recreation is of dubious validity.
I loved the story of the Bloch-Bauers and the history of Vienna. The love story of Adele and Klimt was beautifully expressed.