The Stolen Lady – by Laura Morelli – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Italian Renaissance, World War II)

I was SO excited to get find this book, expecting it would be a slam dunk – because I love reading about both the Renaissance (1472- 1520) and World War II (1939-1945). AND, I’m interested in art. But, I was disappointed. Award three stars on Goodreads, but maybe 3.5 stars is more accurate.

This story is told by three people:

  1. Anne Guichard – a young archivist working at the Louvre, on the brink of and throughout World War II.
  2. Bellina Sardi – a servant who helps raise her employer’s daughter, “Lisa” Gherardini— the girl who grows up to be the woman immortalized in the famous Mona Lisa painting.
  3. Leonardo da Vinci – a struggling artist of the Italian Renaissance who moves from one city in Italy to another, taking on assorted commissions, many of which he has trouble completing.

The focus of the historical novel is the painting of the Mona Lisa. How it came to be when Lisa’s prosperous husband commissioned a portrait of his wife, how the painting traveled around until it wound up in France, and about the risks taken by Louvre staff to protect it (and other great pieces of art) from Nazi looting. So much drama inherent in these stories, right? But somehow, the book felt at least 100 pages too long.

Leonardo da Vinci

While Laura Morelli switched back and forth in time, I found the chapters related to World War II much more compelling. Hiding great art during war time involved a colossal effort and much more danger than I imagined and that part of the narrative grew increasingly tense. But many of the Renaissance chapters seemed to drag. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in Leonardo’s or Bellina’s stories. I was! They just seemed to unfold VERY slowly. And I found I was NOT rushing to return to this novel, despite my interest in the subject matter.

Mona Lisa

I still recommend this historical fiction. Mostly for the fascinating story of the brave people who risked so much to protect so many art treasures during World War II.

Author Laura Morelli Image from her Website

More about the, Laura Morelli, art historian and author.

Here’s a link to more information about the hiding of French art during World War II.

1 Comment

  1. Such exciting story has been established on serious true historical background concerning with the events of the second world war. Morilli tried to build her plot upon such historical background to add certain excitement and suspense to her literary work. The Nazi occupation to France and the attempt of French resisters and Patriot to maintain their human heritage from being looting by Nazi troops. Those brave men and women tried to protect the content of Louvre museum which included more famous and priceless paintings of famous artists. Maintaining and securing human heritage seems so heroic and brave deed that deserved more appreciation from world. Actually the world human heritage has been liable to damages and destruction across different ages because of different wars and conflicts. More international human organizations have exerted more efforts to maintain such human heritage as possible as they can. 01028568875


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