NOTE: I was given early access to this novel in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press. Publication: October 4, 2022.
Once in a while, you find an historical novel that offers just a perfect combination of true historical events, original story, and detailed (even quirky) research. And what a treat it is! HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese is just such a novel. Awarded five stars on Goodreads.
The “Hester” of the title refers to Hester Prynne, the heroine of Nathanial Hawthorne’s book, THE SCARLET LETTER. And as Albanese explains in her own Notes and Acknowledgements, the premise of this book is “What if Hester Prynne told her own story?” Because, after all, isn’t it plausible that Hawthorne drew from his own experiences in writing a romance about doomed love?
The heroine of THIS book is Isobel, a Scottish immigrant, talented embroiderer, and descendant of a woman accused of witchcraft. Isobel and her husband wind up in Massachusetts in the late 1820s, where they hope to establish a more prosperous life in the New World. That’s where Isobel really puts her formidable skills to the test.
Along the way, there is a sub-plot about enslaved people living in the North and those trying to capture and return them to their Southern “owners” to collect rewards. I picked up a bit of knowledge about ships and their various uses at the time. And who knew I’d find the details of how women’s clothes were made fascinating? Also, the book touches on synesthesia, which I knew little about.
Isobel’s story is inventive, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. It’s a novel about the nature of love, about learning who is truly trustworthy, and about relying on oneself to find happiness. I think I read this over a period of 36 hours. It’s really just a wonderful and completely captivating read!
More about the author, Laurie Lico Albanese.