Friday, January 6, 2023

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Edinburgh for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they've arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic––leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.

When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows––while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward's safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?

In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country's complicated past, and learns that America's ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel's story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a "real" American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of "unusual" women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.

A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published Oct 4, 2022 by
St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

I was drawn to this book because of its reference to Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter. And no I have not read it but I want to and maybe now that I’ve gotten a glimpse into his possible motivation have moved it up higher up on my tbr pile.

It is the early 1800’s when young Hester sails from Scotland to America. She had an interesting upbringing with a history that goes back to 1662 with relatives named as witches. Her mother instilled a love of needlework which came with an unique ability. Once she arrives in Salem, husband in tow, her life changes after meeting Hawthorn.

Hester was an entertaining read, it was well written with accuracy to history and life style of that time period. Her determination to be independent from a husband far away is a journey for Hester with consequences.

This is not the author's first book, I will definitely be looking up her backlist.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off my shelf challenge. (#74)

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