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Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese Book Review

Reasons For Reading This Book:

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese was the book of the month for November for the podcast book club The Readheads. This is a monthly podcast book club that I have been apart of since it was established in 2020. I love getting to hear the thoughts of the hosts each month. I was intrieged and excited to read this book because I read and enjoyed The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in high school. 

Content of This Book:

This book is a fictional telling of the personal life of Nathaniel Hawthorne and what lead him to write The Scarlet Letter. It is known that his other works of literature are based on his life and people in his life, so it can be assumed that the same is for The Scarlet Letter. Lauris Pico Albanese took it upon herself to write what she imaged Nathaniel Hawthorne's life was like and what influenced him to write the story of Hester Prynne and The Scarlet Letter. 

Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress with generations of secrets she has to keep hidden. In the early 1800s her and her husband Edward flee Scotland, her home country because Edward, an apothecary, developed and addiction to opium and has a pile of debuts he cannot repay. Shortly after arriving in Salem, Edward takes a job as a medic on a ship. He leaves Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible. In Salem, Isobel meets the young Nathaniel Hawthorne, with family secrets of his own they form an instant liking to one another. Once it becomes possible that Edward may not return from sea, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. This book examines the ideas of witchcraft, who is a 'real' American, ancestral shame, ambition, and women empowerment. 

What I Liked About This Book:

As someone who recently visited Salem I loved the descriptions of the setting. It brought me right back there. I loved that I read this book during October because it made me feel all the witchy vibes. From my experience in Salem and past knowledge of Salem from The Scarlet Letter I can say Laurie did her research and was spot on with the setting. I cannot think of a recent book that I have read that used color as a main theme. I am a extremely visual person and the use of color helped me to picture every little detail that Laurie was describing. Speaking of color, I appreciated and found the note to the reader about synesthesia very informative, as I had limited knowledge of the sensory phenomenon prior to reading this book. As a crafter, DIYer, and daughter of a seamstress I absolutely loved the embroidery and reading about the fabulous work of Isobel Gamble. I usually do not comment on this part of the book unless is has a big impact on me, but I bought this book as an ebook because I was traveling for work when I was reading it, if I ever come across this book in a thrift store or used book store I am going to buy it because the cover is stunning. The dark moody colors of the florals are perfect and they perfectly represent Isobel's embroidery. From listening to the podcast episode on this book, I feel like whether you have read The Scarlet Letter or not you can appreciate and enjoy this book. I will also say that past readers of The Scarlet Letter might enjoy and understand more of it. When it comes to the pace of the story it was quite steady from beginning to end with some slower or less interesting parts, but overall provided the reader with interest all the way through. I will not spoil the ending, but I loved the way Laurie concluded the book. All of the side stories were wrapped up and given a thorough conclusion. I also loved the flash forward. It gave me almost all of my answers to the questions I had about where the story had concluded. Overall this book took you on a very developed story of emotions and concluded with a satisfying ending. 

What I Disliked About This Book:

I found the flashbacks/entries about the past to be very confusing. I really had no appreciation for them until the end of the book. In my opinion they distracted from the main story and interrupted the flow of the book. I understand that they are meant to inform the reader of the past events of the witch trials and Isobel's family history. Even considering that I could have done without them. I feel as though Isobel could have somehow thought or retold the truly important pieces of information from these stories to catch the reader up instead of having the sections at the end of each chapter. Most of the events or parts of the story that stick out to me and that I remember most are not from these sections. Something that was not talked about during the podcast episode, but is something that I thought about throughout the entire book was calling Nathaniel, Nat. At first it really bothered me because I could not see people at that time giving others nicknames, but it has come to my attention that Laurie did a lot of research for this book and I can only assume that she found that people did use the nickname Nat for him. With all the characters who Isobel met in Salem there was the addition of side stories. I personally found some of them more interesting than others and cared to learn the ending of some and not others. It took me quite awhile to fully remember all of the characters and their stories. I get that they were used to add entertainment and depth to the plot because Isobel's story was not always that interesting, but at times I felt like the focus shifted. 

Would I Recommend This Book?

Yes, I would recommend this book. I would recommend it whether you have read The Scarlet Letter or not. The story is a worthwhile read, full of emotions, power, strength, grit and determination to make do with any situation you are put in. This book is beyond creative and pleasing to any crafters or lovers of art and beauty. This book is the perfect fall read.

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