Review: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese


☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆




Atria Books | 320 pages | ISBN: 9781501131981 | February 7, 2017 | $26.00

eBook: 320 pages | ISBN: 9781501132001 | $12.99

What it’s About:

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 1900 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 exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house 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 home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

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 intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.

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One artist, two women, two wars, and strong family ties are showcased in Stolen Beauty as the story behind Gustav Klimt’s renowned paintings is told.

Young, intelligent Adele Bloch-Bauer meets Klimt in 1903 Vienna.  She longs to have the freedoms that men enjoy—both academically and socially.  Klimt ignites her sexually and intellectually.  While Adele pursues her interests, mounting anti-Semitism threats her mostly non-practicing Jewish circle.

Thirty-five years later, as Hitler’s Nazi regime is terrorizing Jews and relieving them of their valuable assets, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is thrust into the harsh reality of war-ravaged Vienna.   She will need her aunt’s tenacity and fortitude in order to help her family survive.

Albanese’s story of these two women is stunning.  Both women are strong but face different challenges.  They both find love, one finds romance, and both deal with betrayal and loss.  The two world wars and the holocaust provide a stark background to an otherwise glittering story.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fictional tale, in addition to the well-researched historic fact.  Albanese’s story is told from a new angle; art stolen by the Nazis and then misappropriated by various people and governments isn’t a new story, but Stolen Beauty provides readers with a richly detailed version of the painting’s creation as well as the rightful owners’ feeling of powerlessness in claiming what was taken from them.

Two narrators tell the story in two timelines. The plot is well paced, and the story layout is intriguing.  Stolen Beauty is a beautifully spun story about beautiful art, strong women, and trying times.


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Laurie Lico Albanese has published fiction, poetry, journalism, travel writing, creative nonfiction, and memoir. Her books include Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir, Lynelle by the Sea, and The Miracles of Prato, co-written with art historian Laura Morowitz. Laurie is married to a publishing executive and is the mother of two children. To learn more visit her at





Twitter: @Laurie_Albanese


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