Hester

A Novel

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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 18 Oct 2022

Description

Named a Most Anticipated Book for Fall by Goodreads Washington Post New York PostBuzzFeed PopSugar Business Insider • An October Indie Next List Pick • An October LibraryReads Pick

"A hauntingly beautiful––and imagined––origin story to The Scarlet Letter." ––People

WHO IS THE REAL HESTER PRYNNE?

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 Glasgow 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, Laurie Lico Albanese's 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.

Named a Most Anticipated Book for Fall by Goodreads Washington Post New York PostBuzzFeed PopSugar Business Insider • An October Indie Next List Pick • An October LibraryReads Pick

"A...


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ISBN 9781250278555
PRICE $27.99 (USD)
PAGES 336

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Featured Reviews

This is how historical fiction should be written! A story of perseverance, persistence, and a bit of magic, Hester is a paragon of female empowerment. This is the first I've read of Laurie Albenese and it did not disappoint! I am enthralled with her ability to intertwine two movements in history one would not typically conjoin. The eloquent prose, vivid descriptions, the flawlessly flawed characters, the ingenious art of inverse perspective is captivating! Will recommend again and again!

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This book was sent to me by. Netgalley electronically for review… it is historical fiction but reads like nonfiction. A quick read…characters that are familiar in history…this author has written an ingenious story. Nathaniel Hawthorne as a character…fantastic…maybe we will read books with Poe or others as the main characters…I look forward to other books by this author.

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I just finished reading Hester, by Laurie Lico Albanese. This is such an unusual book that even describing it is a challenge. The setting is early 19th c. Salem. The protagonist is a woman with kinesthesia, which frightens people. For Isobel, the risk is always in being identified as a witch by people who do not understand her abilities. Isobel spends much of her time hiding who she is, which creates the central tension in the novel.

Hester is compelling. I hated to finish this book and leave these characters behind. The allusions to Hester Prynn are fascinating and are really another puzzle to solve. There are a lot of details and for some readers, who prefer a novel with brief descriptions, Hester might not be a good fit. That would be unfortunate.

In spite of the title, Hester is not a retelling of the Scarlet letter. Instead it is inspired by The Scarlet Letter "A". Readers should allow theselves to be transported back 200 years, where women led vastly different lives and under grave social restrictions.

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A haunting tale of a woman with kinesthesia who sees colors associated with people and words. With a Scottish ancestor who was accused of being a witch and escaped, she hides her abilities to protect herself and her family. With a gift for sewing and needlework, she longs to design and create beautiful clothing. That saves her life when she and her poppy-addicted husband move to America to start a new life. This is truly a love story, fraught with the difficulties of choosing a good man and the challenges of being a woman when women are not respected. Set in Salem, Massachusetts and sewn together with witch trial history and the end of slavery, this is a heart-rending story of trials and triumph. It is a story of strong women helping each other in many hidden ways. I'm still thinking about it. It occupies my mind and makes me appreciate having skills I have been able to use to support myself when relationships have failed me. Truly haunting. Beautifully written, past and present woven together in the resilient fabric of life.

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Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese is a historical fiction story that reimagines Hester Prynn- the famous heroine from ‘The Scarlet Letter’ as a real-life woman that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write his classic book. This novel is essentially historical fiction based on historical fiction…

The story follows Isobel Gamble, a young Scottish seamstress who embarks on a journey to the new world with her doctor husband Edward. The couple lands in Salem where threads of deceit and lies threaten to unravel the new life that Isobel has attempted to make for herself. When Edward leaves Isobel to be a medic on a ship, Isobel is forced to start from scratch in a strange land that offers no mercy or protection for the weak and vulnerable. Isobel finds creative ways to survive with her needle and thread which awakens family secrets and gifts that could either set her free or trap her in the snares of Salem’s cruelties.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, the yet to be famous author, begins interacting with Isobel and they soon realize they have fallen under each other’s spell. They both become entranced with each of their special talents -Nathaniel’s gift of storytelling and Isobel’s mesmerizing needlework. The more they interact with each other, the more powerful their talents become and the more their pasts begin to haunt them. Nathaniel is forced to grapple with his sordid family history of the witch trials, while Isobel must learn how to control her special ancestral talents, or else suffer the wrath of sin and guilt, in a place and time where being different could snag a thread and unravel the whole fabric of society.

At its core, Hester is a feminist survival story about the female creative power that has been suppressed and weaponized throughout history. Isobel is at constant odds with herself over whether she should embrace or shun her special gifts. Her talent for needlework reached new heights when she opened her heart to love but she struggled to accept her talent when she experienced unbearable pain. The tension between the visible and invisible, light and dark, white and black, past and present, right and wrong, and expression and suppression, imagination and reality weaves a bewitching story about the power of creativity to access the hidden truth. Each of the characters in this story grapple with the stark perception of their realities and are each searching for more colour, meaning, and purpose in their lives. The harsh and intolerable cruelties of 19th century American life are on full display in this book, offering a spectrum of the various ways marginalized peoples were made to suffer. Is awareness freedom? Is creativity the key to survival? Is love destructive or regenerative? How do you change your perception? These are the rich questions asked and answered in this compelling, sensual, and moving read.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Hester
By Laurie Lico Albanese

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.

Who is the real Hester Prynne?

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, Laurie Lico Albanese's 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.

*My review to come closer to pubdate.

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This novel is witchcraft. It’s spell binding. Magical. The perfect blend of the original plot mixed with a modern take. Every character - from the main protagonist Isobel to the most minor of secondary characters has a rich and dynamic back story. The layers of humanity - what makes a person good/bad, generous/greedy, sinful/innocent is perfectly told through these characters. I loved the way the story kept true to the original, while also weaving the plot around the topics of the Salem Witch Trials and The Underground Railroad and making the journey the characters follow have a ripple effect through all three. Overall one of the best retellings I have read!

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The author spins a marvelous tale that attempts to answer the question of who was the inspiration behind the character of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Albanese creates a very plausible and enticing “what if” scenario that was behind Hawthorne’s masterpiece of Puritan sin and guilt. Unlike some of Hawthorne's stories, there isn't any recorded background on who inspired the characters of The Scarlet Letter. This historical novel isn't so much about Hawthorne, it's really about Isobel Gamble, a young seamstress who wins his heart and inspires his creativity to new heights.

Isobel has immigrated from Scotland (early 1800s) with her husband Edward to make a new start in Salem. Edward is an apothecary with addiction issues to opium, which has already led to a stint in the poor house. Edward has visions of making a fortune by creating an elixir that will increase longevity. He unexpectedly departs on a ship to gather the ingredients for his magic potion, and leaves Isobel to her own devices, alone and without any money.

Fortunately, Isobel does have a few things going for her. She is a gifted needleworker with both extraordinary skill, along with an amazing flair for design. Her creative ability is enhanced by synesthesia, which is the ability to hear color, feel sound, and taste shapes. Unfortunately, this condition is both a blessing and a curse, as she fears that having this ability will make her stand out and even create suspicion that she is a witch, and that she'll end up in a similar fate as her grandmother. The real sturm und drang really kicks in once Isobel's relationship with Hawthorne develops into a passionate affair that ignites both their creativity to new levels. Unfortunately, for Isobel, this romance contains not just ecstasy, but also a tremendous agony.

The character of Isobel is so beautifully fleshed out. As she encountered both triumphs and disappointments, I felt her pain and joy as well, it was quite an emotional roller coaster! The plot is developed very nicely, and the subplot of slaves escaping via the underground railroad was excellent as well. The author explored several important issues such as discrimination against immigrants, what constitutes a "real" American, and the power of female creativity. I found most of the characters quite enticing and endearing. In the book, Hawthorne accuses Isobel of enchanting him. I can make the same claim, not just Isobel, but all of Hester completely enchanted me from beginning to end. Highly recommended.

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While browsing NetGalley, when I saw the book "Hester" was a reimaging of the inspiration for "The Scarlet Letter", I just knew I had to read it! So, many thanks to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for making my dream come true!

The story is told in alternating time periods and perspectives. The central part of the story takes place in the mid-19th century in Salem, Massachusetts when Isobel Gamble arrives from Scotland with her husband Edward and where they try to build a new life for themselves. Shortly after that, Edward leaves on a journey to find new ingredients for medicine, so Isobel now has to navigate this strange new world by herself. She is a skilled seamstress and thus is able to find new opportunities, and it helps her to get to know the people of her community better. Albanese has created a lush array of individual characters in this community and effortlessly highlights the difference in social and racial tensions of the time (even racism against her as a Scottish immigrant) and of course the blatant sexism of the time. Our other timeline reaches back to Salmen in the 1600s, to Isobel's grandmother among others. Though brief in comparison, these stories help flesh out the main story and provides us with valuable details.

I was a big fan of the hints of magical realism included throughout the book. It’s not a full-blown magical realism novel in the vein of Alice Hoffman, but it was just a sprinkle to move the story forward and add a bit of mysticism to the events taking place.

Albanese's writing is masterful and her prose just flows through the pages. I am a sucker for a character-driven story and this one is exactly that. She has created such rich and complex characters that I was easily drawn in. The dual timelines also flowed seamlessly from one to the next. I was never confused or frustrated. I highly recommended this as a great Autumnal read. One does not have to have read “The Scarlet Letter” to enjoy this, but a quick brush-up on it may help add to one’s appreciation of the story.

"Hester" is to be published in October 2022 and I couldn’t think of a better time to release a book such as this! 5/5

Thank you St. Martin's Press for an E-ARC of this novel!

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I loved this book! Ever wonder what “The Scarlett Letter” would have been like if written by Hester Pryne? Hester gives an idea of just what this story might have been. Isobel Gamble is a young woman in Scotland, married to Edward a failed apothecary. They must leave the country due to Edwards disastrous addition to opium which leaves them with very little but the clothes on their backs. They start a new life in Salem in the 19th century. Edward embarks on a new career as a medic on a ship and leaves Isobel alone after just a few days in the New World. Isobel finds that he is stolen all the money she has, and she must now fend for herself in a new country where the people are less than hospitable to strangers. The only skill she has is her ability to create needlework like no one has ever seen.

Her chance meeting with Nathanial Hawthorne begins the relationship that spins the story in a direction that was not seen in "The Scarlett Letter". Hawthorne is shown in a completely different light and we see how the relationship was forged and broken.

This was an excellent read!

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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 novel of Puritan New England, 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 life experiences in writing a romance about doomed love?

The heroine of THIS book is Isobel, a Scottish immigrant, gifted embroiderer, and descendant of a woman accused of witchcraft. Isobel and her husband wind up, in the late 1820s, in Massachusetts, 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 about 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 this 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!

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I love books like this and this one did not disappoint at all! I was hooked from beginning to end. The writing was beautiful and the story was great.

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Hester is an enjoyable historical novel set in the 1800s. The story follows Isobel Gamble after she and her husband Edward immigrated from Scotland to Salem. The book describes the harsh treatment of women during that time in history. It is full of secrets, romance, and hints of magic and witches. I liked how the author included the Underground Railroad in the story. This book has inspired me to reread The Scarlet Letter. I recommend this book, especially to historical fiction fans. Thanks to the author, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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