You know how there are some book covers that are just gorgeous? And you want to read the book because you want to possess the book just because it’s pretty?
That’s how my lust for Laurie Lico Albanese’s Stolen Beauty started. I mean, look at this book! In person, it’s even better. That gold shine!
This was one of two books I received for Christmas (what even is my family?) and I read it pretty much right away.
It’s the story of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the beautiful young Jewish woman who became something of a muse to Gustav Klimt. She was the inspiration for his Judith and later sat for a portrait. Stolen Beauty tells the story of Adele as she was, brilliant, a patroness of the arts in Vienna, before she died suddenly in 1925. She wanted the Klimt portrait to be left to Vienna, so that all people could enjoy the piece.
But when the Nazis took over Austria in 1938, Adele’s surviving husband Ferdinand fled, leaving much of his wealth behind. Including the portrait. It is up to Adele’s niece Maria, to try and regain her family’s heritage, to restore the painting to Vienna as her aunt had wished.
Alternating between Adele and Maria’s experiences, decades apart, Stolen Beauty tells the story behind one of the most famous paintings in the world.
This book does an incredible job of bringing Adele to life, fully realized as a young woman who wanted so much to be a part of the intellectual circles of Vienna. She loved her city, she wanted to make a difference to artists and helped to establish a gallery so that all people, no matter their station in life, could enjoy it.
I loved getting to know the woman in the painting – I’d watched the Helen Mirren movie, Woman in Gold but that one is more about the battle of Maria to get the painting back for her family. Adele was this glamorous shadowy figure in that movie. Stolen Beauty brought both sides together for me. I also appreciated that the Maria sections of the book kind of blew threw WWII. Although a pivotal part of the history of these two women, it wasn’t the focus and it easily could have been.
For those of you who are looking for a different kind of historical fiction, I would definitely recommend this one.